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Vietnamese food comes as a wonderful surprise and is definitely not to be missed! It has a very distinctive style, although it is also clearly influenced by Chinese and , to  a lesser extent, French cuisine.

Meals will usually include rice or noodles as staples along with a vast array of vegetables, and meats like chicken, duck, beef and pork. Dishes feature a wonderful fusion of flavors and you will find that fish sauce is a condiment accompanying almost every meal. Anther unexpected delight is the availability  of good quality seafood ( fish, calamari, prawns and crabs) which is caught along Vietnam's extensive coastline.

Freshness is of paramount importance in Vietnamese cooking, so ingredients are bought fresh from local market on a daily basis.

The fact that many Vietnamese are completely omnivorous, has lead to some very exotic dishes - such as barbecued frog legs which can be found in food stalls in many local markets ( perhaps this is how the French come to introduce frog legs into their cuisine).

On the other hand, there is also a strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam which means that vegetarian food is also widely available.

Here are just a few examples of the fantastic dishes you can expect to find in Vietnam.


Noodle soup made with either chicken or beef. It is served with a plate of fresh green leaves (e.g., basil, bok choi), beans sprouts, and red chilies to add as you please.


Deep fried spring roll( in the south)
/nem ran (north)


Fresh spring rolls made from raw vegetables  and grill prawns, crab, pork, or chicken wrapped in rice paper. The ingredients are usually served separately, leaving you to assemble the rolls yourself!


A steamed " ravioli" style dumpling ( although somewhat larger), stuffed with minced pork or prawns, black mushrooms and bean sprouts.


A delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps, and peanuts.


Cubes of fish cooked on the table in butter, you add all ingredients, veggies, noodles and corianders etc... this is authentic northern dish
BUN CA A combination of soup with meatballs and spring rolls, another typical Hanoi food

Some of the legacies left over from the French colonial period include crispy baguettes, pate, hard boiled quails eggs, crème caramel, and banana flambé.

On the subject of deserts, we should point out that they are not particularly common. However an amazing assortment of fresh tropical fruits is usually on offer, which will round off a meal perfectly.

Tea, similar to Chinese green tea, is one of the most common drinks in Vietnam. Coffee was introduced by the French and is very good. It is thick and strong and is served complete with drip filter, so you know it is fresh! If you ask for milk it will usually be sweet condensed milk. Home brewed rice wine is often offered to guests, but  watch out - it is extremely alcoholic! Light larger style beer is more commonly available, Ba Ba Ba, Hanoi beer being the most well known local brands. Spirits, such as nep moi ( a type of Vodka) , are also produced locally but once again, be cautious as these are very strong.

Let 's eat cake
Have you ever wondered what 's inside those small , green parcels you see in markets throughout the country? Let's  delve a little further into the mysterious world of banh !

 Banh is a word for which there is no satisfactory English equivalent. Pancakes can be called banh, as can crepes. Sandwiches and any baked goods are called banh. And sweets and savouries wrapped in leaves to be steamed or grilled are called banh. They only constant is that banh are small culinary bundles or other constuctions, often eaten with the hands. But call it what you will, banh is quintessential steet food.

The oldest form of banh, indeed what is arguably the world's oldest form of cooking other than simply exposing meat to fire, are those wrapped in leaves. On street corners of every city and town, you will see them.

Tightly wrapped in green leaves and tied with complex knots that would make a sailor proud, they fill baskets with their abundance, they sit neatly stacked on counter tops or they hang in clusters from eves, cross beams,or corners .

What do they hide within? Why ask? Go on, buy a few.

Choose a fat culinder whose weight tells you how much of your appetite it will satisfy. Select a few small ones, little culinary jewels, square, round or triangular-you name it, they've got it .

Take them to a shady corner and sit quietly with them for a moment. Run  your fingers over the inteicate lacings that bind them together. Bring them to your nose for a clue to what might rest within. Strip the lacings off, and unfold them, layer by layer.

Like a Russian doll or a dancer with seven veils, it slowly reveals itself, Is it a sweet rice cake? Perhaps a morsel of spiced ham? It could be minced pork, or a peece of sweet potato, a savoury rice cake, itself a wrapping for shrimp or mung beans. It could be any tasty thing in the world.

