Best Food in Vietnam: The Most Famous Dishes to Try

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
Website Linkedin Twitter

Vietnam, a country with a rich history and a vibrant culture, is also home to an extraordinary culinary landscape. If you’re looking for the best food in Vietnam, you’re in the right place. We spent some time in Vietnam and tasted the best food it has to offer, so I want to give you a little overview of what you can expect when visiting Vietnam.

Vietnamese cuisine, known for its harmonious blend of flavors, textures, and fragrances, offers a lot of dishes that are not only delightful to the palate but also a feast for the eyes. From Hanoi’s streets to Hoi An’s alleys, every corner of Vietnam presents a new opportunity to explore its diverse food culture.

Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or a curious traveler, Vietnam’s culinary offerings promise an unforgettable gastronomic adventure. This article guides you through the best foods in Vietnam, highlighting the must-try dishes and the unique aspects of Vietnamese cuisine that make it a world-renowned gastronomic destination.

A side note: Vietnam has a lot of food, but it can become repetitive. So consider this when planning a food trip to this country.

Do you want to plan a trip to Vietnam?
Check our comprehensive Vietnam travel guide and start your journey!
Go to the Vietnam guide

The Unique Flavors of Vietnamese Cuisine

Various cultures have influenced Vietnamese cuisine, particularly Chinese and French colonial, yet it retains a distinct, unmistakably Vietnamese identity. The country’s long history and geographical diversity have played pivotal roles in shaping its culinary traditions. From the rich, savory broths of the North to the vibrant, spicy flavors of the South, Vietnam’s regional dishes reflect its local produce, climate, and historical influences.

The regional variations in Vietnamese cuisine are a testimony to the country’s diverse landscape and cultural history. Northern Vietnamese cuisine is known for its subtle flavors and reliance on freshwater ingredients, reflecting the colder climate and Chinese influence. Central Vietnamese cuisine, characterized by its bold and spicy flavors, mirrors the region’s historical royal cuisine. Meanwhile, Southern Vietnamese cuisine is distinguished by its liberal use of sugar and fresh herbs, a nod to the warmer climate and abundant produce influenced by the Mekong Delta.

Iconic Vietnamese Dishes You Must Try

Pho: Vietnam’s Signature Noodle Soup


Pho is not just a dish; it’s a culinary symbol of Vietnam. Originating from Northern Vietnam, Pho has captivated taste buds worldwide. It’s a harmonious blend of rice noodles, a deeply flavorful broth, fresh herbs, and meat – typically beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga). The magic of Pho lies in its broth, simmered for hours, sometimes even overnight, to draw out the rich flavors from beef bones, charred onions, ginger, and a medley of spices, including star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom. Each region in Vietnam adds its touch to Pho, from the clear and subtle broth in the North to the bolder and sweeter versions in the South. Pho is not just food; it’s a comfort dish, a morning ritual, and a bowl full of warmth that speaks directly to the soul.

Pho is more than a dish; it’s a part of Vietnam’s national identity. It reflects the country’s history, from its origins as a hearty meal for rice field workers in the North to its adaptation and evolution through the centuries. The dish has survived wars, colonization, and migration, making it a resilient symbol of Vietnamese culture. Eating Pho is an experience beyond taste– a journey through Vietnam’s history and traditions.

Banh Mi: The Fusion Sandwich

Banh Mi

Banh Mi embodies the fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisine. A product of French colonialism in Vietnam, Banh Mi fills the classic French baguette with a vibrant mix of Vietnamese ingredients. The baguette’s crispy exterior and soft interior serve as the perfect canvas for rich pâtés, seasoned meats like pork or chicken, pickled vegetables, fresh cucumbers, spicy chilies, and a swath of mayonnaise or liver pâté. Each ingredient in Banh Mi plays a crucial role, contributing to a complex texture and flavor profile that is distinctly Vietnamese.

