What’s Some Unique Vietnamese Foods To Try That Aren’t Just pho?
Are you looking to explore the rich and flavorful cuisine of Vietnam but not sure where to start? If the more mainstream Vietnamese noodle dish like phở has become too familiar, why not broaden your culinary horizons by trying unique and interesting Vietnamese foods?
Today we’re exploring some delicious traditional Viet dishes that are often overlooked. From delectable street snacks perfect for quick bites on-the-go to nutrient-packed mains from Vietnamese restaurants that you can enjoy as part of a sit-down meal, there’s something here for everyone who enjoys authentic flavors from this vibrant country.
Please keep reading to find out our picks of must-try traditional Vietnamese food!
Some Unique Vietnamese Foods To Try That Aren’t Just Pho
Goi Cuon (Fresh Spring Rolls)
Goi Cuon, or Fresh Spring Rolls, are light and refreshing summer rolls filled with pork, shrimp, pickled vegetables, and herbs. The ingredients are typically wrapped in moist rice paper, which gives them a soft texture that makes them easy to bite into.
Goi Cuon is usually served with cold rice noodles, with a sweet-spicy dipping sauce such as nuoc cham or peanut sauce. These fried spring rolls make for a great appetizer or snack, while they can also be made into a main course when paired with jasmine rice or vermicelli noodles.
The flavors of the filling in Goi Cuon vary depending on regional styles and tastes – some regions may use fish instead of pork, while others opt for tofu instead of shrimp. What makes these summer rolls stand out is their layered flavor, featuring the zing of fresh herbs (such as mint and cilantro) combined with the sweetness of the shrimp or pork.
Some restaurants may also add crushed peanuts for an added crunchy texture to contrast with the softness of the rice paper.
No matter what type of filling you choose, Goi Cuon is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser due to its light and refreshing taste and the health benefits from all the packed ingredients.
Eating a few Goi Cuon gives you a healthy boost of protein, vitamins, and minerals while not overwhelming your stomach like some heavier meals can do. They’re incredibly easy to make, so you can enjoy them anytime.
Bánh xèo (Crispy Crepes)
Bánh xèo, or “Vietnamese sizzling crepes,” are savory pancakes made with rice flour and turmeric that create a crispy exterior when cooked. They can be served plain or wrapped in lettuce leaves with fresh herbs and dipping sauce like nuoc mam cham or Vietnamese fish sauce.
The delicious filling of the pork belly, shrimp, mushrooms, and crunchy bean sprouts gives the crepes an incredible flavor combination that will leave you wanting more! The best way to enjoy these traditional Viet dishes is to wrap them in lettuce leaves and fresh herbs such as mint and coriander for added flavor and crunch.
Finish it with a generous dollop of dipping sauce, and you have a delicious snack or meal that will tantalize your taste buds.
Not only are bánh xèo a tasty treat, but they are also incredibly nutritious! Rich in vitamin B6 and iron from the pork, magnesium from the bean sprouts, and omega-3 fatty acids from the shrimp, these crepes provide an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals to keep you energized throughout the day. They have plenty of dietary fiber, making them great for digestion.
Chả giò (Fried Dumplings)
Fragrant ingredients like garlic, onion, mushrooms, roasted peanuts, carrots, wood ear fungus, taro root, and glass noodles wrapped in a thin layer of rice paper are known as Chả Giò.
All are finely chopped to fit inside the thin wrapper flat rice noodles before being fried for maximum crunch. They’re then deep fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside yet chewy inside and served with a fish sauce-based dipping sauce.
Chả giò makes for a delicious starter to any meal or can be enjoyed as an appetizer platter. What’s unique about this dish is its combination of textures, which makes it stand out from other Vietnamese dishes. The combination of crunchy fried dumplings paired with the savory filling creates an unforgettable flavor experience that’s sure to please even the pickiest eaters
The result is a savory bite full of flavor and texture, making it one of the most popular snacks among locals and visitors. Even better is that chả giò can be prepared and stored in the freezer for convenient snacking later. Enjoy chả giò either plain or dipped in spicy sweet chili sauce afterward.
