Fresh Flavors & Fish Sauce
Vietnamese food is truly something all its own, incorporating a balance of fresh herbs, aromatic spices, heat, sweetness, sourness, and pungent fish sauce in every dish. Mint, cilantro, basil, and lemongrass are particularly important herbs in Vietnamese recipes. Green onions, lime leaf, ginger, tamarind pulp, garlic, and chilies are all also frequently used. The result is a fresh, distinctive flavor that's unlike anything else. In addition to fresh herbs and aromatics, Vietnamese food's unique flavor profile is attributed to the use of fish sauce. This is an incredibly important condiment in Vietnamese cuisine and a key component in almost every recipe. Rice is major staple and is used in many forms, including steamed rice, rice noodles, and rice paper. Most meals also include a serving of meat and/or fish. These essential components of Vietnamese cuisine come together to create a unique, richly flavorful, uniquely fresh-tasting cuisine. Want to try your hand at making Vietnamese food in your own kitchen? We’ve put together a list of the top five best Vietnamese recipes to make at home. Check out our picks below!
#1 Bahn Mi
It wouldn’t be a list of the best Vietnamese recipes without the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich: the Bahn Mi (or Bánh Mì). It starts off with a crusty baguette. That gets smeared with pate and mayo before being stuffed with pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, chili pepper slices, and Vietnamese cold cuts. A few dashes of Maggi sauce top off this tasty behemoth. Gathering the ingredients for this recipe is the hardest part, but once you have them, the Bahn Mi comes together just like a regular sandwich. Want to try one but don’t eat meat? No worries, you can substitute tofu slices for the cold cuts! Ready to taste your very own homemade Bahn Mi?
Pho, or Phở, is one of the most well-known Vietnamese dishes, so we couldn’t exactly make a list of the best Vietnamese recipes without it! This beef noodle soup is something truly special. The signature broth is light yet deeply flavorful, since it is infused with aromatic spices like cardamon, star anise, and cinnamon. The dish is served with raw beef that cooks to a tender medium rare when the hot broth is poured over it (that’s the traditional way to serve Pho). You’ll also want to have plenty of fresh toppings on hand such as cilantro, bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime wedges, and red chili slices. For an authentic Vietnamese Pho experience, help yourself to these toppings as you go! Ready to make your own Pho at home?
#3 Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Vietnamese spring rolls, or Gỏi Cuốn, consist of rice paper wrappers filled with shrimp, sliced vegetables, fresh herbs, and chewy rice noodles. You can also include pork or choose to omit the meat and shrimp entirely for a vegetarian/vegan version. If you’re not familiar with rice paper wrappers, they can be a little tricky to work with, but once you get the hang of dipping them in water to make them pliable, you can really get into a groove of making a whole bunch of these at once! Vietnamese spring rolls are traditionally dripped in nước chấm (a fish sauce-based dipping sauce), but you can also serve them with a thick, flavorful peanut sauce. Ready to make some delicious Vietnamese spring rolls?
#4 Bun Cha
We couldn’t write a list of the best Vietnamese recipes without including Bun Cha! This dish centers around well-seasoned, delicious pork patties (sometimes accompanied by caramelized pork belly) that are served in a broth with rice noodles, fresh vegetables, and herbs. Bun Cha, or Bún Chả, is a specialty of Hanoi and is thought to have been developed there. The taste of this dish epitomizes Vietnamese food – it combines multiple flavors (think fresh, savory, and slightly sweet) all in one perfect bite. In Vietnam, this dish is served soup-style, but you can adapt it into a bowl-style recipe for ease of eating. Want to try making Bun Cha yourself?
#5 Vietnamese Coffee
If you’re a coffee lover, you must give Vietnamese coffee a try! To make Vietnamese coffee, you’ll want to start with a plain glass and pour in some sweetened condensed milk – this is what gives Vietnamese coffee its unique flavor. Then, add some high-quality Vietnamese coffee grounds to a Phin coffee filter – this device brews an individual serving right over the glass! (If you don’t have access to one, don't worry; you can use a French press as an alternative.) The coffee itself is syrupy and strong, and the sweetened condensed milk adds a whole new layer of flavor on top of that! The experience of brewing Vietnamese coffee the traditional way can be slow going, but it is truly an art form that should be experienced! The coffee will drip down on top of the sweetened condensed milk, forming a beautiful second layer in your glass. To drink it, simply stir the two layers together. If you prefer your coffee iced, you'll want to mix the coffee and condensed milk together and then pour the mixture into a glass filled with ice. If you're curious, Cà Phê Sữa Nóng is the name for a hot coffee with milk, while Cà Phê Sữa Đá is the name for iced coffee with milk. Want to try brewing your own Vietnamese coffee?