The versatility of Banh Mi allows for countless variations across the country. In Ho Chi Minh City, you might find a version with a diverse range of cold cuts, while Hanoi’s interpretation might focus on a specific type of meat, like grilled pork. Some regions add a twist with local sauces or additional toppings like fried eggs, reflecting the creativity and adaptability of Vietnamese cuisine.

Goi Cuon: Fresh Spring Rolls

Goi Cuon

Goi Cuon, known globally as Vietnamese spring rolls or summer rolls, are a testament to the freshness and lightness of Vietnamese cuisine. These rolls wrapped in translucent rice paper encase greens, mint, coriander, cooked shrimp or pork, and vermicelli noodles. The art of eating Goi Cuon is dipping them in a rich and flavorful sauce, often made with hoisin sauce, garlic, chili, and ground peanuts. The result is a delightful burst of freshness and flavor with each bite.

Goi Cuon is often celebrated for its health benefits, being low in calories yet nutrient-rich. It’s a preferred choice for those seeking a light but satisfying meal. The dish’s emphasis on fresh herbs and vegetables showcases the importance of balance in Vietnamese cuisine, where each ingredient plays a role in creating a harmonious dish.

Bun Cha: Grilled Pork with Vermicelli

Bun Cha

Bun Cha is a Hanoi culinary staple, a dish that perfectly balances the richness of grilled meat with the freshness of herbs and the soft texture of vermicelli noodles. It features small patties of seasoned pork and sliced marinated pork belly, grilled to perfection. The grilled pork is served with a bowl of flavorful dipping sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and garlic, along with a heaping plate of fresh herbs and rice vermicelli.

Eating Bun Cha is an interactive experience. Diners are encouraged to mix the grilled pork with the vermicelli and herbs in the dipping sauce, creating a dish that is rich in flavors and textures. The combination of smoky, sweet, and savory from the pork, coupled with the lightness of the noodles and the zesty herbs, makes Bun Cha a well-rounded and satisfying meal.

Cao Lau: Hoi An’s Special Noodle Dish

Cao Lau

Cao Lau is a dish embodying the spirit of Hoi An, a historic trading port. This unique noodle dish consists of thick rice noodles, slices of juicy barbecued pork, fresh greens, and crispy croutons, often topped with bean sprouts and herbs. What sets Cao Lau apart is the noodles, made with water from the ancient Ba Le well, believed to be the key to their unique texture and flavor.

Cao Lau is not just a dish; it’s a reflection of Hoi An’s history. The noodles’ unique texture, the use of local greens, and the Chinese-influenced barbecued pork represent the cultural melting pot that is Hoi An. The dish’s limited availability outside the town adds to its allure, making it a must-try for any visitor to Hoi An.

Com Tam: Broken Rice

Com Tam

Com Tam, translating to ‘broken rice’, is a popular Southern Vietnamese dish. Originally made from fractured rice grains, it’s now a sought-after meal served with grilled pork (either ribs or shredded), a fried egg, and pickled vegetables. The dish has a sweet and savory fish sauce and is often garnished with scallions and crushed peanuts. Com Tam is a delightful representation of Vietnamese creativity, turning a once-overlooked ingredient into a cherished staple.

Banh Xeo: Crispy Pancake

Banh Xeo

Banh Xeo is a crispy, savory pancake from rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric, filled with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. The pancake is fried to a golden crisp and served with fresh herbs and a dipping sauce. The name ‘Banh Xeo’ mimics the sizzling sound when the batter hits the hot skillet. It’s a dish perfectly combining texture, flavor, and a sensory eating experience.

Mi Quang: Turmeric Noodles

Mi Quang

Mi Quang is a colorful noodle dish from Central Vietnam, particularly Da Nang and Quang Nam Province. The dish features turmeric-infused rice noodles, a rich broth seasoned with fish sauce, black pepper, shallots, and garlic, and is topped with a variety of meats like chicken, shrimp, or pork. Garnished with peanuts, rice crackers, and fresh herbs, Mi Quang is a vibrant and hearty dish that beautifully represents the culinary diversity of Central Vietnam.


