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You will never have to look very far for food in Vietnam – restaurants (nha hang) of one sort or another seem to be in every nook and cranny. Unless you eat in exclusive hotels or restaurants,Vietnamese food is cheap. The best bargains can be found at street stalls, most of which are limited to the amount of ingredients they can carry, so tend to specialise in a couple of particular dishes. Wander around until something takes your fancy.
Banh Chung (sticky rice square cake)
Sticky rice square cakes are a Vietnamese traditional dish that must be part of Tet meals. As a matter of fact, every Vietnamese family must have sticky rice cakes among the oﬀerings placed on the altar to their ancestors.Bang chung is made of glutinous rice, pork meat, and green beans paste wrapped in a square of bamboo leaves, giving the rice a green colour after boiling. According to the legend, under the reign of the Hung Kings, Prince Lang Lieu created sticky rice cakes and presented them to his father. Bang chung won high acclaims from the King who awarded the prince his throne.
This dish is called Nem Ran by northerners and Cha Gio by southerners. In Hanoi, the introduction of Nem Ran dates back to a time when Cha Ca had not existed. Although it ranks among Vietnam’s specialty dishes, Nem Ran is very easy to prepare. Consequently, it has long been a preferred food on special occasions such as Tet and other family festivities.
Ingredients used for Nem Ran comprise of lean minced pork, sea crabs or unshelled shrimps, two kinds of edible mushroom (Nam Huong and Moc Nhi), dried onion, duck eggs,
pepper, salt and diﬀerent kinds of seasoning. All are mixed thoroughly before being wrapped with transparent rice paper into small rolls. These rolls are then fried in boiling oil.
Banh Cuon Trang Bang (rice pancakes)
Trang Bang, located 40 km from Ho Chi Minh City, is where one can ﬁnd the best rice paper and rice cakes.Both can be found everywhere, but nowhere are they better than in Trang Bang where they are made from local rice. The rice ﬂour is roasted for four or ﬁve hours and made into thick cakes. Once the cakes are dried, they are placed into nylon bags. These cakes can be eaten with shrimp, meat, salad, and coriander. During Tet, the cakes are served with roasted meat, eggs, and sour mustard.
Lean pork pie is available in Vietnam only and has different names in the north and south. Foreigners as well as Vietnamese are fond of lean pork pie.
Gio lua consists of pork meat wrapped in fresh banana leaves. The little bundles are then boiled. The most delicious part of lean pork pie is the top layer since it absorbs the flavour of the banana leaves.
Com (steamed rice)
In Vietnam, com is eaten at the main meals of the day (lunch and dinner). Rice is eaten together with a variety of different dishes and is made from different kinds of rice. Typically fragrant rice is used, such as Tam Thom and Nang Huong. An ordinary meal may consist of steamed rice and the following:
Mon an kho (meal without soup) consists of dishes of pork, fish, shrimp, and vegetable cooked in oil, as well as vegetables, pickles, etc.
Mon canh (meal with soup) consists of a soup made with pork or
spare-ribs, crab meat, and fish.
Grilled minced fish has been served in Vietnam for more than 100 years. The Doan family of Cha Ca Street in Hanoi first invented this dish.
A wide variety of fish can be used in this dish including sturgeon and tuna. Tuna is low in fat, has an exquisite flavour, and few bones. The bones are separated from the meat and put into saffron water to be later used in a sauce. The fish is marinated in salt before being grilled. What is interesting about this dish is that people can add their favourite condiments: coriander, mint, dill, shallots, and more.
Pho is the most popular food among the Vietnamese popu – lation. Pho is commonly eaten for breakfast, although many people will have it for their lunch or dinner. Anyone feeling hungry in the small hours of the morning can also enjoy a bowl of hot and spicy pho to fill their empty stomachs.
Like hot green tea which has its particular fragrance, pho also has its special taste and smell. Preparations may vary, but when the dish is served, its smell and taste is indispen – sable. The grated rice noodle is made of the best variety of fragrant rice called Gao Te…
Eating banh cuon for breakfast is a great favorite among many Vietnamese.
Banh cuon is made of rice flour. Thoroughly selected rice is soaked overnight, then ground with a stone mortar. Food preservatives are put into the flour to make the rice sheets softer and smoother. A screen of cloth used to mold the rice sheets is fitted over the opening of a pot of boiling water. Flour is spread on the screen and covered with a lid. After a few minutes, a bamboo stick is used to strip the thin layer of flour off the screen. Then it is rolled up and sprinkled with fried onions.
Com Rang (fried rice)
Fried rice is mostly served in the fall. After collecting the r ice from the fields, several steps have to be performed to obtain excellent com. After removing the grains from their hulks, the rice is wrapped in lotus leaves to keep it from drying and to allow it to absorb the lotus flavor.
Fried rice can be found everywhere in Vietnam, but the best com is found in Vong village, 5 km from Hanoi. People in this village still use traditional secret recipes. People eat grilled rice with eggs, bananas, or sapodillas.
Mien threads are very long and tough, made from a kind of tuber plant called cassava. When served, the long tiny flour threads are cut into smaller pieces. Like rice vermicelli, this kind of cassava vermicelli is used to make several different dishes, the most popular being Mien Ga (chicken cassava vermicelli), Mien Bo (beef cassava vermicelli), and Mien Luon (eel cassava vermicelli).
Cassava vermicelli is also used for different dishes which are stirred in oil, such as Mien Xao Thit (vermicelli and pork stirred in fat), Mien Xao Long Ga (vermicelli and chicken tripe stirred in fat), and Mien Xao Cua Be (vermicelli and sea crab meat stirred in fat).