Bún chả (Vermicelli Noodle Soup)
Bún chả is a popular and hearty Viet dish that’s sure to please. The sweet-and-salty pork patty perfectly contrasts the flavorful chicken broth and adds texture and flavor to the dish.
Add some hard-boiled eggs, fried tofu, or extra vegetables to make it even more filling for a delicious and nutritious meal. Enjoyed best with a few drops of lime juice and freshly chopped chili peppers, this traditional Vietnamese soup should be on your list of foods.
In addition to its incredibly tasty flavors, Bún chả is also packed with beneficial nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E, and K2 and minerals like calcium and magnesium.
This noodle soup dish is also low in carbohydrates, making it an ideal choice for those watching their sugar intake. The fresh herbs and vegetables added nutritional value while keeping it light and enjoyable.
A delicious combination of pork patties and fragrant broth – that’s what Bún chả is all about. This traditional Vietnamese dish will satisfy and nourish everyone with its savory and nutritious ingredients.
Bánh khọt (Turmeric Rice Pancakes)
Bánh khọt is a beloved street snack in Vietnam. This savory dish is cooked in small molds, giving it a unique shape that resembles a flower with five petals.
The batter is made with rice flour, turmeric powder for flavor and color, coconut milk, and eggs. The pancakes are fried until golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside while still soft.
What makes these pancakes truly special are the toppings which vary from region to region but can include anything from pork, shrimp, or mushrooms to lotus or taro root. The flavors meld together perfectly when dipped into a sweet fish or soy sauce dip!
Regarding nutrition, Bánh khọt is a healthy and protein-packed snack, given its rice, eggs, and pork or seafood components. What’s more, the turmeric in the batter adds a notable anti-inflammatory effect to the dish. This unique dish is perfect for those who enjoy savory snacks and flavorful Asian fare. It can be easily enjoyed on the go since it’s usually served as street food.
Cá Kho Tộ – Caramelized and Braised Catfish
Cá Kho Tộ, or caramelized and braised catfish, is a traditional Vietnamese dish that’s loved by many. It’s often served as an appetizer or main course for special occasions like weddings or festivals.
The meat of the fish is marinated in garlic, ginger, lemongrass, sugar, fish sauce, and other herbs before being slowly cooked in a mixture of coconut juice and caramel. You get a sweet-savory flavor with tender catfish that melts in your mouth.
To make Cá Kho Tộ at home, marinate the catfish in the ingredients mentioned for about 30 minutes. Then heat some oil in a pot and add the marinated fish before caramelizing it for about 10 minutes. Add coconut juice, season with salt, sugar, and pepper, and simmer until the fish is tender.
When done cooking, garnish with freshly chopped scallions or cilantro and serve hot with steamed jasmine rice.
Cá Kho Tộ is a great way to enjoy Vietnamese cuisine at home. It’s easy to make yet full of flavor that will tantalize your taste buds.
Thit bo nuong la lot, or bo la lot
Thit bo nuong la lot, or bo la lot, is a unique and flavorful dish from Vietnam. It consists of finely minced beef rolled into small balls and then grilled until lightly charred on the outside while still juicy and tender within.
This savory treat is usually served wrapped in betel leaves with fresh herbs like mint, coriander, basil, and lettuce, as well as its signature ingredient-la lot leaves which give it a smoky flavor. Bo la lot is often accompanied by rice paper for wrapping, making it a great option for an easy yet delicious snack or meal.
The name of this dish translates to “minced beef roll,” hinting at how simple the recipe can be. What makes this dish special is the combination of flavors that create a unique and satisfying taste.
The beef is typically marinated in fish sauce, garlic, shallots green onions, and black pepper before being rolled up and grilled. This gives it an earthy, salty flavor with hints of sweetness from the garlic and shallots. The la lot leaves add an unmistakable smoky aroma and flavor that any other ingredient can’t replicate.
The distinct taste of bo la lot makes it a popular choice for parties or events and a tasty snack that can be enjoyed independently. Some people even enjoy it wrapped up inside spring rolls to get all the amazing flavors in one bite!
Hu Tieu Nam Vang
Hu Tieu Nam Vang is a special, rice noodle soup side dish in the Vietnamese culinary repertoire, hailing from the southern part of the country.