Each region in Vietnam has its own banh just as each region of France has its own wine. And the various ethnic groups prepare different types of banh with local ingredients. Peoole from the Tay ethnic minority wrap yams in banana to wrap banh ngo non, or young corn cake.Sweet potatoes and cassava are other common ingredients in the highlands.

Leaf-wrapped banh are popular and enduring because they are well- suited to local materials and conditions. Leaves povide a container in which foods are cooked ,and also help to preserve the food and keep it from getting dirty or moldy. And it is so compact and portable that if you have banh, you've always got a movable feast. And no worries about disposing of a plastic wrapper.

The most common ingredient in banh is rice, both sticky and fluffy. A popular type is,''square cake'' known in the north s banh chung .

Banh Chung 's a savoury, sticky rice cake filled with mung bean paste and minced pork, wrapped in banana leaves, or the leaves of rushes, and steamed.

While these can be found any day of the year, they are also important as festival fare. Legend has it that this recipe dates back to the time of the Hung kings, the original founders of Viet nam .Its shape , in keeping with Chinese depictions of Heaven and Earth, is said to repesent Earth..

In the central and southern parts of the country, this cake is called Banh u .The interior recipe is the same, but the package is intricately folded into a little pyramid.You can often see these placed on family altars, especially in farm villages, where they honour ''the soul of the rice''.

Banh tet, sometimes called banh tay, is said to have been first prepared by votaries of the Hung temple,near Hanoi.This is sometimes called the birthplace of the  Vietnamese people, and its banh is meant to symbolise the continuity of the race, its deterimnation to''go forth and multiply.''

Banh gio, a well known treat in the north is made from rice flour and pork wrapped in banana leaves.These round shaped things are about the size of a hamburger. In Hue a similar recipe is used, but the banh is rolled unto long, thin cylinders and are wrapped in dzong leaves.These are known as banh la or banh nam, depending on the thickness of the cylinders.

In Hue you can also find Banh it. They are little balls of sticky rice flour stuffed with shrimp and pork. Tasty morsels,they are  served  plain or wrapped in banana leaves.  A variation is sometimes called black banh it .These are sweet rice balls filled with a paste of sweetened mung beans.

As you patrol the streets for treats, keep an eye out for banh  tro or banh gio. These sweet banh incorporate the pits of xoan ( japanese lily) fruit. These pits are first burned and the ashs are mixed with water and lime. Rice is then soaked in thes mixture and will thecken. After cooking, enjoy thim with a sweet syrup such as molasses or caramel sauce. These are believed to be good for digestion.

Tasty banh wrapped in lovely green leaves are good for your tummy, good for the planet and good for your budget. But get your leafy banh while you can.

In some of the larger cities, you can see the beginnings of a disturbing trend: more and more sellers are replacing the ancient leaf wrappings with plastic or paper bags. Certain "philistines" in Hanoi have also been spotted selling banh com in blue boxes instead of wrapped in fresh banana leaves. Be watchful of these ''innovations.'' Accept no substitutes.Go for the green!!.

The Sauce
Sauce plays an important role in Vietamese cuisine,where practically every dish has its own sauce-most of them based on fish sauce.The other great stand by is soy sauce,which is believed to be very good for the health,especially for people who are overweight.The Vietnamese believe that the right sauce can transfom the humblest mealthere are few things tastier,they say ,than boiled spinach dipped in soy or fish sauce./.

Com - Green Rice FLAKES
   Rice face farmers are the only ones who truly understand when it is exactly the right time to gather young grains of rice to make com.The young sticky rice grains are harvested,roasted,and graund down to become com.The granins are heated in a frying pan and slowly stirred.They are then pounded with mortar and pestle until the husk is removed.Next,the rice is removed and winnowed.To make perfect com,the whole process is repeated seven times.

Com is an autumn specialty in the north of Vietnam.It should be chewed slowly so that one can feel the stickiness of the young rice at the same as time enjoying its sweet,fragrant taste.

