If you just moved to Vietnam or are about to go on a trip to Vietnam, Vietnamese snacks and food are indeed on your list. Whether you’re heading off through the country’s food capital or traversing untrodden paths in Vietnam, it’s inevitable to find something mouth-melting on the corners of each street.
But with so many choices and so few menus written in English, it’s hard to know what food you would be interested in trying. To give you a hand, we’ve compiled some Vietnamese must-try snacks. Yes, Vietnamese food is also a tourist attraction you have to experience. Travellers come to Vietnam to taste them again, just one more time!
TIPS ABOUT VIETNAMESE SNACKS
Words are simply not enough to describe Vietnamese food. Their food is complex, dynamic, and often surprising, but indeed it is never dull. What makes it unique is the smell of each dish, with combinations of fresh herbs, mint cilantro, lemongrass, and pungent fish sauce in almost every serving. You just couldn’t get enough of its own bottled fragrance.
Despite the varied landscape of Vietnam, all the cuisine has a balance of spices, herbs, heat, sweetness, sourness, and saucy fish sauce. Like any other Asian cuisines, Vietnamese cuisine is all about yin and yang; the blend of sweetness and saltiness, the conditions of coolness and warmness, and servings of fresh and fermented.
When it comes to Vietnamese food, people over the world will think of Pho and Banh mi. However, Vietnamese cuisine is so much more. To find hidden gems of Vietnamese snacks, dive into this list from the North to the South you surely cannot miss!
DIFFERENT VIETNAMESE SNACKS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH
If it is your first time tasting Vietnamese snacks, in each dish, you will find all four tastes, from salt, sour, sweet, and bitter, blending well to create a diverse, unique buzz in each dish. Vietnam has a land spanning over 1,500 km from North to South, and they are blessed with different climates across regions, meaning various sources of ingredients for healthy dishes. This is one of many reasons why the Vietnamese way of cooking vary in the country.
The North of Vietnam is the cradle of some traditional dishes in the country. Their food is known for its lightness, spicy, colourful, and mild taste. They produce almost all the ingredients for North delicacy in the fertile farming area of the Red River Delta. Fishers catch fresh fish in lakes and rivers. While farm rice, herbs, and vegetables in the rich highlands. The North has a quickly changing temperature. Vietnamese tend to go for nourishing and healthy dishes.
Bánh Cuốn is basically a pancake made of rice with fillings of ground pork and minced mushrooms. They spread each serving into paper-thin, with oil for aroma and sprinkles of green onion for more season. Some serve Banh Cuon bedded on fried shallots, sliced cucumbers, and chopped lettuce. Of course, you’re in Vietnam, so expect a tasteful side of fish dipping sauce! For VND 30,000–40,000, you’ll have a fast, light meal or a full-on breakfast.
Tào Phớ is a popular light and delicate Vietnamese sweet dessert. If you’re a fan of fantastic desserts with a silky texture, you’ll fall in love quickly with Tao Pho. The tofu ingredient makes it smooth, creamy and gives it the taste of soy milk. Saigonese usually eats Tao Pho with sweet syrup for breakfast or snacks, but during the summer months, Tao Pho is a student’s go-to snack for refreshments after a tiring day at school. A cup cost VND500.
Gỏi Đu Đủ
Gỏi đu đủ is a refreshing salad of Vietnamese green papaya, beef jerky, or shrimp. In the North, it is the all-time favourite Vietnamese snack that you will find at almost every dining table. It’s a simple snack, a bit sweet to suit the local’s taste.
Raw papaya and carrot are sliced in strips, beef jerky is added, and they balance the dish with basil, roasted peanuts, red vinegar, and chilli. You have two options for the dressing: fish sauce and lime dressing; some feature soy sauce and vinegar. You can get a bowl of this papaya salad for VND20,000 per dish.
The central of Vietnam is known as the food capital of the country. Nothing is more fulfilling than a perfect Vietnamese experience sitting on a wooden stool in an alleyway, slurping a bowl of Bun bo Hue as the waves of motorcycles pass by you. Locales farm an abundance of spices in the mountainous terrain in the central, their cuisine is primarily spicy, flavourful, and most daring.
