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Top 15 Vietnamese Dishes You Should Eat

Try traditional Vietnamese cuisine with these famous dishes.

The countries of Southeast Asia are known for their incredible culture, history, and cuisine. There is much debate about which nation has the best food, but I think Vietnam is the clear winner.

Rice noodles with grilled meat and spring roll, a popular Vietnamese cold rice vermicelli

Vietnam has a wide variety of food and has a fantastic mix of Asian and French influences in the cuisine. The combination is some of the tastiest food in the world, not just in Asia.

Vietnamese food is about balancing big flavors. These dishes feature sour, bitter, spicy, sweet, and salty notes. What sets Vietnamese food apart is how these intense flavors balance each other to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Popular Vietnamese Foods

If you’re a Vietnamese foodie or trying Vietnamese food for the first time, check out my list of the most popular Vietnamese foods. Each food item on this list will have your taste buds singing and your stomach begging for more.


Banh Mi

This dish is well-known across the world. Banh Mi is a delicious sandwich made with French bread, pork sausage, pickled carrots, vegetables, and pickled daikon radish.

The collision of flavors in this sandwich is incredible, and it’s worth trying if you’re in Vietnam.

Sandwiches are all about creating the perfect bite. A Banh Mi uniquely accomplishes this.

Using a French roll with Vietnamese ingredients produces an incredible result. 


Bánh xèo

I love bánh xèo because of its versatility and flavor! It’s a traditional Vietnamese dish with a savory pancake-like batter and fillings like shrimp, pork, and vegetables.

The most appealing part about it is the crispy texture of the pancake. It also comes with a delicious dipping sauce.

Instead of using grain to make the pancake batter, you use rice. You season the rice flour with turmeric, and the result is similar to a French crepe.

All the different fillings make this one of the most popular Vietnamese foods. You can customize a bánh xèo to match your personal preferences.


Goi Cuon 

Goi Cuon is a popular dish for good reason. I think they are delicious, and I love how you make them.

Goi Cuon is rice paper rolls typically filled with:

  • Pork
  • Shrimp
  • Vegetables
  • Herbs

They are then rolled up and served with a savory dipping sauce.

Unlike other types of spring rolls, goi cuon is not deep-fried. The result is a light, refreshing bite, almost like a salad burrito.

Almost every Vietnamese restaurant has its take on this popular dish. This fresh summer roll is the perfect meal to have on a hot day.


Pho

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, a few herbs, and meat. It’s well-known Vietnamese street food.

The broth can be made with beef or chicken, and the meats are usually thinly sliced or shredded.

I love pho because it’s a simple yet delicious dish. The broth is always flavorful, and the meats are cooked perfectly.

The rice noodles are also a great addition to the soup. What sets pho apart from other soups is the bone broth

Many Vietnamese restaurants spend days simmering the broth, and you can taste the time and effort in each sip of soup. It is easy to see this nutritious dish is the ultimate comfort food for people across Vietnam.


Bánh cuốn

Bánh cuốn is a rolled cake made from rice flour, water, and tapioca starch. Next, you ferment the dough, which gives it a distinct and delicious taste.

Finally, you wrap the dough around a filling made from:

  • Ground pork
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions

You typically serve bánh cuốn with dipping sauces, such as nuoc cham or hoisin sauce.

I love bánh cuốn because it’s a light and refreshing dish, and I enjoy the salty umami dipping sauces. The rice flour wrappers are delicate and thin, making them the perfect vessel for a savory filling.

The dipping sauces add a depth of flavor to the dish, and the hoisin sauce is my personal favorite.


Cao Lau

Cao lau is a specialty noodle dish from Hoi An and is made with rice noodles, pork, greens, and bean sprouts. You often eat this dish with a side of chili sauce or fish sauce. 

What makes cao lau one of the most popular Vietnamese foods is the unique noodles.

The rice noodles are soaked in lye water, giving them a unique color and texture.

I love Cao Lau because it’s so flavourful and filling. The rice noodles are chewy, and the pork is cooked to perfection.

The greens and bean sprouts add a crunch to the dish, and the chili sauce gives it a nice kick.


Bun cha

Bun cha is another popular Vietnamese dish consisting of grilled pork, rice noodles, and herbs.

You can add dipping sauce made of:

  • Chili
  • Fish sauce
  • Vinegar
  • Sugar

It’s a popular street food dish from Hanoi, and you can find street vendors on almost every corner.

It will be hard to pass them by because the smell alone will make you hungry.

I love Bun Cha because it perfectly balances flavors and textures. The grilled pork is succulent and flavorful, and the rice noodles are soft and chewy. The fresh herbs add a beautiful zing to the dish.


Pho Cuon 

Pho cuon combines the best parts of two different Vietnamese foods to make one of the most popular Vietnamese foods ever.

These are rice noodle rolls filled with beef or chicken and then topped with fresh herbs and a dipping sauce. They are so fresh and light, yet they’re sure to leave you satisfied.

