Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Vietnamese Food Guide

Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its fresh ingredients with a strong harmony of textures, produce and distinctive flavours, making it one of the healthiest in the world.

vietnamese food guide

Before visiting Vietnam, the only thing I knew about Vietnamese cuisine was pho and those tasty bread rolls slathered with pate, chilli and soy sauce (now I can call them by their proper name, Banh Mi).

After spending a month trotting Vietnam from top to bottom I think I can safely say I've become somewhat acquainted with Vietnamese cuisine and its many regional variants. So I've decided to make a guide to show you the best Vietnamese food I ate on my trip and exactly where to find it!


Wander down any winding street in Hanoi and you will find an abundance of street food stalls selling hot snacks to excite your tastebuds. Banh Tom Ho Tay was my favourite discovery. Roughly translated as West Lake Shrimp Cake, it is exactly what it sounds like - crispy deep fried potato and flour shrimp cake. For $3 we got a brown paper bag full of them freshly prepared on the spot.

banh tom ho tay shrimp cake

Hanoi's Old Quarter is famous for little old ladies standing on every corner selling these pastry goodies. They've acquired a bit of a bad reputation as a "tourist trap" for overcharging tourists and not returning proper change. While that is true, as long as you are wary when dealing with the donut mafia it doesn't mean you have to miss out. Personally I thought they were super sweet and tasty and worth trying at least once.

halong bay cruise boat

Everywhere in Vietnam (but especially the country side) vendors sell fresh coconuts on the side of the road. I found this especially convenient biking in Hoi An when I needed a rest and something refreshing. And for 50c a pop its a total bargain!

fresh coconut vietnam

Ben Thanh Market, the largest in Ho Chi Minh City, has an amazing street food market that operates during the day and opens into the street at night. For less than $5 I got a bowl of Pho Bo (beef noodle soup from Hanoi) and a big glass of fresh passionfruit juice. Made from bone broth, rice noodles, sliced beef, bean sprouts and basil pho is both refreshing and filling. As a staple of Vietnamese cuisine, you will find it in every single market and restaurant you wander into.

pho bo beef noodle soup vietnam

For those a little more adventurous I often saw snake wine sold in markets throughout Vietnam. Declining to buy a bottle myself, I'm told it posses medicinal properties curing everything from hair loss to improving virility.

snake wine vietnam


Goi cuon (fresh spring rolls) served with a side of Nuoc Leo (peanut sauce) are ubiquitous in Vietnam. I probably ate goi cuon every day as a side to my main meal in Vietnam. Made with shrimp, rice vermicelli, vegetables and pork wrapped in moistened rice paper, you will always be able to find goi cuon and its many variants anywhere in Vietnam.

goi cuon nuoc leo fresh spring rolls and peanut sauce

Cha gio are the deep fried counterpart to goi cuon. Made with a ground meat such as pork, it is rolled in moist rice paper and deep fried until golden brown and served with a side of nuoc cham dipping sauce.

cha gio nuoc cham deep fried spring rolls

Banh Xeo which literally means "sizzling cake" is a crispy crepe-ish rice-flour dish stuffed with shrimp, green onion and bean sprouts. Rolling up the crepe like a spring roll and dipping it into tangy nuoc cham sauce is the way its usually eaten (don't worry getting messy is all part of the process).

banh xeo sizzling pancake vietnamese

If you love seafood but don't want to pay the prices back home Hoi An is your best bet. 1kg of crab back home would have set me back a small fortune, but here in Hoi An it was only $20! Freshly caught and slathered in tamarind sauce it was definitely one of the best crab I have ever had.

hoi an crab

Ca Ri Ga is the Vietnamese variation of chicken curry made with vegetables and coconut curry sauce. Unlike Indian curries, the Vietnamese variation is more like a stew and is sometimes dipped with french bread.

 ca ri ga chicken curry

What I enjoyed the most about restaurant dining was not only the super cheap cocktails, but the concoctions of smoothies and refreshing drinks I had never even known existed. Avocado Shake? Jackfruit Smoothie? Say what?! My favourite was the soursop smoothie, so when you've had enough $3 piƱa coladas look for the smoothie menu to try something you definitely won't be finding back home.

