5 Vietnamese Must-Eat Foods
Updated: Jul 10, 2019
From the gorgeous islands of Ha Long Bay to the sparkling night markets of Hoi An, Vietnam is a place that’s got it all. Home to 95 million people, there’s always something to do or something to see – and something to eat. The food in Vietnam is incredible – you can buy some of the best meals you’ll ever eat for nearly nothing at any one of hundreds of restaurants or market stalls. We’ve put together a list of our top five must-eats on your Vietnamese adventure, plus a couple of helpful hints for those with dietary needs – just to make sure you know you’re gonna get exactly what you asked for.
Talk the talk
Freaking out about staying vego overseas? Panicking about all the gluten you might accidentally eat? Don’t even stress, Vietnam has your back on this one. Heaps of Vietnamese meals are made out of gluten-free ingredients in the first place – rice, noodles and veggies you can pretty well count on being sweet. But if you’re ever unsure, it definitely pays to know a few Vietnamese words that can get you out of a spot.
The word for vegetarian in Vietnamese is “chay” – it’s super easy to pronounce, and everyone’s going to get it. Normally it follows what you’re ordering, as in “pho chay”. Pair this with a gentle gesture at the menu and everyone will soon be on the same page.
Communicating that you’re gluten-free is a little bit wordier, but still really easy to remember. “Tôi không ăn gluten (toy-kohng-an-gluten)” means “I don’t eat gluten”, and looking for the words 'gluten free' or “không chứa gluten (kohng-shueh-gluten)” is also a safe bet to keep you out of trouble.
Even if you’ve never tried it, you’re bound to have heard of Vietnam’s mouth-watering national dish. It changes depending on where you are in the country but you can always count on the four main ingredients – rice noodles, veggies, meat or tofu and broth that mix with fresh herbs and spices to make pure magic. Phở Ga (chicken) and Phở Bo (beef) are your two main choices, along with the vego Phở Chay. If you really wanna fit in, join the brekky line with the locals for a hot bowl of Phở first thing in the morning – it’ll change your life.
This one you might have picked up before from a Vietnamese bakery, but you’ll still be dreaming about the real deal from a street vendor in Hanoi on the plane home. The crusty baguette stuffed with pork or tofu, coriander, mint, chilli, cucumber and carrot drizzled with soy sauce has won hearts and minds all over the world, and we can guarantee you’re not going to get it any fresher than you will in Vietnam.
One of the simplest yet one of the best, bun cha in Hanoi is a prime lunch feed after checking out the temples on Hoàn Kiếm Lake. Made up of fresh rice noodles and grilled pork or tofu in a smokey soup, it’s also served with a sweet dipping sauce and loads of fresh greens on the side – make sure have a crack at it all, you won’t regret it.
Any sugar? What about an egg yolk, some yoghurt or a cup of condensed milk? Sure, it might not be your first thought for a brew, but trust us when we tell you it’s a good one – Vietnamese coffee is a must-try when you’re in Hanoi. Cruise down Trieu Viet Vuong or “Coffee Street” in Hanoi and take your pick, from a “yoghurt coffee” with fresh mango or polish off an “egg coffee” with condensed milk for dessert. If you’re not feeling quite that brave, try a Vietnamese iced coffee – you’ll never go back to your usual iced lattes again.
Gỏi cuốn (rice paper rolls)
We get it – rushing through the markets, bartering with the locals, picking up some sweet little pressies for everyone back home, time gets away from you pretty quick. With your hands full of new kit and more exploring to do, you’ve gotta smash some food before you go round two with a few stallholders. These bad boys are nothing like what you’ll find in Australia. Warm rice paper wrapped around some of the freshest meat, seafood, tofu and veggies in Vietnam, and they’re cheap as chips. Sample some of the peanut dipping sauce that comes with them and you’re in heaven – we’d go back just for these.
No matter what you eat in Vietnam whether it be in a restaurant or street market, chances are it’s going to be incredible. With these tips under your belt, we guarantee that you’re gonna be dreaming about the delicious times you had phở-a-while.
Inspired? Get in touch with us to see how you could be heading to epic Vietnam to celebrate the end of high school.