MUST-READ: What to do in Hue
Bún Bò Huế
Bún Bò Huế is a flavourful and spicy soup with layers of rich taste. This central Vietnamese dish is best paired with beef or pork delicate slices, then topped with fresh herbs. Traditionally, Bun Bo Hue is served with pig blood cubes, but it’s not the same with every restaurant. One thing common for Bun Bo Hue is the noodle soup is beefy, spicy, and has a flavorful broth.
Bánh Nậm smells really tasteful because of its ingredients, including rice, flour, shrimp, lean pork, and many others. To fully enjoy eating it, you should eat it with fish sarsa and fresh herbs and leaves topped on the dish.
You can smell its fragrant banana leaves that make the dish more addicting once you’ve tasted it. You can try it out, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but be sure to taste it while it’s still hot to enjoy the flavour fully. You can unwrap it quickly from the banana leaves and dip it in the sauce. If you are a vegetarian, you might as well try their vegetarian recipe instead of using shrimps and pork as fillings. The price for the dish consisting of around ten cakes is about VND 40,000.
Cơm hến( mussel rice) is a traditional rural dish enjoyed by the Hue people. It’s a cheap and straightforward yet intricate dish that fuses various flavours from mussels, fried pork, clam broth, roasted peanuts, crunchy rice cracker, chilli pepper, banana flower, star fruit, mint, fish sauce, and cold rice.
These ingredients give Cơm hến the distinctive taste of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy, with crunchy texture because of the room temperature rice. The main ingredient is baby clams that are caught off Con Hen island’s muddy banks on the Perfume River (Sông Hương). They boil small clams to make soup and pour them into the rice and toppings bowl before eating.
Are you enjoying the food from the North to Central so far? Well, in the South, things got a lot sweeter, especially their food! It goes far with the saying; things are sweeter because it reflects the people in the South. They appear more laid back and happy. Or probably it’s because of the weather.
Compared with cuisine from Central and Northern Vietnam, the cuisine is lighter and smoother to the tongue. It’s also not that complicated to make; southerners just need simple ingredients like sugar, coconut juice, and coconut milk to combine and create their cooking of traditional Vietnamese cuisine.
Bánh Tráng Nướng
Bánh Tráng Nướng is also known as Dalat Pizza, is a rice paper-based Vietnamese snack. The rice paper is cooked on top of a low fire, then the cheese will be spread around, followed by eggs, spring onions, pork rind, fried tiny shrimps; all of these ingredients will be mixed and cooked on the paper. In the end, you can add meat toppings or more cheese.
If you prefer it to be vegetarian, simply ask or point out the ingredients you don’t want to be added.
Once finished cooking, if you will be enjoying the dish at the restaurant, it will be cut using scissors the way we cut pizza or if you want to take it home, it will be rolled like a burrito.
Nem Lụi or Nem Nướng
Nem Lui or Nem Nướng is a total package of grilled ground pork, lemongrass, vegetables, Vietnamese herbs, and rice paper wrapper. The dish is like a spring roll, but grilled ground pork is used as a filling and is then dipped in a sweet and sour peanut-sesame taste sauce.
They serve this dish as a main course or a perfect afternoon snack and your favourite tropical drink in Vietnam. What makes Nem Lui a speciality in the South is its distinct taste that is very hard to replicate, probably because of the lemongrass skewer and its special sauce.
Bánh xèo is a sizzling crepe or a pancake, named after the sizzling sound you hear when the rice mixture hits the ready skillet. Slices of pork belly, shrimp, beans, and sprouts fill the pancake. Once the pancake is fried and crispy on both sides, it is folded using a spatula-readily serve to you with fresh vegetables (lettuce, pickled carrots, and Vietnamese balm), herbs (mint, fish mint, and sorrel), and a side of fish dipping sauce.
Vietnam is a go-to for travellers wanting to experience the world’s best natural wonder and, of course, foods. For us, eating local foodies is an enjoyable thing to do when you first arrive in Vietnam, especially if you’re diving into Vietnamese culture.
Remember, if the place you are about to dine in is bustling, it only means it’s really safe, affordable, and delicious! Busy food stands are a positive sign that their food will not make you sick. People queueing up to dine also show that their food is something you should try because it’s proven tasty and worth it. Vietnamese cuisine will always leave you craving for more!
We hope you enjoy this foodie guide that tells you what you must try and eat out when you’re in Vietnam. If what you just read leave your mouth watery, or if there’s something you’d like to add to the list, tell us in the comment box below. We’d love to hear anything from you.