Vietnamese cuisine is sizzling, steaming proof that food can be both good for you and packed with flavour. Dishes are built on rice, noodles, fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs and the essential salty soy or fish sauce. With a sprinkling of Chinese and French influences, a healthy serving of regional variations and a hint of sugar, chilli, lime, mint, and basil; Vietnamese cooking is starting to compete with Indian, Italian and Chinese cuisines as an international favourite, with restaurants popping up everywhere from London to New York.
Hungry in Hanoi? The smoky scent of this barbecued pork dish will have your mouth watering. Strips of pork are marinated in chilli, ginger and garlic; grilled over hot coals and served with rice noodles in a broth of fish sauce, vinegar, lime, sugar and herbs; usually accompanied by deep-fried spring rolls, garlic and chilli on the side.
A crispy crepe crammed with pork, prawns, onions, bean sprouts and aromatic herbs, this dish is named banh xeo (sizzling cake) after the tempting sounds it makes as it fries. The pancakes are made from rice flour, water, turmeric, and sometimes coconut milk; then stuffed with the tasty filling, wrapped in leaves or rice paper and dunked in a sweet and sour sauce.
These crispy spring rolls are made with ground meat and chopped vegetables rolled in rice paper, deep fried until golden and served with a tangy fish sauce. The exact ingredients vary from region to region and family to family, ranging from pork to crab, prawns, chicken or tofu. Cha gio are also known as nem ran, mainly in the north.
On any street corner in Vietnam, you will come across conical-hatted vendors offering you something to eat. Buy your snacks from bamboo baskets suspended from sellers’ shoulders, pull up a plastic chair at a makeshift roadside pho stall, or order noodles from a vendor who will stop to cook for you before moving on. Whether you are in a city, small town or seaside resort, the street is the best place to discover the tastes of Vietnam. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
Number one contender for Vietnam’s national dish, you simply must try this steaming, fragrant noodle soup. The most popular variations are pho ga (with chicken) and pho bo (with beef). The broth includes rice noodles and bean sprouts, with flavourings such as cinnamon, ginger, basil, cilantro, onion, lime and mint.
This sticky rice dish is shaped into a square and wrapped in a banana leaf like a tasty gift. Rice, pork and onions are cooked for up to 48 hours and can be eaten cold. Stuffed with mung bean paste and flavoured with black pepper, banh chung is traditionally eaten in the Vietnamese new year.
Prices on holidays in Vietnam vary widely depending on what you want to do and where you want to do it. Not as cheap as it used to be, Vietnam is still great value compared to many places, with a delicious street food scene that lets you eat like a king for very little cost. On average though, a three course meal in a mid-range restaurant will set you back around 280,000 Vietnamese Dong, with a bottled beer about 30,000 Vietnamese Dong. To stop you getting thirsty, a 1.5 litre bottle of water is usually around 13,000 Vietnamese Dong.