by Lynn Kim Do

Eat & Drink In Vietnam

I can argue that Vietnam has one of the best food scene. And you can't beat the cost. The only thing is, it can be difficult navigating the vast variety of dishes and where to get them. I am here to help (as much as I can)!

What to Eat:
1. Pho (duh!) - The north and the south has very different taste in pho. I suggest trying it in both regions. The south has a more complex flavor while the north is more simple. Beef (Bo) or Chicken (Ga), you can't go wrong. It is a common breakfast dish.
2. Banh Cuon - One of my favorite dishes. They are wide rolled rice sheets filled with pork, mushrooms, and pure deliciousness.
3. Bun Bo Hue - Spicy noodle soup with chunks of beef. I can eat this every day of my life. The noodles are similar to udon.
4. Cha Ca - Grilled fish with rice noodles and also one of the most pleasant surprises I had in Vietnam. I've never had this before and I think it about it every day since. This is a truly Northern Vietnamese dish.
5. Banh Cua - It's a thick udon dish with thick broth made with tons of crab bits. My god, I'm drooling while I'm thinking about this.
6. Banh Coc - This is my mother's favorite dish and I had this for the very first time during this trip. Their mini turmeric cakes with shrimp and sliced pork. They very similar to banh xeo (the larger older brother of this dish). Wrap it in some fresh herbs and never come back from true bliss.
7. Can Chua - It is a sweet and sour similar to tom yum but NOT. If there's an option, I always choose Can Chua Ca which is the version with fish. This dish should not be eaten alone. Think family style with at least one vegetable dish and one meat dish.
8. Rau Muong Xao Toi - Also known as Water Spinach Sautéed in Garlic. I use to eat this dish 3 times a week growing up. So underrated, so simple, so good.
9. Thit Kho Trung - A meat dish that I also grew up with. My mom use to make a huge pot of this caramelized thick slices of pork and egg dish and we would eat it for an entire week. Trust me, you'll thank me.
10. Che - This is our dessert. There are so many kinds of che. My favorite are the three color one (very rainbow-like) or the banana. I suggest you just close your eyes and pick one. You can't go wrong.

What to Drink:
1. Beers - Every region in Vietnam seems to have their own beer. Bets part: it will cost you less than a dollar. I've tried Ha Long Beer, Saigon Beer, and Hanoi Beer. How to order? Simple! Just ask for a "Beer" because that's literally what they also call it.
2. Nuoc Mia - Sugar cane juice! This is my mother's favorite. I think she drank this every day in Vietnam. It's super refreshing. It's also fun to watch because they take a giant sugar cane pole and pop it in the crusher to extract the juice.
3. Cafe Sua Da - Or Vietnamese Ice Coffee. I mean, need I say more? Slow filtered coffee dripping in a large helping of condensed milk. Add ice. And viola! Golden deliciousness.
4. Cafe Trung - Egg Coffee. Sounds weird, right? I was hesitant, too. But when in Hanoi, amirite? It's a Hanoi exclusive experience and I actually liked it. It taste like a cross between a flan and a cappuccino. It also probably has a ton of protein because of the egg. A girl can hope!
5. Sinh To - Sinh To translates to smoothie. Vietnamese people love their smoothies. I would say skip the smoothies you can have at home an opt for something more interesting like an Avocado Smoothie or Durian Smoothie.

1. The best restaurants aren't necessarily fancy ones. Some of the best food we had were makeshift restaurants off the side of the street. If you see a ton of Vietnamese people eating there, it's a good sign.
2. Before you do eat especially at a makeshift spot on the side of the street, ask for a menu. I say this because you want to see a price. If they don't have a menu, then ask how much. They can rip you off if you've eaten already and uncharge you.
3. Tipping isn't part of their culture. But why the hell not if you loved the food or the service or their passion? They take great pride in their food since it's how they make their living. Leave at least 10,000 VND which is equivalent to about 50 cents if you want to show your appreciation.
4. Foody App is helpful. It's the FourSquare or their local Yelp but I found it semi-helpful. Remember that this app is made for locals so it's great for finding out places but when I see a pizza joint with higher ratings than a Pho place, I understand that the mindset and purpose of their food journey is different than ours which is to experience Vietnamese food specifically. I also just found the Google Maps app helpful when I looked for places near me. I just type in what I want to eat or drink - "bar" "cafe" "pho".

Images by Lynn Kim Do & Kristy Do