In honor of Asian Heritage Month and as a Vietnamese person, I am introducing you to my all-time favorite Vietnamese foods that you need to try at least once in your life. When it comes to Vietnamese foods, “phở”, “bánh mì”, and “nem rán (northern name)/ chả giò (southern name)” mostly pop up in foreigners’ mind. However, the cuisine offers even more diverse and delicious dishes in terms of flavors and textures. Keep scrolling through the article to find out more about Vietnamese specialties.
Bún Riêu Cua – Crab Noodle Soup
In the breezy and cool weather of winter days, a hot and spicy bowl of Bún Riêu Cua is always the best choice. While the Vietnamese noodle is not as popular among foreigners as Phở, it is a dish that many Vietnamese people truly enjoy. It originated from Northern Delta regions, much like the other vermicelli meals.
Bún Riêu Cua is a flavor-packed soup, with the broth being made of crab meat, a ton of tomatoes, and “giấm bỗng” (a kind of vinegar) creating an elegant tanginess in the soup. It is typically topped with crispy fried tofu and shallots, crab, cooked tomato, and giò lụa (a type of pork sausage) and served with a platter full of fresh vegetables (bean sprouts, lettuce, banana blossoms, lime) and herbs (perilla, basil, mint).
For acquiring a more flavorsome taste, some locals put dollops of shrimp paste, also known as mắm tôm, into the broth. They also add hot sauce or chili oil for the same enhancing effect. Bún Riêu Cua is all about balancing flavors, so apart from the shrimp paste and sauces, they squeeze some lime juice into their bowls as well.
Bánh Gai – Gai Cake
Bánh Gai also originates from the Northern Delta region in Vietnam and it is a well-known specialty in provinces such as Hải Dương, Nam Định, and Thanh Hóa.
Each area has their own method of making and steaming the cake, yet the basic ingredients that are always used include hemp leaves for wrapping, glutinous rice and tapioca flour for the crust, and green beans and pork fat for the filling.
Bánh Gai is a dessert, so it is usually served as a snack or after dinner. When you bite into the cake, the texture is sticky and chewy but not to the extent of a mochi since it is firm yet soft. It has nutty and sweet flavour from the herbal leaves and the green beans inside it.
Vietnamese people usually give out Bánh Gai as a gift to others because it is a traditional product in specific regions.
Vietnam’s unique cuisine is a key part of Vietnamese culture as it represents the country to others and asserts their place in the world. In this article, I have only mentioned two delicacies in a paradise of hundreds of dishes in Vietnam, so if you guys are interested in discovering more about Vietnamese cuisine, feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you would like to see in the future.