Vietnamese people often eat com with babana .Green rice flake cake is made by mixing com with sugar and putting green bean and coconut inside.You can easily buy com,packed in lotus leaves from com ven-dors around city streets.  

Traditional tofu  
For a long timedau Mo ( tofu produced in Mo village, Hanoi) has been one of the most popular traditional dishes for Vietnamese, rich or poor, as well as for vegetarians. As with  most things of value,art and history play a part in its preparation.

To make the best dau Mo, the tofu maker has to buy the main ingredient, soybean,from Phu Tho province,about 50km from Hnoi.There are many kinds of soybeans but the experienced dau Mo maker will know how tochoose the best.They must be round, red in colour, and of just the right size.

The soybeans are firstly cleaned by boileng in water for half an hour, They are then ground carefully into a flour which is then put into a large pot of water and boiled again. During the boiling, the fire must be dept strong and steady,otherwise the soybean will foam and create a film.The next stage is to filter the starch and solid residue from the water,These are mixed together and dissolved in boiled yeast water ( also made from tofu ) , This becomes a precipitate which will later be cut into small shapes.All parts of the process must be done while the tofu is still very hot

Dau Mo may  come in different shapes depending on its maker,but its quality is what sets it apart from other tofu.A typical dau mo is in the shape of a rectangle about two inches long and one inch wide.Where to buy: Mo Market,4km south of Hoan Kiem lake, or at several other markets in Hanoi

How to choose: The best dau Mo has a light yellow colour and is soft to the touch. It is better bought in the mrning and kept in water in  the fridge

Stewed fighting cocks in red sauce
( Ga choi ham tuong do )
While the name conjures up images of tough old birds, this dish is actually made with young chickens of the same breed as  those used in cock fights. These chickens have long legs, small bodies and lean meat. The bones are removed and the meat is stewed in a sauce of tomatoes and chilies. While some people find the meat  rather tough, it has an excellent flavor. Try this special dish which is more expensive than regular chicken at the Ga Choi Restaurant 29 Nghi Tam Street in Hanoi's Tay Ho District.

Sweet dragon eye pudding
Longans, a round fruit similar to lychees, are popularly known as''dragon eyes''. According to principles of  Eastern  medicine, these fruit have tonic properties; they are said to promote  relaxation  and good sleep. To prepare this sweet pudding, the flesh of longans is dried, packed with sweet lotus seeds and boiled in sugar water. In the past, this dessert was considered a special treat, usually reserved for aristocratic families. Today, che long nhan is sold at sidewalk che stalls.  

100% bia hoi
 The  bia hoi could well be Vietam's last bastion of mateship between the boys .This is the place where they serve up fresh draught beer at ridiculously cheap prices and encourage all sorts of male chauvinistic behaviour. Women are not banned, but the atmoshere is not conducive to anyone who does not like the smell of stale beer and tobacco flavoured with the stench of flatulence. A jug will set you back about VND 5,000 and will get you well on the way to oblivion.

Most foreigners who work with Vietnamese will have spent many a happy afternoon if not entire day or week talking work strategies over the bia hoi . It can take unwary new arrivals some time to get used to it. Before then, they will often find themselves falling asleep in unusual places. When they become accustomed to it they just do what everyone else does, and fall asleep on or under heir desk.

The food in such places can be okay, but sometimes it can be pretty nasty. This must be a well known fact because it has been countered by local ingenuity in the form of roaming vendors who wander from venue to venue selling foodstuffs that go well with beer. Some packets of peanuts are even promoted with the slogan ''bia hoi supplement''

Bia hoi are usually staffed by women dressed in uniforms depicting a brand of beer which they attempt to promote, but have great difficulty persuading customers away from the real bia hoi.

The bia hoi does have some rules regarding social etiquette. To my understanding, you must never fill your own glass; to refuse ice in your glass is an insult to the establishment's hygiene-and don't tease the beer girls too much or your ice will be an insult to the establishment' hygiene.

When they yell"tram phan tram "(100 per cent ) you must empty the  contents of your glass into your stomach in one go. You can never refuse a tram phan, and being a foreigner means everyone will want at least one tram phan tram with you. Tram phan trams get you drunk pretty quickly, so you should never go to bia hois that can hold more than 20 people without health insurance.