Vietnamese snails, a beloved delicacy in Vietnam, offer a unique and tantalizing culinary experience. Known locally as “Ốc,” the snails, sourced from both freshwater and saltwater environments, are meticulously cleaned and then cooked in a variety of ways, each method infusing distinct flavors and textures. Preparing Vietnamese snails is an art, often involving simmering in a savory broth with lemongrass, ginger, and chili or being grilled with a rich coating of scallion oil and crushed peanuts. Some recipes call for a tamarind-based sauce, adding a perfect balance of sweet and sour, while others might feature a punch of garlic and fish sauce, offering a deeply aromatic and umami experience. Served hot, often in small bowls or on plates, these snails are typically enjoyed with a small fork or toothpick to extract the meat from the shell.

Street Food: The Heart of Vietnamese Culinary Experience

Banh Cuon

Vietnamese street food is where the heart of the nation’s culinary culture truly beats. Dishes like Banh Xeo (sizzling pancakes), Banh Cuon (steamed rice rolls), and Cha Ca (grilled fish) are not just food; they are a reflection of Vietnam’s soul and lifestyle. Each street food dish offers a unique taste and experience, often influenced by local traditions and available ingredients.

The streets of Vietnam are lined with vendors and small stalls, each serving up an array of mouth-watering dishes. This vibrant street food culture is a crucial aspect of daily life in Vietnam, bringing people together regardless of their background. It’s an experience characterized by the bustling ambiance, the sizzle and aroma of cooked food, and the joy of sharing a meal with locals.

Vietnamese Desserts and Beverages

Egg Coffee

Vietnamese desserts, often overlooked, are an integral part of the cuisine. Delicacies like Che (a sweet soup with beans and jelly), Banh Flan (Vietnamese crème caramel), and Banh Bao Chi (sesame balls) offer a glimpse into the sweeter side of Vietnamese cuisine. These desserts, typically less sugary than their Western counterparts, often incorporate local fruits and ingredients like coconut milk and tapioca.

Vietnam’s beverages are as diverse as its cuisine. The renowned Vietnamese coffee, strong and rich, often served with condensed milk, is a must-try. Herbal teas, fresh coconut water, and fruit smoothies made from local fruits like dragon fruit and lychee are also popular and complement the Vietnamese culinary experience.

Tips for Foodies Traveling to Vietnam

Best Places to Eat

To truly experience Vietnamese cuisine, visit local markets, street food stalls, and family-run eateries. Cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hoi An are famous for their culinary tours and cooking classes, offering an immersive experience of Vietnam’s food culture.

Food Etiquette and Tips

When dining in Vietnam, be adventurous and open to trying new dishes. Use chopsticks and a spoon, the typical utensils, and don’t be shy to ask locals for recommendations. Always look for busy places as a sign of good and authentic food.

The best food in Vietnam awaits to be discovered

Vietnamese cuisine is a vibrant and complex expression of the nation’s rich history and culture, closely connected to the diverse landscapes of Vietnam. Each dish, from the streets of Hanoi to the shores of the Mekong Delta, celebrates local ingredients and culinary traditions, reflecting the unique character of each region. This cuisine is not just about the food; it’s a journey through the heart of Vietnam, capturing the essence of its land and the stories of its people.

Vietnamese cuisine is an artful blend of zesty herbs, fresh produce, and complex cooking methods, transforming each meal into a sensory journey. As you delve into these flavors, you realize that every dish is a chapter in the story of Vietnam, embodying the essence of its regions and the spirit of its people. Whether indulging in a steaming bowl of Pho amidst the lively chaos of a Hanoi market or savoring the crispness of Banh Xeo on a tranquil Ho Chi Minh City street, Vietnamese cuisine promises a profound and enduring impact, both on the palate and the soul. So ensure your belly is ready to taste the best food in Vietnam and have fun!

If you love this...

Latest articles

Do you want to receive a notification when we publish a new article?