1. Gỏi cuốn
This is a perfect Vietnamese snack, made of staple ingredients like vermicelli, pork, shrimp, and healthy greens. It’s sometimes a bit hard to gnaw your way through the rice paper, but the tasteful flavor from the sauce — peanuts mixed with hoisin sauce — makes up for all the perfect whole. With an affordable price of 5,000 VND ($0.22 USD) per roll, everyone can enjoy these.
Recommend: Gỏi Cuốn Lê Văn Sỹ, Gỏi Cuốn Tôm Nhảy, Gỏi Cuốn Hạnh,etc.
2. Chả giò (The Southern) / Nem rán (The Northern)
These Vietnamese spring rolls are minced pork and veggies wrapped in rice paper and fried until the outside is crunchy. This dish is famous around the world because it’s great for sharing with groups.
Recommend: Hồng Ân Quán, chả giò cô Tuyết, chả giò bà Thêm, etc.
3. Gà nướng sả
Like others, this dish looks like nothing until its taste burn everything out. It’s grilled chicken that’s cooked with lemongrass and fish sauce, typically served on a bed of vermicelli noodles.
Recommend: Gà nướng Bà Hạt, Gà nướng Ò Ó O, Gà nướng Hoàng Lai, etc.
4. Mực chiên
This dish is just made of the Vietnam calamari. Some restaurants serve the squid whole, but more often it’s sliced into loops and fried with fish sauce or chili. Since Vietnam is a coastal nation, the squid is fresh. Fried squid is popular in Vietnam because it’s an easy dish to share.
Recommend: Quán Chà Bá, Quán Ốc Minh Hương, Quán Mực nuong ngon 280, etc.
5. Cá kho tộ
How does a bowl of caramelized fish stew in a clay pot sound? We think it sounds amazing. Start with a big hunk of fish — many varieties are used, as fish is plentiful in Vietnam — and simmer it in oil, garlic, onion, salt, soy, fish sauce and coconut juice. Yummy.
6. Gỏi (South) / Nộm (North)
This is a Vietnamese salad, but not to be confused with salad, which is the Western style of salad. There are about as many varieties of salad as there are people in Vietnam, but they typically start with grated cabbage, turnip or papaya, with meat and other greens to top it off. The whole mixture is then tossed with vinegar, garlic, salt and/or chili.
7. Rau muống xào tỏi
If you’ve never had water spinach before, or if you usually hate greens, then let us introduce you to your new favorite vegetable. When it’s sautéed in garlic and cooking oil, even people who would never order a salad can enjoy it. Rau muống xào tỏi adds both flavor and color to any dining table. Plus it’s cheap, which is always nice.
8. Chả cá thăng long
This is fish cooked with dill, marinated in turmeric, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce. It’s especially popular in its hometown of Hanoi. As with much Vietnamese cuisine, this dish is all about balancing flavors and textures.
This one is probably the most intimidating dish to order in Vietnam because of all the varieties of snails. For Vietnamese people, snails make the perfect finger food to accompany a couple of beers.
10. Bột chiên
Bột chiên is easily one of our favorite dishes. We love it. It’s crunchy cubes of fried rice flour with eggs and green onion. Most people seem to eat it for breakfast, but we’ll eat it any time of the day. Whenever we’re driving around on our motorbike and notice a bột chiên food cart, we jam on the brakes to get some. It’s that good.