This post was last updated on June 26th, 2020 at 09:38 am
Food lovers, be warned! Vietnamese cuisine is the biggest surprise in the country. From traditional snacks at street stalls to internationally acclaimed five-star restaurants. Traditional Vietnamese food will spoil your taste buds. The food here is, in our opinion, the best in all of Asia.
Read this page to find out what the food in Vietnam consists of, how it tastes, and what the best-known dishes are.
Eating Culture in Vietnam
The fact that Vietnamese food is so delicious is partly possible because of the country itself. They have fertile soil, perfect conditions for rice fields, a prime mountain climate, and fresh fish from the sea. Mix that with the experience of other countries in their long history and voila; you get the best cuisine in Asia.
In Vietnam, the locals have taken over dishes, spices, and cooking skills from the Chinese, Indians, French, and Japanese. Well-known and tasty Vietnamese dishes include spring rolls, noodle soup (pho), and grilled shrimp.
TIP – If you want to know more about eating and preparing Vietnamese food, you can sign up for a cooking class in Hanoi.
The Vietnamese cuisine stands out for its basic design. Do not expect fancy equipment here. The food in Vietnam is made in simple, often outdated kitchens. Another thing that stands out is that they worship Ong Tao in kitchens.
Ong Tao is a kind of kitchen God. In every kitchen, you will find an altar where small sacrifices are made. And this works great considering the tasty dishes you get.
One of the most delicious plates of noodles, beef, seafood, and vegetables I have ever tasted! Available in Hanoi near the lake at Thai Express.
Street Food in Vietnam
In Vietnam, you can score delicious food on the street. They call these hawker stalls or eat stalls. You can get street food here. Not as much as, for example, in Thailand, but still enough to be able to spend your whole evening in streets full of various snacks and drinks.
For a few dollars, you can buy the tastiest snacks!
So, What does Vietnamese Food Taste Like?
Vietnamese food is so tasty partly because so many flavors are used. You notice a clear difference between the food in the north, the central region, and the south. In each region they use different herbs and spices, causing the food to look alike but taste slightly different. Be aware that eating in Vietnam can be a bit spicier than you are used to.
TIP – Also try eating do ngot and do trang mieng. A kind of Vietnamese candy.
Sugar and sweets are standard ingredients in many dishes. Many sauces and dishes have a sweet ingredient. Caramel sauce made from sugarcanes is widely used in desserts, sauces, and coffee.
The dishes in Vietnam are quite salty. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that a lot of fish is eaten in combination with fish sauce. This has a salty taste. In the central region, the food is generally slightly less salty.
If a lot of sugar is used in the dishes, it is often compensated with sour ingredients. You can think of lime, lemon, tamarind, and a mix of fruit juices. These are used to make dipping sauces.
It will not surprise anyone that the food in Vietnam is a bit spicier than in most of the Western world. In Vietnam, they are a big fan of chilies and peppers. The food is less hot than in Thailand but still quite spicy. If you can’t stand spicy food, report this to the cook and he will try to make it less spicy for you.
Many fresh herbs are used in Vietnam. Coriander, anise, mint, turmeric, and oregano are all examples of the herbs they use. The herbs ensure a fresh and light taste of the food.
With so many coasts and rivers, it is no wonder that Vietnamese are real fish eaters. They not only prepare fish dishes but also fish sauces, desserts, and soups. Shrimp and crab are something you will find a lot in Vietnam.
A delicious dessert with fruit and mixed nuts
The Difference in Vietnamese Food Per Region
The food in Vietnam is very varied. You can eat noodles with fish or order pancakes in a western restaurant. The best part is, of course, to try the local dishes. Not all of these are very tasty, but they are cheap and available almost everywhere. Below we wrote down a number of delicious dishes from the north, central, and southern regions of Vietnam.
- Banh Cuon – A type of spring roll with rice, pork, mushrooms, and shrimp. Covered with shallots.
- Bun Cha – You can buy this a lot on the street. It is pork slices from the BBQ in a kind of soup.
- Pho Bo – Noodle soup with beef. It is boiled for hours in water with shallots, ginger, and fish sauce. There is another variant called Pho Ga, which is the same but with chicken instead of beef.
A bowl of beef pho in Vietnam, very tasty!
- Banh Khoai – A kind of dessert that looks like a taco, but a bit thicker since they also use fried egg to support the shell. It is commonly filled with shrimp, pork, egg, and herbs.
- Bun Bo Hue – Another noodle soup with beef and pork. It’s pretty spicy so watch out with how much you eat!
- Com Hen – Rice with nuts, rice crackers, pork, fresh herbs, and vegetables. Com Hen is also quite spicy.
- Canh Chua Ca – A typical dish of the Mekong Delta region. Lots of fresh fish with fruit and tasty herbs.
- Banh Mi – A sandwich! Something that is not necessarily traditional Vietnamese. Arises from the occupation by the French. You can also find many types of Banh Mi in Hanoi.
- Banh Xeo – Looks a bit like Banh Khoai, but the skin is thinner since they don’t use eggs for this dish and they don’t need much oil to make it. It is commonly stuffed with pork, shrimp, and beans.
Besides Vietnamese food, you can also find food from other Asian countries like Korea. We got this plate of delicious tteokbokki (떡볶이)
If there is one thing typically Vietnamese, it is Bia Hoi. Bia Hoi means draft beer. It is brewed daily without additives or preservatives and is usually drunk within an hour of making it. Bia Hoi is very cheap and available everywhere. It is a super nice experience and THE drink to get in touch with the locals. You can get it in small “cafes” with mini plastic seats. We definitely recommend trying it!
Drinks in Vietnam
Just like in many other countries in Asia, the tap water in Vietnam is not suitable for drinking. You are, therefore, dependent on the bottles of water (Nuoc Suoi) that you can get anywhere. Also, watch out for ice cubes and ice.
Coffee and Tea
Vietnamese people are real tea and coffee drinkers. Tea is served everywhere as a welcome drink. You have many types of tea, but green tea is often a favorite of Vietnamese people. Coffee is not the same as the coffee we are used to but it’s pretty good.
Of course, they sell well-known soft drinks like Coca-Cola, Fanta, 7Up, or fruit juices. However, you can buy this everywhere. We recommend drinking fresh fruit shakes (fresh lime juice is recommended!). They are not expensive but very tasty! You can tell them that you do not want sugar in it; otherwise, you will get a fruit shake with a substantial layer of sugar.
Beer in bottles is also for sale. The best-known beers are 333 or Saigon. They also have the famous Tiger Beer.
Tap Water in Vietnam
Tap water in Vietnam is not drinkable! This can lead to stomach flu and diarrhea. You can find water bottles everywhere on the street and in supermarkets. Please note: Make sure that the bottles are still firmly closed when you buy them and that they are not refilled!
Plastic bottles with drinking water are sold all throughout Vietnam. Even in the smallest villages. You only have to pay a few cents for a bottle of water.
The food in Vietnam is so tasty partly because so many flavors are used. You notice a clear difference between the food in the north, the central region, and the south. In each region they use different herbs and spices, causing the food to look alike but taste slightly different. Be aware that eating in Vietnam can be a bit spicier than you are used to.