Vietnam is well known as one of the best foodie destination in Southeast Asia, the food is fresh, flavorful and very healthy. Each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavor that reflects one or more of their common ingredients including fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp paste, fresh herbs, lemongrass, ginger, mint, coriander, bird’s eye chili, and lime. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its smart use of fresh ingredients, commentary textures, reliance on herbs and vegetables, and minimal use of dairy and oil. With the balance between fresh herbs, meats and a selective use of spices to reach a fine taste, I would like to introduce six best Vietnamese dishes.
The first dishes that comes to mind when thinking of Vietnamese dishes is Pho (noodle soup), which is even said Vietnam’s most famous dish. Vietnamese traditionally eat Pho in the morning, but it is now “any time” meal. Pho refers to the flat white rice flour noodles than the name of the soup, and it comes in two varieties – beef or chicken. The secret of a good Pho is the quality of the broth; a good Pho shop boils cow bones for all night long to make sure the broth boasts its natural sweet. Brought into Hanoi from Nam Dinh province since the early 20th century, Pho is today available everywhere in the world. But in fact, I think that the Hanoian context makes it a magical and unique place to have this soup.
The second best Vietnamese dish is Bun Cha, which is my favourite lunch. The dish boasts a cent of herbs and barbecued pork, of fat but of quality fat, appetizing despite the obvious heat. All of that over the smell of wood charcoal, which reminded me of something I can’t quite place. Bun Cha consists of succulent barbecued pork submerged in a bowl of dipping sauce, which is added with chopped carrots and green papaya, it is served with rice noodles and a small basket of fresh herds including lattice and perilla (shiso) leaves on side.
Then if you are salad people, Goi - a famous French fusion dish will make you surprise with its taste. Goi is Vietnamese term for salad, but doesn’t usually involve any lettuce. The dish can be a pile of thinly slices green papaya, green mango, lotus root, cabbage or pomelo. Goi Ngo Sen (lotus root salad) is my favorite Vietnamese salad, which includes lotus root, boiled pork and prawn, crushed peanuts, pickled carrots, cilantro and all dressed with a light mixed fish sauce.
Banh xeo, the crispy pancake named after the sizzling sound it makes on the hot pan, is known for its combination of tastes and textures. This eye catching Vietnamese pancake is made of the combination of rice flour, coconut cream, turmeric, and it is stuffed with beansprouts, prawns, pork, then self-wrapped in herbs and dry rice paper sheets.
The fifth dish is “goi cuon” or salad rolls or fresh spring rolls, which should be distinguished from the fried spring rolls. The translucent cigar-shaped rolls are packed with rice noodles, prawn, pork and green herbs. The dish is served with a bowl of “nuoc tuong” or green bean sauce, which is topped with some crushed peanut.
Of cause, Nem Ran (fried spring roll) is next on our list. Nem ran is a popular dish in Vietnamese family home meal and to be eaten with steamed rice, though is usually served as an appetizer in America and Europe where there are large Vietnamese communities. Ingredients that make nem ran is commonly seasoned ground pork, mushrooms, and dice vegetables such as kohlrabi, carrots and jicama, rolled up in a sheet of moist rice paper. Those ingredients are no fixed, pork can also be replaced by crab, shrimp or chicken. The “nem” is then deep fried until the rice paper coat turns crispy with golden brown. It is important to dip nem ran into a bowl of light nuoc mam (fish sauce) when you it, as it will enrich the taste.