At first you should resist all the vendors' wares, but after a few tram phan trams, you will end up buying everything that people try to sell you. It is not poor form to be topless in a bia hoi ( unless, of course, you're a woman ), it is not poor form to rub beer and ice into your belly in a bia hoi; it is poor form, however, to mistake the kitchen drain for a toilet.  

Roll up  
Spring rolls are one of Vietnam's  best-known national dishes, and are a favourite of both locals and foreigners. Known as nem in the north and cha gio in the south of the country, they can have a variety of fillings-miced pork, crab or prawn meat, beaten egg, finely chopped onion, garlic, shallots, mushrooms and bean sprouts all wrapped in rice paper. They can be eaten either fresh or fried. They often also contain bun ( vermicelli rice noodles) and are usually served with a big bowl of fresh herbs mint, basil, fennel, coriander, balm and marjoram and a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, fresh lime juice, sugar, chopped red chilli and garlic mixed with sliced carots and green papaya.  

Che Saigon
It's nothing if not colorful  in a colorful city. It's Che Saigon, likened by some to drinking jam or wading through porridge. But each to their own taste and one thing's for sure- it's popularity is as high as the temperatures that Che Saigon is designed to cool. It's something of a unique southern drink:

What you want and when you want it. In the months when the mercury won't give you much change of 36 sweltering degrees then it's the perfect foil. You don't just order it you build it. It can be a mix of sugar cane, of coconut, some beans and why not a dash of Indian taro?

It's a drink that cuts through any age barriers and has long been a childhood treat on excursions to Nguyen Binh Khiem or Ky Dong.

The colorful stalls that dispense it are as popular as any bia hoi else where but, and given the non-alcoholic nature of che, less boisterous perhaps.

Then, with the thirst almost quenched, there's only one thing to do- order perhaps another ''mot ly che''.

Hue beef and pork sift noodle soup
Although Hue lacks the abundant produce of the south, its cuisine is nevertheless highly regarded for sophisticated cooking techniques and creative   presentation .  Among thousands of Hue specialties, and hundreds  of Vietnamese noodle soups , don't miss trying a bowl of  Bun Bo Hue ( beef and pork soft noodle soup).

At a quick glance, Bun Bo Hue appears some what  frugal, but to cook it requires a lot of skill and fiddling around. Pho Broth plays an important role. To make the broth, boil up ox tail, beef and pork shanks in water,   then skim off the  surface  fat,  producing a clear liquid. Add sliced lemongrass, dried onion, fish and shrimp sauce and salt to taste. Meanwhile, legs of pork should be shaved, boiled and chopped into even slices with equal bone, meat and skin; lean beef should be thoroughly boiled, cut into thin  slices and quickly fried up with spices.

To serve, bring the broth quickly  to the boil and drain the soft noodles. Pour the noodles into a bowl, top with slices of beef, pork meat and onions, and then pour the hot broth over the top. Finally, add lemon juice, fresh  chilli , or powdered red pepper and your bowl of Bun Bo Hue is now ready  to enjoy. If you only try this dish once, you'll perhaps understand why it's been so famous and popular in Hue down the centuries, amongst both rich and poor.  

Pho Ga -  Soul Kitchen.
Down the centuries, Hanoians have considered Pho (rice noodle soup) their soul food, some even addicted to it. Pho can be enjoyed at any time as breakfast, lunch, and dinner; even in the wee small hours of the morning. It's cheap, filling, delicious  suitable for both hot and cold climates.

You'll find Pho everywhere in Vietnam, but the finest is said to be in Hanoi. For some, a bowl of Pho can be a fond reminder of Hanoi, as well as its cuisine. The comforting, whosesome aromas wafting from a large pot of simmering broth can win over anyone, even the most fastidious. There are several kinds of Pho to choose from, including seven varieties on beef . However, don't miss Pho Ga . Different from the somewhat heavy and greasier beef noodle soup, Pho Ga is more refined and delicately subtle; in fact it's renowned for its aromatic and mouth watering meat broth. This is made from pork and chicken shinbones, ginger and onion, dried star anise, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. The shinbones are simmered until the water reaches boiling point, a large spoon is then used to skim off fat brought to the surface,  until the broth is clear. After adding all the flavourings, the broth is simmered once more and then strained through a sieve. Cold slivers of tender chicken meat and soft rice noodles are then served up with the sweet consommé. Accompanying this are piles of fresh coriander, mint and lemon leaves and beansprouts, along with fresh limes and chilisauce.

