Vietnam | A guide to Vietnamese cuisine

  • Bunnik Tours
  • 22 May 20

Want to know the difference between Banh Mi and a Bún? Did you know that ‘pho’ is pronounced more like ‘fur’? We’ve got you covered in this brief guide to the delicious flavours of Vietnam.

Hoi An Market by Dennis Bunnik

Hoi An Market by Dennis Bunnik

Enjoy the street food

Vietnam is one of the best places in the world to eat street food. It can be such a fun experience but take care with seafood, undercooked meat, ready peeled fruit and raw salads. Choose stalls that are busy as the turnover of food is generally higher.

PhoDennis enjoying Pho by Julie Moran


Pho is a delicious and guilt-free dish to indulge in. When ordering this dish it is pronounced closer to ‘fahr’ but ‘fur’ is acceptable too. This simple broth is served with beef (or less traditionally chicken), noodles and herbs. Season to taste with lime juice and chilli and enjoy!

Banh Mi

Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich but where a normal sandwich conjures up a paltry cheese and tomato offering in many minds the Vietnamese variety is a combination of French and Vietnamese traditions. The result one of the tastiest lunchtime meals. Banh is the Vietnamese word for bread and here a roll more akin to a French baguette is used. 

VendorsHoi An street vendors by Dennis Bunnik

The baguette is spread with pate and a Vietnamese mayonnaise before the other fillings are added. Traditionally these fillings would include a Vietnamese cold meat, carrot, cucumber and coriander but these days chicken, roast pork and tofu can also be found.

Fresh fruit
Vendors carry baskets of fresh fruit including bananas, mangoes and rambutan around the city streets. Most also sell bottled water for your convenience.

Some Local Favourites

Cha Ca

Cha Ca by Annelieke Huijgens

Cha Ca

A specialty in Hanoi is Cha ca. Many of our travellers would argue that no trip to Hanoi is complete without a taste. These bite-sized pieces of turmeric-coated fish are grilled at your table and served with rice noodles and various spices.

Cao Lầu

This dish can only be found in Hoi An in central Vietnam due to the unique noodle making methods used. The rice in the noodles are ground with ash and water, ash sourced from firewood in the Cham Islands. The noodles are cut and then cooked three times using water from wells around Hoi An only. The result is a delicious noodle dish that comes replete with pork crackling.

Bún Chả

Bún chả is more-or-less a noodle salad. White rice noodles are topped with roast pork and herbs and are then dressed with a Vietnamese vinaigrette.

Vietnamese Markets

The local markets in Vietnam are awash with colour and scents – some good, some not so good. Stalls of fruit, greens and herbs sit alongside stalls with meat and fish. Thai basil, mint, coriander, cassia and cinnamon are all used without restraint in Vietnamese cuisine.


Cai Rang Floating Market, Mekong Delta by Dennis Bunnik

One of the more unique market experiences is a visit to the Mekong Delta’s floating Cai Rang market.

A morning spent floating on this waterway will see you witnessing the liveliest market on the delta where the traders negotiate from their boats.

Local Market

Local Markets by Dennis Bunnik

Up-skill at a cooking class

Cooking classCooking class by Dennis Bunnik

For a truly authentic food experience nothing beats learning from the locals. In a small open kitchen you can immerse yourself in the aromas and expand your knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine.

Learn how to make the perfect rice paper roll and how to balance the saltiness, sweetness and sourness of your dipping sauces.

Vietnamese Beverages

Some of the tastiest coffee (albeit sweet) can be found in Vietnam. Cà phê sữa đá is an iced coffee where the coffee is brewed in a French drip filter into a cup containing sweetened condensed milk. It is then stirred and poured over ice. It’s strong but sweet. And a refreshing caffeine fix in a tropical climate.

Another drink to try is Nước mía, a sugarcane juice. The sugarcane is pressed through a cane juicer, often accompanied with orange or kumquat to balance the sweetness.

Cafe Sua de

Vietnamese Iced Coffee by Victoria Hearn

Rice wine

Rice wine by Dennis Bunnik

For those wishing to sample the local tipple Ruou can is a Vietnamese rice wine. Traditionally drunk from a communal ceramic jar through long bamboo straws it is sweet and potent at 40% alcohol.

Seek out these tasty treats and experiences for yourself on Bunnik Tours’ Vietnamese small group tour.

Bonus Recipe - Make Pho at home

Making Pho is relatively simple yet yields a delicious result. The best flavour will come if you make your own stock but if time is short you can use beef stock bought from the supermarket.


4L (6 cups) Beef Stock
4 thick slices ginger
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
5 star anise
4 cinnamon quills, lightly bruised or 8cm piece of cassia bark
2 tablespoons caster sugar or 1 tablespoon palm sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) fish sauce
700g dried or fresh pho (rice stick) noodles
400g beef eye fillet or sirloin, very thinly sliced

Lime wedges
Sliced chillies
Thai basil or Vietnamese mint sprigs
Bean sprouts


To prepare the stock, sear the onions and ginger over a naked flame or under a grill for about 15 minutes. Remove any charred skin and set aside.

Place the beef stock in a large saucepan with the ginger, onion, garlic, star anise, cinnamon, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a vigorous boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain, removing the solids, then return soup to the saucepan. Cover and bring back to boiling point.

Thinly slice the beef eye fillet or sirloin. If using dried noodles, soak in hot water for 20 minutes, until soft. If using fresh noodles, briefly heat them in boiling water. Place the noodles in the base of deep serving bowls and add the raw beef on top. Season with pepper and then ladle the hot stock over the top. The stock will cook the thinly sliced meat.

To eat, add lime juice and chilli to taste and then the beansprouts and fresh herbs.