The beef and chicken are marinated and cooked in pho broth, so the meat is tender and delicious.

The rice wrappers are the same ones used in goi cuon and balance out the heaviness of the meat perfectly. This is a match made in heaven.


Banh Trang Nuong 

I’ve never had a banh trang nuong I didn’t like. This dish is essentially grilled rice paper.

You can find it all over Vietnam and eat it with a dipping sauce; my favorite topping is grated coconut.

This is another typical street food that is also had in homes throughout the country.

The rice paper is grilled and then covered with mounds of your favorite toppings. It can be made sweet or savory.

This dish is popular with children, and they put all kinds of different toppings, including potato chips. You can put whatever your heart desires on it.


Bia Hoi

No list of the most popular Vietnamese foods would be complete without bia hoi. Bia hoi is a light, refreshing rice beer popular in Vietnam. It’s typically sold in small bars and by street vendors.

Unlike other beers brewed for long periods, bia hoi is brewed daily and then ages for a short time.

This brewing process results in a much lower alcohol percentage (around 3%) and is much cheaper than other types of beer.

I like bia hoi because it’s perfect after you have been traveling in Vietnam and have worked up a sweat. Plus, it’s always fun to drink a delicious draught beer with friends.


Ca Phe Trung

The Vietnamese love their coffee, and ca phe trung is a Vietnamese take on a latte. Ca phe trung is made by mixing egg yolks, condensed milk, and Robusta coffee.

You whip the mixture until it becomes light and airy, almost like a mousse. It’s rich, sweet, and an acquired taste – but one that I love.

It’s unlike any coffee drink I’ve had anywhere else. It has one layer of egg coffee and another layer of egg cream.

The heavy creamy coffee is the perfect caffeine kickstart you need to start your day on the right foot.

This drink became one of the most popular Vietnamese foods in the 1940s when milk was hard to come by and was replaced by egg yolks.


Bun Thit Nuong 

Bun thit nuong is one of my all-time favorite Vietnamese dishes. You make it with grilled pork, vermicelli noodles, and fresh vegetables.

The secret is that you must marinate the pork in a sweet and savory sauce, then grill it to perfection.

You cook the vermicelli noodles in a light broth, and the vegetables are usually:

  • Cucumbers
  • Bean sprouts
  • Carrots

Bun thit nuong is one of the most popular Vietnamese foods, and you will find it at parties and celebrations all over Vietnam. Each restaurant and stall has a slightly different take.

I love the combination of basil and mint with vermicelli noodles and grilled pork. Add a bit of fish sauce, and you have the perfect bite.


Com Tam 

Com tam, or broken rice, is a dish that originates from the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.

You make it with rice that has been broken into small pieces and serve it with grilled pork, shrimp, and pickled vegetables.

I love com tam because it’s a hearty dish perfect for a winter meal. The rice is filling, and the grilled pork and shrimp add a nice touch of protein.

The pickled vegetables also help to balance out the dish and add acidity.

If you ever travel to Vietnam, be sure to try com tam! It’s one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes.


Che

Che is a delightful dessert drink that kids in Vietnam love. It’s made with canned fruits, mung beans, jellies, and coconut milk.

It’s a typical dessert at parties because it’s easy to make and delicious. Che is a fruit cocktail with coconut milk. 

Fancier versions use fresh fruit instead of canned fruit. I prefer the fresh fruit because it makes the dish lighter, more refreshing, and less sweet than the canned versions.

There are various iterations of this dessert throughout the country so every time you have it, you’ll be enjoying a different flavor sensation.


Nem Ran 

I saved the best for last. These are my favorite! Nem ran are fried spring rolls and might be the best in the world.

They are crunchy and the perfect size for a single bite. The dipping sauce is usually made from fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar.

The filling is typically ground pork, although other meat fillings are used. The meat is mixed with vermicelli and diced vegetables. 

The vegetables balance out the heaviness of the meat, and the vermicelli adds a nice texture to the spring rolls.

These deep-fried delights make for the perfect appetizers and are easy to make at home. I could eat thousands of these!


Popular Vietnamese Foods

  1. Banh Mi
  2. Bánh xèo
  3. Goi Cuon 
  4. Pho
  5. Bánh cuốn
  6. Cao Lau
  7. Bun cha
  8. Pho Cuon 
  9. Banh Trang Nuong 
  10. Bia Hoi
  11. Ca Phe Trung
  12. Bun Thit Nuong 
  13. Com Tam 
  14. Che
  15. Nem Ran

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the most popular Vietnamese foods. I could go on about all the delicious food in Vietnam, but these are some of my favorites.

I highly encourage you to visit Vietnam so you can try some of these amazing dishes and experience the wonderful culture there. You won’t be disappointed!

Did I miss any of your favorite Vietnamese dishes? Let me know in the comments below!

Learn more about traditional foods on our blog, from other South Asian countries like food from Thailand or other parts of the globe like Nigerian dishes.

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.