10 favorite foods you should try in Vietnam

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Banh uot thit nuong
Banh uot thit nuong

Pho might be Vietnam’s most famous dish but bun cha is the top choice when it comes to lunchtime in the capital.

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1. Ca tim kho to

Eggplant alone tends not to get us excited. Although when it’s diced and sautéed in a clay pot along with tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and (depending on the recipe) minced meat, the once bland vegetable redeems itself.

Pineapple Restaurant, 35 Hang Buom, Hoan Kiemdistrict, Hanoi; + 84 43 935 2316

2. Bot chien

Saigon’s favorite streetside snack, bot chien, is popular with both the afterschool and the after-midnight crowd. Chunks of rice flour dough are fried in a large wok until crispy and then an egg is broken into the mix.

Once cooked it’s served with slices of papaya, shallots and green onions, before more flavor is added with pickled chili sauce and rice vinegar.

Nighttime food vendors sell this at the corners of PhamNgu Lao and Cong Quynh, District 1, HCMC

 Bot chien
Bot chien

3. Bun dau mam tom

This plain-looking tofu and noodle dish is served with mam tom sauce — the Vegemite of Vietnam. The pungent purple dipping sauce is used to flavor the slabs of deep-fried fofu that are at the core of the meal.

Corner of Hang Be and Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

4. Banh goi

These pockets of deep-fried goodness are often described as the equivalent of a Cornish pastry or as a Vietnamese samosa, depending on the nationality of the person explaining.

Inside the crispy exterior you’ll find that it’s similar to neither description, with its filling of finely minced pork, mushrooms and vermicelli noodles.

52 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi; +84 4 3828 5922

5. Com suon nuong

This simple meal is the Saigonese equivalent of bun cha — with rice in place of noodles. A tender pork cutlet is barbecued over hot coals to give it a rich, smoky flavor, and laid over the fluffy white com.

Com Tam Cali has a number of branches across HCMC. Try Tam Cali 1 at 32 Nguyen Trai, District 1, HCMC; +84 8 3925 2222

6. Chao

With its thick and creamy texture Vietnam’s rice porridge is the best pick when your queasy stomach can’t handle much else. If you want to jazz it up you can always add slices of chicken, fish, beef, duck or pork ribs, along with a sprinkling of herbs and shallots.

Chao Ca specializes in fish chao, 213 Hang Bong, HoanKiem district, Hanoi; +84 43 829 5281

7. Bo luc lac

Cubes of beef are tossed around a steaming wok with garlic, pepper, and some vegetables to make shaking beef. There’s nothing special about the beef that makes it shaking.

The name is just a literal translation that refers to the process of mixing the beef around while cooking.

Nha Hang Ngon, 160 Pasteur, District 1, HCMC; +84 8 3827 7131

Bo luc lac
Bo luc lac

8. Hat de nong

The smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire can bring back fond memories of Christmas carols — until a moped transporting a giant blow-up Santa whizzes by. Pick the street vendor with the most enticing smell.

To Tich, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi

9. Banh uot thit nuong

It’s all about the marinade when it comes to the grilled pork in fresh rice paper rolls that are popular in central Vietnam.

The typical mixture coats the meat in a blend of sugar, salt, chili, lemongrass and fish sauce. Cilantro, basil and mint are added when it’s served up to add some green to the appetizer.

Morning Glory, 106 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoi An; +84 510 224 1555

10. Bun cha

Pho might be Vietnam’s most famous dish but bun cha is the top choice when it comes to lunchtime in the capital.

Just look for the clouds of meaty smoke after 11 a.m. when street-side restaurants start grilling up small patties of seasoned pork and slices of marinated pork belly over a charcoal fire. Once they’re charred and crispy the morsels are served with a large bowl of a fish sauce-heavy broth, a basket of herbs and a helping of rice noodles.

Hanoi’s most famous bun cha outlet is 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi