Vietnamese cuisine, known for its balance of five fundamental taste senses, combines sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and salty in a harmonious blend that truly sets it apart. Fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and heavy reliance on herbs and vegetables are other hallmarks of Vietnamese food, offering a healthy yet flavorful culinary experience. Join us on this gastronomic tour as we explore the top five main cuisines of Vietnam.
When it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, Pho is undeniably the most iconic. This soul-soothing soup boasts a clear, aromatic broth simmered with meat (usually beef or chicken) and spices, served with rice noodles, fresh herbs, and bean sprouts. Pho is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed any time of day, from breakfast to late-night snack, revealing the heart of Vietnamese culinary tradition in every bowl.
Banh Mi is a perfect example of Vietnam’s colonial past blending with its ancient traditions. This internationally-renowned sandwich begins with a French baguette, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, generously filled with an array of ingredients such as pâté, cured ham, pickled vegetables, coriander, and hot chili peppers. Each Banh Mi vendor adds a unique twist, but the result is invariably a symphony of tastes and textures in every bite.
Hailing from Hanoi, Bun Cha features grilled pork served in a tangy broth, accompanied by rice noodles and a platter of fresh herbs. This dish became globally famous when former U.S. President Barack Obama and the late Chef Anthony Bourdain enjoyed it in a local Hanoi restaurant. The flavor-rich, char-grilled pork, cool noodles, and refreshing herbs create a delightful contrast that speaks to the culinary genius of Vietnam.
Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Spring Rolls):
Goi Cuon, often known as Vietnamese Spring Rolls, are light, fresh, and brimming with flavors. Unlike their fried counterparts, these spring rolls comprise translucent rice paper filled with greens, coriander, minced pork or shrimp, and then are often served with a peanut-based dipping sauce. Goi Cuon represents Vietnamese cuisine’s essence with its emphasis on fresh ingredients and harmonious flavors.
A specialty of Hoi An, Cao Lau is a mouth-watering noodle dish that combines elements of both Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine. The dish features thick, chewy noodles (rumored to be cooked in water from a specific local well), slices of barbecued pork, crisp croutons, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and is usually topped with crunchy pork cracklings. Every mouthful of Cao Lau is a testament to Hoi An’s rich culinary heritage.
These five dishes embody the essence of Vietnamese cuisine – a cuisine that honors the past, celebrates freshness, and creates harmony in every dish. Whether it’s a steaming bowl of Pho, a hearty Banh Mi sandwich, the flavor-layered Bun Cha, light and fresh Goi Cuon, or the unique Cao Lau, each delivers an authentic taste of Vietnam. So, pull up a tiny plastic stool, join the locals at a street food stall, and embark on a memorable culinary journey through Vietnam.