1. Phở - Vietnamese noodle soup
What list of Vietnamese cuisine would be started without Pho? This simple staple consisting of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs, and chicken or beef, features predominately in the local diet. It’s cheap, tasty, and widely available at all hours. Pho has shown its position not only in Vietnamese cuisine but also in the world cuisine. Pho can be seen everywhere from street stalls to high-end restaurants. Some are served with chicken and some with beef. Each type of meat entails a variety of sub-dishes, from beef tenderloin to beef brisket, chicken wing to chicken thigh. Fresh herbs, clear stock, and soft noodles are 3 important factors to making an outstanding Pho.
Give it a test to our favorite local store: Phở Hùng, 15A8 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC. Price: 50,000 VND – 66,000 VND (from $2.5 USD)
A bowl of beef noodle soup
2. Bánh mì - Vietnamese baguette sandwich
Banh mi is a unique French-Vietnamese sandwich that’s great when you’re in need of a quick meal. Priced between VND 10,000 and VND 30,000, it consists of a toasted baguette sandwich, pickled vegetables, pate, butter, meat fillings, soy sauce, cilantro, chilies, and hot peppers. The meat fillings could be "heo quay" (roasted pork belly), "trứng ốp la" (sunny fried egg), thịt nướng (grilled pork loin), "chả cá" (fried fish with turmeric and dill), "chả lụa" (boiled pork sausages), "xá xíu" (Chinese barbecued pork), and "thịt gà" (poached chicken).
Bánh mình Huỳnh Hoa, 26 Le Thi Rieng, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, 3:30 PM-midnight daily, ~ 40,000 VND, more expensive than others, but worth it for the amount of meat
The banh mi stall at 37 Nguyen Trai, District 1 (though the address is 37, it’s right at Alley 39), 4:30 pm–7:30 pm daily, ~ 16,000 VND
A banh mi with mixed fillings
3. Bánh cuốn - Steamed Rice Cake
This is also known as rolled cakes. Vietnamese, especially from the North, take pride in their steamed crepe made from rice flour and water. It is a combination of ground meat (chicken, shrimp, or pork), minced wood ear mushroom, onions, boiled pork sausage (chả lụa), steamed beansprouts, and cucumbers wrapped in a thin sheet of steamed rice flour. Banh cuon overall taste is surprisingly mild despite the savory ingredients. It is served with a sweet, sour, and savory sauce prepared from fish sauce, sugar, and lime. You can easily spot plenty of roadside vendors selling banh cuon close to tourist attractions and nightlife districts.
Bánh Cuốn Hải Nam, 11 Cao Thang, Ward 2, District 3, HCMC, ~ 40,000 – 88,000 VND
A plate of steamed rice cake
4. Cơm tấm - Broken Rice
This simple meal is one of the most popular breakfasts in Southern Vietnam. You can also have com tam at any time of the day. It is usually served with grilled marinated pork chops (sườn), plus a mixture of thinly shredded pork and pork skin (bì), and steamed pork/crab meatloaf (chả) over broken rice. On top of the meat, there are several customary ingredients such as finely sliced cucumber, tomato, and pickled vegetables, sunny fried eggs (ốp la). As a dry dish, it would be served with a small bowl of prepared fish sauce (comprising of diluted fish sauce, sugar, lime, garlic, and chili) on the side.
Cơm Tấm Mộc, 82 Nguyen Du, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, ~ 70.000 VND
A plate of cơm tấm with pork chop (sườn), shredded pork skin (bì), and steamed pork/crab meatloaf (chả)
5. Bún chả Hà Nội (grilled pork and vermicelli) - the special taste of Vietnam’s capital
Unlike the multitude of famous Vietnamese dishes such as phở, bánh mì, bánh cuốn, cơm tấm, bún chả Hà Nội will slowly and quietly absorb the feeling of those that have tasted this dish once. For that reason, the president of the United State (Obama) decided to enjoy “bún chả” for his dinner during his visit to Hanoi and this event caught the attention of the world. A portion of “bún chả” always includes two types of chả (grilled porks) – grilled minced pork and grilled bacon. The texture of the grilled minced pork and grilled bacon and the taste of the special dipping sauce will create a fantastic rhythm of taste. Additionally, they will be served with vermicelli and a plate full of herbs and vegetables.
Bún Chả Hà Nội 26, 8A/9C2 Thai Van Lung, District 1, ~ 30,000 - 44,000 VND
A set of bún chả with crab spring rolls
6- Bún Bò Huế - Hue Spicy Beef Noodle Soup
If you are a soup lover then you will be pleased to learn that Bun Bo Hue is another classic Vietnamese dish. Bun Bo Hue is a spicy Vietnamese beef noodle soup that is not quite as popular as Pho but should not be overlooked! Whether North, South or Central, "Bun" also creates unique and specific dishes in each region. Hue style not only is the elegant, sophisticated, precise dishes but also feel the spirit of the ancestors. If you love Pho and you love a bit of spice, you should definitely give Bun Bo Hue a try.
Bún Bò Gánh, 2 Le Quy Don, Ward 6, District 3, ~ 50,000 VND
Tib Restaurant, 187 Ter Hai Ba Trung Street, Ward 6, District 3, ~ 50,000 VND
A bowl of bún bò Huế
7. Bánh Xèo - Crispy Pancake
Similar to a crepe or pancake, bánh xèo is made of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric. You can fill the pancake it with vermicelli noodles, chicken, pork or beef slices, shrimps, sliced onions, beansprouts, and mushrooms. Most roadside stalls, local markets, and restaurants sell a platter of bánh xèo from about 50,000 VND, which usually comes with a side of fresh lettuce or rice papers. To enjoy one like a local, cut it into manageable slices, roll it up in rice paper or lettuce leaves and dunk it in whatever special sauce the chef has mixed up for you. Bánh xèo of the central or the southwestern regions will be the perfect choice for the "cold" weather in Saigon.
Bánh Xèo Đinh Công Tráng, 46A Dinh Cong Trang Street, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1, ~ 55,000 VND
Bánh xèo served with vegetables and fish sauce
To be continued...