What sets this dish apart from other regional variations is its combination of pork stock, fresh herbs, and fermented shrimp paste served on slippery noodles made with tapioca or rice flour.
What makes Hu Tieu Nam Vang so delicious is the generous amount of garlic and shallots used to flavor the broth, as well as its garnishes like chopped scallions and crunchy fried shallots that add texture to this hearty bowl of goodness.
The distinctive sweetness of Hu Tieu Nam Vang comes from palm sugar or coconut milk, which adds depth to every spoonful rice noodles. What brings this dish alive are toasted peanuts, a sprinkle of pork floss, and other condiments that come along with the thin rice noodles.
All these flavors transport you to a world of bold and complex tastes that will satisfy any craving for traditional Vietnamese food. With its combination of light and savory elements, Hu Tieu Nam Vang is an excellent introduction to the unique cuisine of Vietnam.
Sup Bap Cua
Sup Bap Cua is a unique and delicious Vietnamese dish that will tantalize taste buds. A popular seafood soup, Sup Bap Cua (or crab soup), consists of a rich broth made with shrimp or crab meat, vegetables, and herbs. This flavorful combination creates an aromatic soup that can be enjoyed as an appetizer or main course.
The soup base is typically prepared with minced pork, ribs, and dried shrimp boiled in water until they make a thick broth. Then, the ingredients such as crabmeat, mushrooms, carrots, onions, celery stalks, cilantro leaves, and fish sauce are added to impart flavor to the dish. What’s more unique about this dish is that it is served with vermicelli noodles, giving it an exciting texture.
Sup Bap Cua is an incredibly satisfying dish that can be enjoyed anytime. It’s also a great option for those looking to try something new yet who still want to experience authentic Vietnamese flavors. What’s more, the ingredients used in this soup are packed full of vitamins and minerals, making it a nutritious component of any meal.
If you want to expand your culinary horizons and taste the unique flavors of Vietnam, Sup Bap Cua is worth trying.
What food is similar to Pho?
Plenty of delicious Vietnamese dishes exist if you want something similar to Pho. Bun bo Hue is a spicy beef noodle soup from central Vietnam with a unique flavor profile compared to Pho. Another popular option is Bun mam, a seafood-based noodle soup originating in the Mekong Delta.
Try com tam, broken rice noodles, served with grilled marinated pork belly and assorted vegetables for a light yet flavorful meal.
Are there any unique snacks in Vietnam that I can try?
Yes! In Vietnam, street food stalls are everywhere and offer an array of interesting snacks you won’t find anywhere else. A popular snack is banh trang nuong, bun cha, grilled sticky rice on paper topped with herbs, dried shrimp, and sliced pork and floss. If you want something sweet, try che chuoi, a dessert made with banana and tapioca pearls in coconut milk.
Is pho poor man’s food?
Although pho is considered a comfort food in Vietnamese culture, this popular dish isn’t necessarily a “poor man’s food.” The ingredients and labor that go into making it indicate its status as an accessible but premium dish. All can enjoy it, regardless of social class or financial standing.
What is the national dish of Vietnam?
The national dish of Vietnam is a stir-fry of beef and vegetables called bo luc lac, also known as “shaking beef.” It’s thought that this dish originated in Saigon, which explains its popularity in the southern region. The main ingredients are beef cubes, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce, served with a tangy lime dressing.
It’s often served with steamed rice and is an ideal meal for those who want to savor the flavors of Vietnam in one delicious dish.
Is it rude to drink from your bowl in Vietnam?
It’s not rude to drink from your bowl in Vietnam. It’s considered good manners and a sign of respect for the chef. Vietnamese often use the same spoon and chopsticks when eating, and dipping them into the soup is seen as an act of appreciation.
It’s worth noting that traditionally, diners should hold the bowl close to their face when drinking, but this is often not a strict rule. However, if you’re having dinner at someone’s house, it’s polite to only drink from your bowl after everyone else has been served and eaten.
Vietnam is rich with delicious dishes ready to be tasted and explored. From the well-known delicacy of pho to lesser-known gems like bánh khọt and cá kho tộ, there are so many unique meals worth indulging in. Each cuisine has something special to offer, making it easy to understand why Vietnamese food is so beloved by locals and tourists alike.