For around only VND5,000 ,you can expenrience Pho in many local street stalls. In Hanoi, the best are located in Le Van Huu str., - Pho Mai Anh ( chicken pho ), Yet Kieu and Bat Dan and Hang Muoi streets ( beef pho); whilst in Ho Chi Minh City try Pasteur Street.

Adding lemon juice, sliced chilli or a spoonful of chilli sauce, Pho ga will be even tastier. Dough sticks ( Quay ) made of flour, deep fried in oil and  served with pho, is very popular in Hanoi.


Roll over...
Banh cuon Vietnamese steamed rolled rice pancake.
Banh cuon is one of the most popular traditional dishes in Vietnam, but nowhere, so the reputation goes, is it as delicious as in Hanoi. The uniqueness of this dish is the very thin pancakes made of the finest rice-flour; to make this, fragrant frce is soaked overnight bejore being round into a milky, floury paste. Adding a little bit of edible alabaster into the flour contributes to the pancakes soft, smooth and velvety consisteney. Banh cuon can be served hot or cold, but it's best eaten hot.

It's yet another interesting dining experience, leisurely eating Banh cuon streetside, whilst watching women actually make the pancakes before your very eyes. The milky paste is repeatedly scooped out of a tureen spread onto a large, cloth covered, boiler pot for a rapid cook and then peeled off with giant bamboo chopsticks. The steaming, thin rice paper is then placed on a flat dish, rolled with minced pork, fried onion and wood ear mushrooms, then cut into pieces for serving. Adding a pinch of fried onions, salted , shredded shrimp and coriander onto the rolls completes the delicious dish. Banh cuon however should always  be accompanied by  a tasty dipping sauce. This sweet - and –sour concoction consists of reputable fish sauce, vinegar or lemon juice, sugar, pepper and sliced red chilis,seasoned with a bit of belostlmatid essence. So now you're ready to get stuck in: at only VND 5,000 for a plate of pancakes, you can afford to feast till your hearts content


Cold comfort
The Vietnamese often make two kinds of cakes: Banh Troi and Banh Chay on the third day of the third month of the Lunar year ( April).This is known as the ''cold food festival''. In Vitnam, most people may have forgotten its origins, but it's still considered an impor tant occasion for ancestral offerings. The cakes are popular desserts in both rural and urban areas.

The Cold food festival evolved from a Chinese tale. The hero, Gioi Tu Thoi, did his King a great service, so it goes, but unfortunately the good deed somehow offended him. Later however, the King changed his mind, and offered Gioi Tu Thoi a reward but he decided instead to hide in the forest. The King ordered the forest to be set alight forcing him out, but MrThoi refused to budge and was burnt alive, along with his poor mum. Ever since then, the festival each year honours his memory and people abstain from lighting a fire on the anniversary of his death .

''Floating cakes'' are small white balls made of brown sugar, wrapped in glutinous rice flour. The name floating cakes came about from the way it's actually cooked. To make the cakes properly, there's a bit of boiling involved, after which the balls are skimmed off, poured into a bowl of cold water to cool down, placed on dishes and sprinkled with sesame seeds.'' Lean cakes'' ( Banh Chay ) are also made of glutinous flour, however they resemble boiled dumplings and are filled with mung bean paste, sprinkled with sesame seeds and sereved in bowls with syrup flavoured with grapefruit blossom. Both can be found everywhere on Cold Food festival day, so keep an eye out for them. 

Lau Mam -  a fishy tale
It's no exaggeration when they say that Lau Mam is one of the most popular and favourite specialies of the south. To make Lau Mam, you need pork shinbones, seafood, fresh fish , pork meat, vegetables, but most importantly Mam.

