Some food enthusiasts think that Vietnamese food is all pho and nothing else. This cannot be further from the truth! From the banks of the Red River Delta have sprung forth various delectable dishes that range from warm and comforting noodle soups to crunchy tangy spring rolls perfect for a summer afternoon. Here are 5 traditional Vietnamese dishes guaranteed to make your mouth start watering:
A firm favorite even outside of Vietnam, Goi Cuon are fresh spring rolls made with rice paper. These appetizers are incredibly easy to make, and are perfect for a summer picnic or as a to-go lunch. Vietnamese rice paper itself is almost magic. When dry, it appears to be almost like plastic, hard and brittle. Yet, when rehydrated for a mere few seconds, it immediately takes on the texture of the spring roll skin we know and love – chewy and flexible. Dip these rolls in Vietnamese Nuoc Cham, or hot sauce for a spicy, refreshing snack.
One of the legacies of the French occupation of Vietnam, Banh Mi is a crusty sandwich that combines the best of East and West – French baguettes with uniquely Vietnamese filings. Vietnamese bread is unique in that it is made with some rice flour added, creating a pleasantly chewy crumb with a light and crispy crust. A common and popular filling is Vietnamese paté, vegetables and Vietnamese ham. A vegetarian version that uses tofu is equally popular. In recent years, Banh Mi has gained popularity in the West, and shops serving only Banh Mi and its variants have sprung up in many major cities.
Banh Cam/Bánh Rán
Known by different names in both North and South Vietnam, this adorable snack generally consists of a Mung bean filling inside a ball of fried glutinous rice paste, decorated with sesame seeds. The Northern version however, is often scented with Jasmine essence, and cooked such that the filling separates from the shell. It is also frequently eaten drizzled with a sugar syrup that accentuates the delicate jasmine flavor of the snack.
These Vietnamese pancakes made of rice flour and coconut milk are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Popular legend has it that these pancakes are yet another Vietnamese derivative of French cuisine, namely crepes. Banh Xeo is often eaten stuffed with slivers of pork, julienned vegetables and even shrimp. Depending on which part of Vietnam you go to, the way locals enjoy their Banh Xeo differs as well. Some like to wrap these tiny pancakes in vegetable leaves, while others use them as fillings for rice paper rolls.
Yet another Vietnamese comfort food, this versatile sausage combines the aroma of grilled meat with the characteristic spices used in Vietnamese cuisine to create a tasty delight that goes well with almost anything, be it rice noodles, spring rolls or even sandwiches. Of course, Nem Nuong tastes wonderful on its own, eaten with or without the tangy-sweet dipping sauce that is ubiquitous in Vietnam.