best Vietnamese dishes

The 20 Must-Try Traditional Vietnamese Dishes

Vietnamese food is popular with food lovers around the world. With a strong French influence in many of the dishes, the food is fragrant and full of flavour. Vietnamese cuisine uses 5 central flavours; sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. A true explosion of the senses with every mouthful when it comes to traditional Vietnamese dishes!

The Most Popular Vietnamese Food Dishes

  • Phở
  • Bún chả
  • Bánh mì
  • Bánh xèo
  • Bún bò Huế

From the all-time favourite Phở to crispy savoury pancakes like Bánh xèo, frothy egg coffees and unique desserts. Here’s our list of the best Vietnamese food. Happy feasting! Or should we say ăn nào!

The Best Vietnamese DishesHow do these rankings work?

1. Phở

Probably one of the most famous Vietnamese dishes, Phở is a steaming noodle soup dish that’s traditionally eaten for breakfast. It’s a hearty feast with rice noodles, bone broth and plenty of fresh herbs. You then add chilli, lime and hoisin sauce to taste.

Did you know that there are around 9 different types of Pho. The most popular is Phở gà (chicken) and Phở tái (with raw slices of beef).

different types of pho
Image: Taste Atlas

2. Cao lầu noodles

This hearty noodle dish is native to Hoi An, where lye water from a nearby well is used to make the noodles. You can’t really eat it anywhere else because of this.

It comes topped with slices of barbecue pork, pork crackling, bean sprouts, lettuce and herbs, and crispy deep-fried squares of those tasty noodles.

3. Bún chả

Barack Obama made bun cha famous to the world when he ate it on Anthony Bourdain‘s TV show. This dish comes from the capital city of Hanoi.

It’s a mixed plate of grilled fatty pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and herbs, with a side dish of sweet & sour fish dipping sauce. Mix the ingredients together as you please!

Insider tip: Don’t forget to add Vietnamese mint, it’s a distinct red-violet colour and is unlike any other mint!

The Most Popular Vietnamese Food

4. Bánh mì

All bow down to the mighty bánh mì. It’s one of the most popular Vietnamese street foods, you’ll see stalls on every corner, serving this simple-yet-delicious sandwich. This is where the French influence comes into play: it’s a soft, fresh baguette, with pate, pork, fresh herbs, pickled carrots and chilli.

It’s the perfect snack for breakfast, lunch or dinner and is perfect drunk/hangover food.

Bánh mì differs from region to region, if you opt for an egg bánh mì (trứng), it’s usually served as an omlette in the north and fried eggs in the south.

Check out Anthony Bourdain eating a Banh Mi in Hoi An.

5. Bánh bao, bánh vạc (White Rose dumplings)

Another local Hoi An dish are these delicate dumplings that look like white roses, hence the name. They fill the translucent white dough with spicy minced shrimp or pork and gently steam the dumplings. They come topped with crispy shallot and a tangy dipping sauce.

Be sure to eat this when you’re in Hoi An!

best Vietnamese dishes

6. Egg Coffee

We know, we know, it sounds a little weird. But egg coffee is a unique coffee treat from Hanoi that’s sweet and super delicious.

“Cà phê trúng” is a rich Vietnamese coffee base with frothy egg yolk and condensed milk on top. There’s plenty of places in Hanoi to try it, but the most famous is the original Cafe Giang.

best Vietnamese dishes

7. Bánh xèo

This authentic Vietnamese dish is a take on the savoury pancake. The batter is rice flour and coconut milk with turmeric. They then fill it with pork strips, shrimp, bean sprouts and spring onion and fry it to perfection.

Depending on where you are in the country, you’ll find different variations of this snack. In the south, it’s a larger pancake, rolled with herbs, and usually served with fish sauce (Nước chấm). Up north, the pancake is smaller and crispier, rolled in rice paper along with herbs. If you’re lucky it comes with a delicious satay style sauce.

Vietnamese Food

8. Bun Bo Hue

Bún bò Huế is a spicy Vietnamese traditional beef noodle soup. We reckon it’s the underdog when it comes to the the famous Pho, but it deserves its own recognition!

This noodle soup is beefy, spicy & has a robust broth. It has thin slices of boiled beef shank, oxtail chunks, and pig’s knuckles and cubes of congealed pig blood- which is the dark brown cubes in the picture below!

If you love Pho and you love a bit of spice then definitely give Bun Bo Hue a try.

9. Com tam (Broken Rice)

Com Tam is also known as Vietnamese broken rice. This simple-but-tasty dish usually comes with grilled meat, fried egg, salad and pickles.

