One of the greatest pleasures of travelling is indulging in the local cuisine. Diets go out of the window, and new ways of preparing and eating food open your eyes to endless culinary possibilities, whether it’s a simple street food snack or a multi-course banquet. Vietnam’s foodie treasures are justly famous, and today we’re sharing five of our all-time favourite Vietnamese dishes that no trip would be complete without.
1. Gỏi cuốn
Vietnam’s answer to the spring rolls you’re probably familiar with from Chinese restaurants back home, gỏi cuốn are every bit as tasty as their Chinese cousins. Usually stuffed with minced pork, crab or shrimp, not to mention the obligatory veggies spiced up with delicious coriander, gỏi cuốn are sometimes accompanied by lettuce or mint.
2. Bún chả
Hanoi is the place to go to treat yourself to a delicious lunch of bún chả, a fabulous charcoal-grilled pork and noodle dish. Small pork hamburgers are served on a cold bed of rice noodles and herbs, accompanied by garlic, chillies and a dipping sauce made of vinegar, fish sauce, lime and sugar. In the south of Vietnam, you’ll find a regional variation of bún chả known as bún thịt nướng, which also features grilled meat and rice noodles, with added extras such as pickled carrots, peanuts and grilled pork sausages or prawns. Whichever variation you try, you won’t be disappointed.
3. Bò lúc lắc
Sometimes called “shaken” or “shaking” beef in English, the beef in this French-inspired dish is served in cubes, which is where the name comes from: the dice you play games with are known in Vietnamese as “hột lúc lắc”. The beef is coated with spices and sautéed with soy sauce, tomatoes, onion, pepper and cucumber, with delicious results.
4. Bánh Tét (Sticky Rice Cake)
If you happen to be in Vietnam during the New Year Tet festival in January or February, you shouldn’t leave without trying Bánh Tét. This sticky glutinous rice cake is a staple this time of year, and they’re stuffed with mung bean paste, which sometimes has pork mixed in. They’re made in a log shape and wrapped in banana leaves for cooking, but this is removed and the log cut into slices for eating. Though mostly savoury, there are sweet varieties, which are filled with sweet red bean and banana. Like all Vietnamese food, it’s satisfyingly moreish, and sure to be the thing you miss most when life returns to normality.
Pho – pronounced “fuh” – is perhaps Vietnam’s best-known dish, and this delicious noodle soup is the perfect introduction to the country’s cuisine. Commonly eaten for breakfast, but an acceptable snack at any time of day, Pho is a steaming, comforting bowl of goodness with a chicken or beef broth as its basis. Coriander and ginger add a pleasing tang, with solid ingredients including strips of meat (usually beef, chicken or pork), spring onions and, of course, rice noodles.
Let me know in the comments below
Which is your favourite Vietnamese food?
Images provided by Vietnam travel experts Insider Journeys