Yes, Mam, But not fish sauce: many people make the mistake of thinking  Lau Mam is cooked with that well-known smelly delicacy. Mam is in fact the name of a special salted fish dish created by Khmer farmers in southern Vietnam.There are various kinds of Mam:made from a variety of fresh- water fishes, such as snakehead fish, anabas, etc, they're still simply known as Mam. Large, juicy fresh-water fishes are cleaned, salted and caramel. The  perfect  Mam  should have a reddish-brown  appearance, have an oily texture, taste salty yet sweet and have a unique and unforgettable smell.

Actually preparing Lau Mam is divided into two parts: making the broth and preparing raw fish, meat and vegetables to dip into the bubbling broth. Salted fish (Mam) and pork skin bones are first simmered to creat a broth brimming with natural goodness, before taken out. Sliced lemonrass, chili, pineappleand spices are then added to the remaining broth .To serve, the broth is put in  a clay pot and placed on a small stove on the table .The sliced –up, raw food , presented on plates , is then communally dipped into the hot concoction for a quick cook, befor devouring.The speccial fragrance, taste  and participation  of this spicy Lau Man dish should hopefully give a memorable culinary  esperience of a visit " in down under"

Cao Lau
Limited in scope compared to the feast of Hue food, Hoi An cuisine centres around three main dishes: White Rose, Won Ton and Cao Lau . The Chinese influence is unmistakable: White Rose, consisting of rice dumplings steamed with pork and shrimp inside, is similar to Chinese Dim Sum. At the Cua Dai Restaurant, at the Hoi An Beach Resort in Hoi An, White Rose is served with a delicious homemade squid fish sauce. The Won Ton here is light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, accompanied by a sweet and sour sauce that is a cross between a salsa and a chutney. The Cao Lau, or noodles with pork slices, bean sprouts and herbs is perhaps the most special, as only the water well in Hoi An creates these high quality noodles. Here, the pork pieces are marinated and simmered during a six-hour process. This is Hoi An cuisine at its finest; no surprise that everyone come to Hoia love to sample these wonderful local specialties.

Nem Phung a family tradition.
The seductive qualities of this northern delicacy are reflected in the well known folk song  which associates it with thoughts of home. A man named Bui Hoi first created nem phung more then 100 years ago in the Dan Phoung commune in Ha Tay province just 30 km from Hanoi. Today the fourth generation of his family still makes and sells it on the same street in the same house.

The main ingredient of nem phung is chao, parboiled pig's skin which is sliced into very thin strips so that it is both crisp and tough with the translucent colour of fat. For the chao in nem phung, the skin is taken from the nape of the pig's neck giving it a taste all of its own. The pork and the skin are then mixed with thinh, dried rice flour, according to a very strict formula: seven parts of ordinary rice; two of glutinous rice; and one part of soybean. This provides a pleasant odour which gives nem chao its unique attractiveness. The smell is even better when slices of lime leaves or belostomatid essence are added to the nem. Later the mixture is tied up in a fig leaf, banh te,  which is carefully chosen so that it is both old enough and fresh.

Anyone planning a feast that includes market rather than trying to prepare it by hand at home, since the process of making it is quite complicated. Bui Ngoc Thai, the creator's great grandson; does it best of all and can tell if all the spices and ingredients have been properly blended at a glance without even needing to taste it. Every day his family makes 100 km grams of phung nem to sell from home to locals and  travellers  alike. You can sample the delicacy at almost any bia hoi establishment in town, but to taste the real thing you should buy it at 25 Tay Son Street, Phung Town, Dan Phuong Commune in Ha Tay province, or at 63 Hang Bun, Hanoi.

Most Popular Vietnamese Dishes:

Banh Cuon - Rice Steamed Rolls
Banh Chung - Rice Cake
Bun - Vermicelli
Bun Bo Hue - Hue Style Noodle
Banh Tom - Shrimp Pan cake
Chao Tom - Grilled Shrimp Paste
Gio Lua - Lean Meat Pie
Hu Tieu My Tho - My Tho SeaFood Noodle
Pho - Beef Noodle
Tom Chua - Hue Sour Shrimp
Trang Bang (Banh Trang Trang Bang) - Special



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