I am a big foodie and when I travel I always relate my experience with the local food. When it comes to Vietnamese food, I have nothing but genuine praise for the cuisine.
The street food is everyday life for both Vietnamese and visitors alike. People eat anywhere at anytime! It’s like a veritable gastronomic carnival. A wide variety of street treats are accessible from street vendors and market stalls from early morning to late at night.
Eating healthily always seemed complicated and expensive to me. In Vietnam though, things were a little different, because you can easily eat tasty, healthy and cheap in the same time.
The secret of Vietnamese food lies in the use of fresh ingredients with minimal use of oil and the right mix of vegetables and herbs which makes it one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. The main dishes are based on rice and fish sauce of which Vietnam is one of the world’s top producers and exporters. The rice is prepared in many different ways (steamed, boiled, fried) an can be served as side dish, found in soups in the form of noodles or used to make the wrapping of spring rolls, etc. The meats are lean and cooked without too much fat.
Here are some of my favorite dishes that I tried in southern Vietnam and my say on each:
Phở (Noodle Soup)
Pho is the most common vietnamese rice noodle soup with chicken or beef and fresh herbs. You can eat cheap and delicious, steaming hot pho on the streets of Saigon for about 1.5 US dollars and it’s one of the most popular menu items in any local restaurant. The Vietnamese eat pho for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is always served with platters of fresh mints, basils, bean sprouts and other herbs, fresh limes, chili preparations and funny smelling sauces.
Gỏi cuốn (Spring Rolls)
These fresh, light and healthy bites, served with tasty sauces or dips, are usually served as an appetizer but also make a great snack or light lunch. The rice rolls are stuffed with meats and delicious vegetable fillings and are cut like sushi.
Bánh xèo (Vietnamese pancakes)
Literally translating as “sizzling”, for the sound it makes when it’s cooked, this delicious fried pancake is made of rice flour with turmeric powder and stuffed with crispy fried shreds of pork, shrimps, green onion and bean sprouts. It is served wrapped in in fresh green leaves of mustard or lettuce, stuffed with mint, basil and other herbs and dipped in fish and/or sweet chilly sauce.
Lẩu Vịt Nấu Chao (Duck Hot Pot)
This exotic duck soup with pickled tofu and taro is always served on a mini gas stove at your table to keep it hot. The soup base is made out of duck meat (sometimes including blood and organs) and tofu along with mixed vegetables, on the side with fresh herbs for you to add if desired.
Bánh mì (Sandwich/Baguette)
Bánh mì is the vietnamese baguette sandwiches packed with delicious and fresh ingredients: Chả or Chả Lụa (pork roll), Giò Thú (headcheese), Bì (shredded pork skin), Gà Nướng (marinated grilled chicken), Cá Mòi (sardines), Paté, Chay (Vegetarian) etc.