Last Update: January 2020
Vietnam food, I love it! Phở, Bún Chả, Bánh Mì, fresh spring rolls, I love it all! However, there’s more beyond these well known dishes. Wonderful Vietnam food that tourists don’t know about.
I’m not just talking exotic foods that Westerners won’t eat. No, I’m talking everyday food that I am sure you would love, if only you knew about it. Here’s my list of 9 Vietnam foods beyond phở and bánh mì.
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1. Cơm tấm
Probably you know this dish, without knowing it. Makes sense? The actual national dish of Vietnam is pork over rice. And all this time you thought it was phở. Cơm tấm literally translates into ‘broken rice’.
The use of broken rice in this dish over long grained rice is important, because of the texture. The rice is topped with bbq caramelized pork chop and a fried egg if you’re lucky. Often some extra shredded pork and skin is sprinkled on top together with pickles, cucumber and tomato, yum!
2. Thịt kho tàu
The Vietnamese sure like their pork, but then again they can work wonders with it. This next popular lunch dish proves me right. Sliced pork belly is marinated in spices with added fish sauce. Next, it’s left to simmer for hours and hours in coconut water until all the flavors are in the meat. As a result the meat will become succulent, soft and tender.
Yes there’s fat, but this is essential for the taste and immediately melts away in your mouth anyway. This is the kind of dish that even tastes better the next day. Served with hard boiled chicken or duck eggs over steamed rice.
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3. Bánh khọt
If you know about Vietnam food than you probably know about ‘bánh xèo’. A crispy pancake made of rice flour with turmeric and stuffed with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. A lesser known, but oh so delicious variant is ‘bánh khọt’. Similar batter is used for the smaller sized pancake with a single large shrimp in the center. Special cast-iron plates are used to bake the bánh khọt leaving the inside soft and fluffy with a crunchy outside.
4. Gỏi xoài
Due to its tangy taste this salad is one of my favorites. Shredded unripe mango, carrots and onions are mixed in with holy basil and generously drizzled with fish sauce and lime juice. Dried beef goes on top with sprinkles of fried shallots and crushed peanuts. So refreshing on a hot day.
5. Bún riêu
Straight from the river delta to you, noodle soup! But it’s a special one. Apparently the main ingredient, fresh water crab, is pounded within the shell. The almost liquefied substance along with chunks of crab meat is then poured into a tomato broth.
Furthermore, ground pork is added and tamarind provides a tangy note. Rice vermicelli, fried tofu, shredded banana flower and morning glory stems complete this wonderful and authentic dish.
6. Cá kho tộ
Simple cooking usually does the trick. Cá kho tộ is just fish (snakefish or catfish) braised in garlic, fish sauce and soy sauce. Restaurants serve this dish in a traditional clay pot with steamed rice on the side. Eat lot’s of veggies with it, because it’s a very rich and salty dish. Cucumber and pickles will work.
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7. Chả cá
More fish, simply because we can. But also, because fish represents a large part of the Vietnam food diet. Do not confuse this dish for the Cha Ca La Vong dish from Hanoi, which is basically chunks of fish sauteed in turmeric and dille. The chả cá that did make it to this 9 Vietnam foods list is basically chopped up fish, mixed with ginger, garlic, onions, fish sauce and any other herbs or spices you like.
Next, the mixture is shaped into cakes and grilled. Simply serve a slice of the fish cake to accompany almost any rice and noodle dish. Or, eat it as a snack with some chili sauce dip.
8. Cơm gà tam kỳ
This dish originated in the town of Tam Ky in Central Vietnam. Rice cooked in chicken broth and topped with shredded strips of the chicken mixed with black pepper, salt, sugar, lime and chili. Garnished with green papaya, local vegetables and accompanied by fish sauce. There, simple cooking does it again.
9. Chè chuối
Time for dessert! Chè is the Vietnamese word for any Vietnamese sweet soup, drink or pudding. Chuối translates into banana, so banana soup it is. Tapioca pearls and slices of banana boiled in coconut milk with some added sugar. Sometimes, sesame seeds or crushed peanuts are sprinkled on top. You can eat Chè chuối either warm or cold. I like both varieties.
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I feel hungry just writing about this delicious food. How about you? Is there any Vietnam food missing that you feel should be in this list? Let us know in the comments below. We can always change this 9 Vietnam foods list into a 10 or 11 Vietnam foods list.