Sole Food: Guide to Vietnamese Cuisine

Saturday, May 14, 2011

You have to agree, food is a major part of the travel experience. You can tell so much about a country just by trying the local dishes.

Do they eat a lot of vegetables?
Do they play with their food?
Do they put a lot of effort in making the food look good?

In Vietnam's case, the answer is Yes to all these questions. Not only does Vietnamese food taste so great, it's also a feast for the eyes. Not convinced? Here are some of the dishes we've tried and a few tidbits on how to enjoy Vietnamese cooking:

Hungry Pho You

Pho is the staple food in Vietnam. It's the humble noodle soup. But combine that with fresh mint and basil leaves, seafood, beef, lettuce, bean sprouts and you can call it heaven in a bowl! The Vietnamese usually eat this for breakfast but we've discovered it's a go-to meal in the wee hours of the morning after you've had some bottles of Bia Saigon.


Smokin' Pot
Ask for a Vietnamese Hotpot and get ready to have the most fun meal on your trip. You can say that preparing this dish can be as much fun as eating it. Especially since you'll be doing it yourself. They serve the large, steaming pot of soup first. Then the plates of meat, seafood and vegetables. And then the bowls of different kinds of noodles. The trick is to put the meat in first and the leafy vegetables last. Don't throw it all in the pot like we did!


This is how we Roll

Fresh spring rolls is Lumpia in all it's glory. Take some bean sprouts, mint leaves, glassy noodles, shrimp flakes or meat then roll it into a thin rice wrapper. One bite and the fusion of flavors explodes in your mouth! Here's how you can roll in Saigon.


Show me those Bans!

Where else in Southeast Asia can you get a fresh piece of baguette on the street for less than a dollar? The best ban mi are sold early in the morning when they're crunchy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. The Vietnamese have made this French tradition their own by filling it with pickled carrots, cilantro, chilli peppers, pate or tofu. No wonder this was Chichi's snack of choice on long bus rides!

Ba Le Bakery: Classic Bahn Mi
Photo Credit: Made In PHL
Stick out your Tongue

Meat on a stick is an essential street food in any country. But the mountain town of Sapa takes the simple barbecue to the next level by making it gourmet style. Care for some cabbage or mushroom wrapped in beef strips on skewers? How about some chicken intestines or coagulated pig's blood roasted to perfection and dipped in a spicy sweet vinegar concoction? Don't drool now.



The Sweetest Thing

It doesn't stop with the main course. The Vietnamese also know how to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings. Try their version of the Halo Halo: A glass filled with tapioca, jelly, fruit, sweet beans, coconut milk and condensed milk. Then layer in some shaved ice. 


Roasted Bananas covered in sticky rice from the beachside city of Nha Trang.You can eat this plain or cut it in pieces and thrown into a glass of thick coconut milk and peanuts. Very addicting!


Pastries are on every street corner in Vietnam. Fancy some fresh buns, waffles or cream puffs? In the higher peaks of Dalat, this is best paired with a steaming glass of soy milk or peanut drink.


Ca Phe Crazy

Drip after drip of robust, strong coffee. Black as night, strong as death and sweet as a woman's kiss. It's coffee just the way we want it! Tip: Ask for ca phe sua da if you want it cold. And ca phe sua nom if you like it hot. Now you know where most of our Vietnam daily budget went.

Sole Food Vietnam

The glorious food in Vietnam is more than reason enough to go. But don't stick to the fancy restaurants and gourmet shops. Eat local! It's scary at first but definitely the best way to enjoy Vietnam's fascinating and diverse food culture.

What about you? What are your favorite dishes from Vietnam? 

Check out the previous Sole Food post: Guide to Indian Eats

Until the next food trip,
Sole Sister Lois
If you found this post helpful, you might want to Support the Sole Sisters While We're on the Road. If you have any questions about the Sole Sisters and our adventures, post on our Facebook Page and we will compile a massive Q&A post every end of the month.

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17 sole trails

  1.  I'm not much of a food person when traveling but I know I'm missing a lot by not being so, and this post reminded me again to be more adventurous when tasting other regional dishes much more those from other countries. I'm having Greenwich pizza for early dinner then I read this - all of a sudden I wanna join you solesisters there hahaha.

  2.  I know where you're coming from Marky. I used to be afraid of trying new food too. Plus I never had a lot of money to spend on food. I did learn later on that eating well didn't have to mean spending a fortune in restaurants. I just follow my nose and go where the locals eat. Uy, parang gusto sumama sa adventures namin! Why not? Haha.

  3.  thanks for posting this... very helpful, I'll try it pagdating namin sa HCMC this July6 =)

  4. We have plans of going back to Vietnam if only for the food, glorious food! 

  5. berlin has the biggest vietnamese community in germany. we have more viet restos than chinese. viet food is LOVE! :)

  6.  I hope you will try a lot local and even quirky food in Vietnam. That was one of the highlights of the trip! Share your foodie discoveries soon!

  7.  That's always a great reason to go back Kim and MJ. We're still dreaming about it. But Thai food is also de-licious!

  8.  I didn't know that. But I did eat at some good vietnamese restos when I was in Wurzburg. I agree. it is LOVE!

  9. lost count of the number of ban mi i've eaten in my 11 days in hanoi... a great meal for budget travellers...

  10.  Oh yes! It's cheap and delicious. We miss banmi a lot now..

  11. if there's one thing that I miss until now, it's Vietnam's ca phe sau da and their banh mi. I would def go back just for their food!

  12. Thank you for the food tour Lois, I have always been a fan of Thailand and Vietnam's cuisine especially their street food even if I don't have the necessary vaccine required when traveling overseas. I guess sanayan lang yan :)

  13.  Maybe we should all go back Aleah... PTB meet up in Vietnam anyone? ;-)

  14. Street food is always the best. Don't think I've ever gotten sick from streetfood. More from restos on the islands because seriously how can you serve 150 dishes and still keep em fresh? ;-)

  15. Looks like you've been trying a lot of great stuff.  I loved the roasted bananas.  And you're right, they are pretty addicting.  I can't remember some of the other dishes I tried when I was there.  Overall, I'm not much of a food person when I travel.  I do remember really liking Vietnamese food in general though.

  16.  Having a small budget allows for all sorts of creativity when it comes to food. And we loved all sorts of roasted street food. Bananas, sweet potatoes, eggs! You name it! We're still missing Vietnamese food. But we miss their ca phe most of all!

  17. haha love this post and the photos! your blog rocks, your photos are very atmospheric.. being vietnamese, i am glad that other people also discovered the country's great cuisine :)
    if you have the time check out my blog (i am kind of new to this whole blogging scene, so dont expect a lot) - i am a vietnamese born german girl who is going to study in hong kong for a year and then hopefully travelling around asia like you guys!!!
    love, hati


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