Eat like locals - Full series of best traditional Vietnamese foods (Part 1)


Vietnam should be the cuisine of the world.”

 Philip Kotler - The Father of Marketing

Ho Chi Minh City has been ranked among the world’s top ten cities for street food by US culinary magazine Food & Wine. Hanoi’s Pho bo (beef noodle soup) has also been ranked first on a list of ‘40 meals you should eat in your lifetime’ published by Business Insider, a New York-based business news site. The banh mi kep thit (pork sandwich) has also been honored as irresistible street cuisine by National Geographic. Vietnamese cuisine has been introduced to the world at large, and ten signature Vietnamese dishes have recently been added to the Asia Book of Records’ ‘Best Food in Asia’ list. 


What to eat? Where to eat for delicious foods at good prices? How to eat like local? We do understand what’s going on in your mind as planning an adventure travel. This series of Vietnam cuisine is all you need for your bucket list.



Get ready your tummy for all of these world’s famous foods. But first, you need to know that despite the varied landscape of Vietnam, all of the traditional food contains this brilliant balance of aromatics, heat, sweetness, sourness, and fish-sauciness. As with other Asian cuisines, it's all about the yin and yang; the sweet and the salty, the cooling and the warming, the fresh and the fermented. So be worry-free from getting fat even you could try all these foods.  

#1. Foods of noodle:

Vietnamese traditional foods includes many types of noodles. These are often served in soup, broth but are also served directly. Moreover, each region in Vietnam has its own styles of noodle. You can find a bowl of noodle anywhere in Vietnam as it is one of the most popular meals for breakfast or lunch, and if you go to a local street vendor it will only cost you $1 to $3 a bowl.

a, Northern Vietnam style noodle:

  • PHO BO – Beef noodle soup (“Bo” – beef; “Pho” - noodle):


The origins of pho can be traced back to Northern Vietnam from hundreds of years ago. Legend has it that pho was created as a quick and easy sustenance for the army troops during the wars. The key element of any bowl of pho is the broth made of beef bone or pork bone for days at a time. This may seem like extensive preparation, however it is thanks to the length of time creating the broth that it has such a sweet and complex flavor. When pho is served, you immerse layers of thin rice noodles and thinly sliced beef cooked medium rare in the hot broth. And it’s served along with bean sprouts, lime wedges, the essential greens (basil, mint, cilantro, and onions), and whatever chili sauce and fish sauce you need to doctor up the broth to your liking. Not only beef, you could order a pho with various meat parts: chicken, fishes.

The northern-style pho in Hanoi is typically defined by a clear broth whereas the southern-style broth tends to be slightly sweeter, murkier from added sauces, and popping with more herbs and other garnishes.

Even with the locals, Pho bo is still their best traditional food.


  • BUN RIEU CUA – Crab and tomato vermicelli noodle soup (“Cua” – crab; “Bun” – noodle):

bun-rieu-cua-vietnamFor a lighter broth option, this is another favorite of locals. The hero of this dish is crab broth with tomato. It’s usually served with sautéed tofu, fish or snails, unshelled shrimp and herbs.








  • BUN CHA - Barbecued Pork with Rice Vermicelli Noodle

bun-cha-vietnam-cuisineA truly traditional food of Vietnam with combination of rice vermicelli noodle, pork, and fish sauce. Rice vermicelli ("bún") is a staple all over Vietnam. You really can't go to Hanoi without trying Bun cha.

The dish consists of grilled pork strips and balls (cha) served over a bed of rice vermicelli noodles (bun). It typically comes with a plate of fresh Vietnamese herbs and a bowl of dipping sauce.  Pickled vegetables, like cabbage, carrots, onion or green papaya served with additional meatballs on the side.

The sauce is made of the famous Vietnamese fish sauce (Nuoc Mam) combined with vinegar, lime, sugar, garlic and chili.


  • PHO CHIEN PHONG – Fried Noodle

vietnam-food-pho-chien-phongYou might think it’s fried tofu at first, but it’s definitely fried noodle in square shape.

The noodles are fried in the hot oil pan, but the taste of noodles is not different too much. The crispy crunchy of noodles, the brittle of beef and veggie, and the tasty sauce all make this Vietnames Pho is completely distinguished to other Pho.













bun-dau-mam-tom-vietnam-noodleRice vermicelli is served with fried tofu, pork, chả cốm and shrimp paste. Chả cốm is a kind of vietnamese sausage, a mix of pork and young rice that is fried. It is cripsy and a bit greasy, it decides how delicious a Bun dau mam tom tray is.