Bun (rice vermicelli)
Vietnamese vermicelli is a luxurious as well as a popular dish. There are different varieties of vermicelli depending on their shape: bun roi or stirred vermicelli, bun mam or twisted vermicelli, bun la or vermicelli paper, and bun dem tram or shreded vermicelli.
Different ingredients can be served with vermicelli: grilled pork meat, fried rice cakes, snails, fried eggs, lean meat pie, chicken, and crab soup, to name a few.
Each region and locality, even each restaurant, has its own vermicelli dishes with their own recipes.
This dish is a combination of a variety of fresh vegetables, usually used in salads in Western countries.
The make-up of Nom, however, is slightly different. The main ingredients of Nom include grated pieces of turnip, cabbage, or papaya, and slices of cucumber with grated, boiled, lean pork.
Other auxiliary ingredients include grated carrot, slices of hot chilly, and roasted ground nuts. These are used to make the dish more colourful. All are mixed thoroughly before being soaked in vinegar, sugar, garlic, hot chilly, and seasoned with salt. The presentation of the dish is also very meticulous
Banh Tom (crispy shrimp pastry)
Although Banh Tom is available almost everywhere in the country, it is best at the Nha Hang Ho Tay (Ho Tay Restau – rant) on the banks of Truc Bach Lake, close to Ho Tay (West Lake) in Hanoi. While diners await the arrival of the hot fried shrimp pastry, they can enjoy the picturesque lake and land – scapes offered by the vast expanse of water from West Lake and the tree-lined Thanh Nien Road. The dish should be eaten as soon as it arrives at the table. The fried pastry is topped with red shrimps and is eaten together with dishes of spicy vegetables mixed with sweet and sour sauce.
Hot white rice is part of every meal in Vietnam, but only Hue mussel rice is served cool.
Hue people, after deciding that no food should be wasted, have designed this dish using leftover rice. This dish includes Chinese vermicelli, bamboo shoots, lean pork meat, and an assortment of green vegetables (banana leaves, mint, star fruit, etc.).
The broth obtained after boiling the mussels is used to flavour the rice. Ginger, sesame, and chili are also added to the broth. This dish is very spicy and it is not rare to see people with watery eyes and sweaty faces while eating it; nevertheless, everyone congratulates the cook for such a delicious meal.
Tom Chua (Hue Sour Shrimp)
When Hue natives living outside the city return to their homeland, they usually have sour shrimp.
Tourists also make sure to buy some jars of sour shrimp before leaving Hue.
Because of the national reputation of this dish, some cooks and merchants specialize in making sour shrimp. In the past, people made this dish at home, but now it is easier to buy it at the market. This dish can be prepared with any kind of shrimp. The recipe includes a number of steps that must be performed in a specific order.
Hot white rice is part of every meal in Vietnam, but only Hue Cau Mong beef is a specialty of Cau Mong, located 15 km from Danang, Dien Ban district, where nearly ten restaurants serve the dish.
Cau Mong beef has been served for a long time and is found in many places outside Danang, such as Hoi An, Tam Ky, Vinh Dien, and Ho Chi Minh City. The meat along with its skin is cut in thin slices, half cooked, and eaten with nem, which consists of fish sauce mixed with soy sauce, sugar, chili, garlic, lemon, star fruit, vervain, and green banana.
Hue Beef Noodle Soup
One must have years of experience to cook excellent Hue beef noodle soup. This recipe mainly consists of shredded meat and rice noodles. Most restaurants and merchants in Hue do not make the rice noodles themselves; they buy them in Van Cu and Bao Vinh, two villages located near Hue.
Learning how to make a clear broth from bone and meat is also a difficult task, but cooks have the satisfaction of seeing customers enjoying a good meal. The secret of this recipe resides in the meat–this is why it must be bought directly from the slaughterhouse early in the morning.
Lau mam was a popular dish among farming communities hundreds of years ago, especially in the southwestern provinces.
Nowadays, lau mam is considered a delicacy and is often served to special guests. Lau designates the broth, and mam the salted fish. The main ingredient used in the broth is marinated fish to which meat and vegetables are added.
Various ingredients, such as seafood, fish, and meat, are prepared on separate plates. Guests choose and boil their meat in the broth. The meal is accompanied by several fresh vegetables and aromatic herbs. This dish is particularly enjoyed since so many alternatives are possible, offering a wide array of delicious flavours.
Hu Tieu (My Tho Noodle Soup)
My Tho seafood noodle soup is different from Chinese noodle soup, nam vang soup, and Hue beef noodle soup, because it contains soy bean, lemon, chili, and soy sauce instead of herbs and lettuce.
Back in the 1960s, a shop in My Tho, 70 km from Ho Chi Minh City, started serving this dish using a secret recipe for the rice noodles. Ever since then, its reputation has grown to become a very well known meal in Vietnam. It is said that the most delicious noodle soup is made with Co Cat rice, from the most famous rice growing area of My Phong village, a suburb of My Tho.
Foreigners often say that grilled shrimp paste is a very unusual dish made from very simple ingredients. The recipe consists of clean shrimps placed in coconut water. The shrimps are later grilled and ground to obtain shrimp flour. The flour is mixed with fat and sugar to finally obtain shrimp paste. This dish is served with fish sauce.
Canh Chua (fish sour soup)
Canh chua originated from the Mekong Region, more specifi – cally from Dong Thap Muoi. Canh chua is a fish sour soup made with fish from the Mekong River and so dua flower. This dish is mostly served when the so dua flower first blos – soms at the end of the rainy season. A feast is organized and the fish sour soup is among the delicious meals prepared for this event. Fish sour soup must be eaten very hot. It must also be eaten all at one time since the taste is altered when the soup is reheated.