Forget the Pho; 10 Other Vietnamese Dishes to Try

It’s amazing to me that Pho, or Vietnamese noodle soup, is the most internationally well-known Vietnamese dish, when there are so many other incredible Vietnamese dishes to try. Here are ten of my favorites:

1. Bahn Khot & Banh Xeo

Vietnamese style savory, rice pancakes filled with seafood or pork, scallions, bean sprouts; wrap them in lettuce with herbs and pickled carrots/green papaya, dip in sweet/spicy fish sauce. Banh Xeo are large and crispy, loaded with toppings; banh khot are much smaller, disc-shaped pancakes–dense in the middle, crispy on the outside, large enough for a single prawn.

In Vietnam?
There are loads of tasty banh xeo and banh khot places in Saigon, but if you want to try to real deal hop on a bus and head to the nearest coastal city of Vung Tau, where Banh khot was born. In Saigon, I tend to get my fill at the Cong Quyen Market at the end of Pham Ngu Lao street, where prices are cheap and I can supplement my meal with a fresh fruit juice.

Faraway?
Try making it: this youtube video is particularly useful. For homemade nuoc cham, or fish sauce, a must for this dish, try this recipe.

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Banh xeo–Vietnamese savory rice pancakes

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Banh khot–mini rice pancakes

2. Bun Thit Nuong

A hands-down favorite of mine. Glorious. Grilled pork, rice vermicelli, tossed with green papaya/carrots, fresh Vietnamese basil and scallions, chopped peanuts, fresh fried spring rolls; served with spicy fish sauce.

In Vietnam?
My favorite in all of Saigon can be found at Chi Thong on 195 Co Giang, district 1.

Faraway?
Try this recipe. And for homemade nuoc cham, or fish sauce, a must for this dish, try this recipe.

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Bun Thit Nuong–grilled pork noodles with fried spring rolls

3. Gỏi Khô Bò 

Green (or unripe) papaya salad with beef liver jerky, topped with mint, peanuts, doused in a sweet, spicy dressing, served with fried rice crackers.

In Vietnam:
You’ve got to try the green papaya salad sold in the evening at the Hai Ba Trung entrance of Lê Văn Tám Park. So fantastic, that I wrote about it for HCMC.com; read about my favorite spot in Saigon for Goi Kho Bo.

Faraway?
You could try this recipe.

Gỏi Khô Bò

Gỏi Khô Bò–green papaya salad with beef jerky

4. Goi Xoai

Green mango salad with shrimp, garnished with fried onions, peanuts, and mint, in a sweet, spicy, chili dressing.

In Vietnam?
Once again, in Saigon, I’d vote for the Vietnamese beer & BBQ joints or the “higher end,” Vietnamese restaurants, the majority of which serve this dish. It has been difficult for me to find this one on the street.

Faraway?
I will definitely be trying this recipe, when I return to the West.

Goi Xoai

Goi Xoai–green mango salad with shirmp

5. Bo Nuong La Lot

Betel-leaf-wrapped-grilled-beef rolls, often served with herbs, green bananas, sour starfruit, and with rice paper for rolling your own spring rolls; plus a sweet, tangy fermented pineapple dipping sauce.

In Vietnam?
I like the vender selling it just outside the markets on Co Giang, shortly after turning off of Nguyen Thai Hoc. I’ve also had good Bo Nuong La Lot from a street vender on Dien Bien Phu.

Faraway?
You could try this recipe, which offers alternatives to betel leaves.

Bo Nuong La Lot

Bo Nuong La Lot–grilled beef wrapped in betel leaves

6. Com Tam

Grilled Marinated Pork or Chicken, with fried egg and pickled veggies on broken rice; sweet and spicy fish sauce for dipping.

In Vietnam?
Take your pick, these places are so plentiful, and so cheap, you’ll find at least one on every street. Pick the one’s with lots of locals and a visible grill. There are a few good Com Tam places on Hai Ba Trung, district 3, around the markets, after the pink Cathedral.

Faraway?
Try this recipe. For homemade nuoc cham, or fish sauce, a must for this dish, try this recipe.

Com Tam

Com Tam–grilled marinated pork and rice

7. Bun Cha

Flavorful grilled pork paddies in a savory broth, served with rice noodles, greens, picked carrot, daikon and garlic.

In Vietnam?
I love the Bun Cha nestled down an alleyway off Ly Chinh Thang, district 3. Nearing Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, look out for (or smell) the men grilling pork near the entrance to the alley.

Faraway?
This could fit in well at a summer BBQ. Luke Nguyen, a well-known Australian-Vietnamese chef has a yummy recipe.

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Bun Cha Hanoi–grilled pork patties in savory broth

8. Goi Cuon

Spring Rolls in their many varieties; shrimp, pork, rice noodles and herbs wrapped in rice paper, either fresh or fried. Served with a variety of different sauces–my favorite being a dark, rich peanut sauce with nuts and pickled green papaya.

In Vietnam?
The best spring rolls I’ve had have been consistently purchased from moving street venders. The ladies wearing conical hats, balancing baskets of materials between a pole on their shoulders, spotted all over the city, but especially frequent in the streets surround Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao, district 1. A must try if you can spot them. Otherwise, I have a favorite vender permanently located on Nguyen Thai Binh, District 1.

Faraway?
If you can find rice paper, try this youtube recipe, or this one from Gastronomyblog.

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Spring Rolls

9. Banh Bot Loc

Pork/Shrimp dumplings garnished with Vietnamese mint, fried onions, green papaya, peanuts.

In Vietnam?
My favorite can be found across the street from Saigon’s Ben Thanh Market, on Phan Boi Chau, from a woman selling them in the street, during the early evening hours.

Faraway?
You could try this recipe from the Daily Rice Bowl, however it could be tricky to make on your own, unless you visit a specialty Asian or Vietnamese grocer.

Banh Bot Loc

Banh Bot Loc–shrimp dumplings

10. Bun Bo Xeo

Rice noodles and thinly sliced lemongrass beef, mint, carrots, cucumbers, garnished with peanuts and fried onions, with a rich, broth-based sauce.

In Vietnam?
I’ve found that Vietnamese Beer/BBQ outdoor restaurants do this dish best. I’ve had a good variation at my neighborhood BBQ spot on Ham Nghi.

Faraway?
Make it yourself: try Luke Nguyen’s recipe.

Bun Bo Xeo

Bun Bo Xeo– beef noodle salad

For more of the same:
What I’ve been eating lately: Part One
What I’ve been eating lately

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5 Comments »

  1. Hi Lindsay! Absolutely loving your blog!! Found it via travbuddy, where I also added you as a friend. (Not completely sure how it works yet, but, well, will learn 😛 ) I’m venturing into Asia for the first time in my life, moving to Bien Hoa (35km out of HCMC) in a few weeks time to teach English at a language school – if you want to give me any tips or even meet up in HCMC at some point give me a shout! 😀 Emma x

    Like

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