cocktail vietnam in hoi an by the sea


Fine dining in Vietnam tends to slant towards the French variety. The best meal we had was at Ho Chi Minh City's La Villa French Restaurant which is a Michelin quality establishment set up in a huge villa. Most of the ingredients are imported from France so this is not a fusion type restaurant. But compared to what we would pay at home for this quality meal it is a bargain.

la villa french restaurant ho chi minh city vietnam

In Hanoi we were recommended La Badiane by the hotel staff for the ultimate fine dining experience. While touting itself as a French establishment, it thoughtfully combines Vietnamese flavours for a wonderfully delicious result.

la badiane hanoi vietnam

Near our hotel we stumbled upon Green Tangerine, a French fusion restaurant set in a colonial building from 1928. An oasis from the bustling streets of Hanoi we found it met our expectations with its sleek ambiance and tasty dishes.

green tangerine hanoi vietnam


Cafe culture is thriving in Vietnam with funky speakeasies found in the heart of every major city. Ca Phe is prepared both hot and cold using condensed milk instead of sugar for the sweet taste. My favourite cofffee spot was the Khancasa Tea House in Ho Chi Minh City offering a selection of 100 different types of teas and coffees.

khancasa tea house ho chi minh city vietnam

Honey kumquat tea with a dash of lime was one of my favourite discoveries in Vietnam. It was difficult to find in restaurants sometimes but when I did I always ordered it.

honey kumquat tea vietnam

I often saw people in cafes drinking a strange concoction of coffee with a metal tin on top. A few weeks into my trip I finally found out it was drip coffee with condensed milk. My only regret is not trying it sooner. It is super strong, full of flavour and highly addictive. Best consumed in the early morning for a jolt of energy.

drip coffee vietnam

A Hanoi specialty, egg coffee is prepared with egg, robusta coffee, condensed milk and sugar. It is said to have been invented when milk was scarce and is served in a bowl of hot water so the coffee stays warm. It definitely sounds a bit weird, but trust me, it tastes amazing.

egg coffee hanoi vietnam

Found only in Hanoi is coconut iced coffee, made with coconut, condensed milk and coffee, and tastes like a match made in heaven. Found in the funky Cong Caphe chain, I found myself here often to escape the hectic bustle outside.

coconut coffee hanoi vietnam


Shaved ice a dessert staple in Vietnam coming in many different variations. The one below is most commonly found in restaurants, which is shaved ice with a side of red bean and vanilla scoop. Che the street version of the dessert is mixed in a cup with a variety of ingredients including tapioca, jelly, red bean, tropical fruit and condensed milk.

halong bay misty and foggy

Chuoi chien is the Vietnamese variation of deep fried bananas in batter smothered in ice cream and nuts. Banana being my favourite fruit, I ate this almost every time I saw it on the menu.

chuoi chien deep fried banana vietnam

We were often served fruit with muoi ot (chilli salt) as a complementary dessert in Vietnam. The mixture of salty and refreshingly sweet textures became one of my favourite ways to end a meal in Vietnam. I liked this condiment so much I actually bought a few bottles to bring back home with me to Australia.

muoi ot chilli salt vietnam


Feeling adventurous we decided to visit a snake restaurant during our stay in Hanoi. Located in the Le Mat Snake Village on the outskirts of Hanoi we had a feast of snake cooked 11 ways sparing no piece of the body. For the more adventurous you are given the opportunity to eat the beating heart of the snake with a shot of blood and rice wine.

snake heart with blood and bile and rice wine hanoi vietnam

Rooftop bars and restaurants are hidden on top of almost every high ride building in Hanoi. Even though they tend to serve western food I think it is still a part of the essential Ho Chi Minh City experience. Sleek and classy, the price we paid for food and drinks is a fraction of what we would have paid at home.

caravelle saigon rooftop bar ho chi minh city vietnam

Wandering the crooked streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter we found many quirky and cool eateries (like Obamas Restaurant below). Although we didn't actually get the chance to eat there this time we had fun looking for eccentric eateries we would never see pop up back home.

obamas restaurant hanoi vietnam

1 comment:

  1. Waoww! Cant wait until I head there and try all this fresh tasty food! (leaving in 1 month time :p)