Vietnamese dishes attach special importance to balance of ingredient. Bun dau mam tom, with a large amount protein, would be served with numerous kind of raw vegetable including but not limited to perilla, Vietnamese balm, Thai basil, escarole, stinkvine and fish herb.

To eat Bun dau mam tom, add sugar, chili and kumquat juice into shrimp paste bowl, stir them up and pour the mix into main ingredients.

Warning: “Mam tom” – shrimp paste is really typical in Vietnamese traditional foods which could implant its flavor in your memory forever in both positive or negative meaning :))


b, Central Vietnam style noodle:

  • BUN BO HUE – Beef vermicelli soup (“Hue” – name of a city in central Vietnam)

bun-bo-hue-vietnam-foodThe mighty Bun Bo Hue, a soup that starts with pork and beef bones, gets a kick from lemongrass, annatto and shrimp paste, and finishes the job with a tangle of herbs, a squeeze of lime and a few delicious add-ons like sliced brisket, crab balls and, in some cases, cubes of congealed pig’s blood. Phew!

Contrary to what the name implies — bun means vermicellis and bo means beef — Bun Bo Hue is most often based on a pork-intensive stock, with small amounts of braised or raw beef added as a garnish. 

You might find that the broth of Bun bo Hue stands out by its strong sweet and spicy flavor. Although it’s originally from Hue, it becomes a very famous Vietnamese traditional food that you could find throughout Vietnam. 


cao-lau-hoi-an-vietnam-foodCao Lau is less well known when it comes to traditional Vietnamese food. This ancient dish from Hoi An appears no different to other kinds of noodle on the surface, however there are some differences that stand out once you know what to look for. It is reasonable to say the cao lau noodle is a combination of the three distinct cultures present in Hoi An: Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese. The noodles are thick and yellow, similar to udon noodles, and the barbecued pork, char sew, however there is not as much broth as you would expect.

You can taste cao lau with a little or without broth, however you cannot call a dish cao lau without the BBQ pork, cut from the pig’s thigh for the best, firm cut, to produce the sweet broth. The pork is marinated in 5-flavour spice to create the unique flavours that tantilise the eater. Cao lau is best eaten with bean sprouts, fresh herbs, peanuts, and bbq pork sauce on top, with chili sauce, lemon, and fish sauce added to taste.

c, Southern Vietnam style noodle:

  • BUN BO NAM BO - Vietnamese vermicelli with grilled beef 


This dish is a vermicelli noodle dish served with grilled marinated beef, fresh vegetables, some pickled carrot and the Vietnamese mixed fish sauce. 

What I like about this dish is that there is no oil, fat involved, not at all, especially it’s beef filet, it’s just lean meat.  It feels so healthy, green and fresh. And don’t put the temperature in the oven to high, don’t put it long so that you will have the juice of the grilled beef. Two table spoon of ‘nuoc cham’, a blend of fish sauce, lime juice, chili and very little little sweet of flavor makes the noodle taste Vietnamese, not pungent, but tasty and fresh. Add some more of crunchy peanuts and bean sprouts would make the dish even better.


banh-canh-cua-southern vietnam noodleThe Vietnamese answer to Chinese nian gao, or rice cake, this dish uses fat, round noodles cut directly from uncooked sheets of rice tapioca flour. There are several variations and toppings for the dish that range from bánh canh cua (crab) to a well-known version from the southeastern district of Trảng Bàng, which loads the noodles with boiled pork knuckle, fried shallots, and local herbs.






hu-tieu-nam-vang-mekong-delta-river-vietnam-south-noodleToday’s Mekong River Delta was once the site of the Khmer Empire, prior to aggressive expansion by the Vietnamese in the 17th Century. This dish, popular in that deep south region, is borrowed from Cambodia (“Nam Vang” translates to Phnom Penh).

In the Vietnamese version of hủ tiếu, wider tapioca-based noodles are soaked in an umami-rich broth of pork bone and dried shrimp, then layered with several types of pork (ground pork, sliced liver, pork loin), as well as Chinese celery, basil, fried garlic and shallots. The sleeper hit of the dish is Chinese chive, which adds a slightly bitter, onion-y flavor that seeps into the hot soup. Optional toppings include quail eggs and shrimp.


So far, you could figure out that most of Vietnamese traditional foods are always along with herbs or veggies which is really healthy. No wonder Vietnamese people are mostly quite thin.


H.O.A - BNS Travel

"From bottom of my heart, my passion is spreading my love for my beautiful and friendly Vietnam to all the world"