Broken rice is actually broken grains of rice leftover from the traditional drying and milling process. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner; it’s super cheap ($1) and a popular street food among locals.

The Most Popular Vietnamese Food

10. Thịt Kho Tàu (Caramelized Braised Pork & Eggs)

Vietnamese people prepare a wide variety of food for Tet (the Vietnamese Lunar New Year). This dish, called Thịt Kho Tàu (caramelised pork and eggs braised in coconut juice), is one of the most popular traditional food served during Tet in southern Vietnam.

11. Bún Mắm

This incredibly deep and complex broth gets a flavour boost from fermented fish, with seafood, crispy pork belly and stuffed chilis to bulk it out.

You haven’t truly tried Vietnamese food until you’ve had this noodle soup! It packs a real flavour punch and is actually quite easy to make.

Popular Vietnamese Food

12. Banh Cuon

These soft and moist Vietnamese rice rolls originate from Northern Vietnam. Usually, vendors serve them with delicious homemade fish sauce for dipping. People usually eat this is the morning or afternoon, as it’s quite light and easy to eat in a hurry!

13. Chả cá

“Cha Ca” is a fish cake (traditionally made from catfish). It comes in many forms, on top of noodles, in a banh mi or even just by itself!

These fish cakes are usually steamed and depending on the vendor, then fried! The most common fish for Cha Ca is mackerel.

14. Bánh đa cua

Originating from Hai Phong, Banh Da Cua noodles are actually a red rice noodle. Hai Phong is the second largest seaport in Vietnam and is famous for its speciality crab and seafood dishes.

At most markets, you’ll find this steaming bowl traditionally served with beef wrapped in betel leaves, fried mini fish cakes, crab dumplings and morning glory.

15. Che Ba Mau

This is the go-to dessert in Vietnam, known as the three colour dessert. It’s a delicious layer of yellow mung bean paste, red beans, and green jelly, with a drizzle of coconut milk to finish it off.

che ba mau
Instagram: vietfood_daily

16. Che Bap

You’ll find this famous desert pretty much anywhere, from street vendors, restaurants to even the local Circle K. Quick and easy to eat on the go, it consists of sweetcorn and tapioca starch.

Sometimes peculiar to the Western palette to serve sweetcorn as a dessert, but trust us, it’s delicious…

che bap
Instagram: bunbobaeblog

17. Che Chuoi

If you like banana fritters, then you will adore this dessert. The bananas in this dish are a little different, smaller in size and super sweet.

There are two types of Che Chuoi, but our favourite is Chè Chuối Nuong: the bananas are rolled in sticky rice and then roasted in banana leaves. Topped with a sweet coconut milk soup and sprinkled peanuts. Yum!

Vietnamese dessert
Instagram: nyn.jaypi

18. Ô Mai

Pretty much any market you go to in Vietnam you’ll find O Mai (Ô Mai). This simple dessert is made up of fruits that are sweetened or salted. It’s especially popular during the Tết holiday.

This sweet and salty mix of fruits is bursting full of flavour, opt for some of their more unique options like; ginger, starfruit, tamarind or liquorice. This famous Vietnamese street food is not to be missed!
o mai, ô mai
Instagram: hanoi_life

19. Cà phê sữa đá

Vietnamese Ice Coffee: not technically a dish but we couldn’t leave it off this list!

Extra strong and extra sweet, what better start to your morning or afternoon, and in some cases evening! Coffee shops in Vietnam are a staple and you can find groups of all ages drinking Ca Phe Sua at all hours of the day.

Traditionally the coffee comes in a glass with a Phin on top. This percolates onto the sweetened condensed milk and is then mixed with ice.

ca phe sua da
instagram: shankandbone

20. Trà Đá

Trà đá or Vietnamese iced tea is basically like water here. Go into any restaurant, you’ll receive a glass of Tra Da – not water. And it’s usually free too!

Tra da varies from regions to restaurants, but it’s usually an infusion with Jasmine and Vanilla. Don’t get a shock if you find a few tea leaves floating around, it just adds to the authenticity. There’s truly nothing more thirst quenching than a Tra Da in this humid climate!

tra da
Instagram: lianvin2612

Travelling around Vietnam?

Sarah Clayton-Lea

Co-founder of Big 7 Travel, Sarah created the company through her passion for championing the world's best food and travel experiences. Before her career in digital media, where she previously held roles such as Editor of Food&Wine Ireland, Sarah worked in the hospitality industry in Dublin and New York.

Contact [email protected]

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