When people think Vietnamese food, Pho (or phở), the rice noodle dish made of herbs, chicken or beef, is most likely the first thing that comes to mind given its popularity across America from hole in the wall joints to high-end restaurants.
However, there’s so much more delicious Vietnamese cuisine than just pho, and you’d be missing out if you never knew about them. Here are ten Vietnamese dishes that are absolutely worth trying:
1. Bánh xèo
This translates directly to “sizzling pancake.” The crispy pancake is made out of rice flour, water, and turmeric powder. This crepe-like meal can be stuffed with meats such as shrimp, or made vegetarian. It is also full of vegetables that include a heaping amount of bean sprouts and mint leaves. No bánh xèo dish is complete without a serving of dipping sauce called nước chấm that has a fishy taste.
2. Bánh mì
Perhaps the second most popular known Vietnamese dish in the country, this baguette sandwich is stuffed with a hearty amount of vegetables and meat. One side of the bread is coated in mayonnaise while the other is coated in pate. Layered inside are pickled daikon, carrots, cucumber and cilantro. This sandwich can also be made vegetarian, but a common meat inside the sandwich is chả, a type of Vietnamese sausage.
3. Cháo gà
If you’re looking for something to keep you warm after a cold day or need an alternative to bland chicken noodle soup, try this Vietnamese chicken porridge. Vietnamese kids had this on their sick days well into adulthood. Top it off with some shredded mushrooms and fish sauce, and this steaming bowl will keep your strength up throughout the day.
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This can be made savory or sweet for a light dessert. Glutinous rice is the main base and other toppings can be mixed in. Some popular toppings include mung beans, coconut, and durian. This very colorful dish not only tastes amazing but can be an Instagram lover’s dream to photograph.
5. Cá Chiên Sả
Move over fish and chips. This fried fish with lemongrass is best served with fish sauce or nuoc mam. This is a popular Vietnamese way to eat fish and can be served in a bed of greens and sliced tomatoes as well.
6. Bánh Tráng Nướng
This popular Vietnamese street food is the equivalent of street food pizza. The “dough” is a round, thin flat rice cracker that is topped with scallion oil, toasted dried shrimp, quail eggs, fermented shrimp paste and fried shallots. Vendors will place the cracker on top of a personal small charcoal grill and layer the toppings on as the cracker becomes crispy. Top it off with sriracha and you’ll never go back to pizza again.
7. Canh chua
This is a sour fish based soup. Most of the savory base of the soup comes from the catfish and the sweetness comes from the sugar. Pineapples and tomatoes contribute to the sweetness of the soup and adds texture as well. Alternatives to catfish can be fish cakes or quail eggs. The sour taste of the soup comes from the tamarind.
This translates directly to hotpot and can mostly be any Vietnamese vegetable or meat that you desire. Some common ones are fish and tofu. Common vegetables to pair it with include lotus root, kale, and baby spinach.
9. Cơm Sườn Nướng
If you enjoy pork chops, then you will enjoy this Vietnamese grilled pork dish. This simple meat and broken rice dish is usually served with an egg, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a side of nuoc mam.
10. Bún bò Huế
Perhaps a lesser known soup compared to pho but still as tasty is this rice vermicelli and beef soup. If you enjoy pho and like your soup a little bit more spicy, this is definitely something to try. Traditionally, the soup also contains coagulated pig blood cubes. A squeeze of lime and fresh lemongrass really ties the meal all together.