Vietnamese cooking is superb with fresh and flavourful dishes. There is no shortage of regional variations to try on the Vietnam holidays with the different dishes including noodles and rice as the initial base. Fish is plentiful in many items on the menu, while fresh vegetables and herbs (anise, mint, saffron, ginger and a basil-type herb) are very common. Overall, the cuisine in Vietnam is considered to be very healthy.
Soups and noodles
A Vietnamese noodle soup called pho (pronounced “fur”) is a very popular dish and eaten primarily at breakfast, but can be eaten at any time of day. A serving of pho consists of flat rice-noodles, slivers of meat (beef, pork or chicken), spring onions, and a light beef broth flavoured with cinnamon (or coriander) and ginger. Extras added at the table include chilli sauce or flakes or a squeeze of lime.
Street food stalls witnessed on the Vietnam tours serve up countless other soups with hu tieu (seafood noodles, pork and vermicelli) a popular dish in My Tho and bun bo (noodle and beef soup) available countrywide but very famous in places like Hue. Many of the sour soups go well with fish.
Fish and meat
A standard highlight of the Vietnamese menu is the succulent freshwater fish and seafood. A great dish in upmarket eateries is Cha ca (rice noodles, spring onions, dill, white fish sautéed in butter, and a few peanuts) which originated in Hanoi. A southern specialty is Ca kho which is a fish stew.
Most types of meat can make its way onto the Vietnamese dining table, but the staple diet consists of pork, chicken and beef. Pork or other ground meat is a common ingredient of stuffing’s, such as those used in banh cuon (rice-flour “ravioli”) or spring rolls. Bo bay mon is a popular dish in the south of the country and consists of beef cooked in a variety of different ways.
Vegetarian food is possible in Vietnam, but not always easy. Da Lat is a great place on Vietnam travel for a varied range of vegetables, which is mostly thanks to the temperate and tropical crops thriving in the local area. Meat-free dishes on the menu include something like stewed spinach or a more appealing dish consisting of bean sprouts, peppers, mushrooms, tomato and onion. Also, there is the option to go with the vegetarian spring roll like nem khong co thit or nem an chay.
Many of the street side eateries can include a dish of vegetables (cucumber or cabbage) and tofu, as well as avocado, bamboo shoots and aubergine (varies with the season).
A visit to a major city like Hue, Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City on the Vietnam private tour makes it possible to visit the specialist vegetarian eatery, but apart from that the isn’t much in the way of genuine vegetarian food.
Vietnam has plenty of nibbles and snacks to try to fill any gaps between meal times. Popular snacks include rice-flour crackers, seeds, nuts and dried fish. A great treat is banh bao, which is steamed, while dumplings filled with extras like strands of sweet coconut, tangy mushrooms, onions and pork. Other great choices include banh khoai which originating from Hue and consists of a flat pancake with rich peanut sauce, aromatic herbs, green banana and star fruit.
The local markets are great for snacks with plenty of stalls serving up a cake of sticky rice, pickled pork sausage, an intriguing banana-leaf parcel of pate, spring rolls or soups. Other options include the Baguettes filled with pickled vegetables and ham, soft cheese or pate.
Vietnam has a great climate for growing fruits with the south having the richest orchards and includes Mangosteen, longan, mango, papaya, coconut and pineapple. Plus, there are multiple species of banana. Da Lat is well appreciated for strawberries, while dragon fruit is quite common in Nha Trang. The peculiar dragon fruit has a watery, slightly sweet flesh that makes it very thirst quenching, so a great choice served as a drink with ice. Other less known fruits include jackfruit and durian which have the quite acquired taste.
There are plenty of cafes, food stalls and stands selling bottled cold drinks and fresh juices. While a lot of drinks can be served with ice, it is generally health wise more practical to say no to ice from these vendors. But, the ice in top restaurants, bars and hotels is a lot more reliable.
Water and soft drinks
It is best to avoid tap water when travelling on the Vietnam customized tour because it is not always safe to drink. So, it makes sense to go with bottled water, which is widely available and cheap. Also, to further avoid the tap water, make sure to avoid ice cubes in any drinks purchased on the food stalls or similar.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to local made and tooth-numbingly sweet, soft drinks, which are sold in most places that attract tourists and relatively cheap and safe (make sure the carton or bottle is sealed). A refreshing way to quench the thirst is to drink coconut juice, which is mostly found in the south of the country. Other choices include fresh lime or orange juice, as well as freshly pressed sugar-cane juice
Coffee and tea
The production of coffee is well established in Vietnam and one of the major producers of coffee beans because of the low production costs, environmental conditions and ideal climate. Nearly 80% of the coffee production takes place in the central highlands.
The coffee drunk in Vietnam is in small quantities, with condensed milk and very strong. Many of the places that attract a lot of tourists have a variety of Western-style cafes that can create a high-quality cappuccino or latte. Highlands Coffee is much like Vietnam’s personal version of a Starbucks style chain.
Green tea is a popular drink and likely to be served after finishing a meal in a restaurant, which is most common in the south of the country, and often comes free.