If you travel with your stomach, there are few better countries to visit than Vietnam. Drawing from various inspirations – Chinese influences, French colonial influences and the lush soils of its own Mekong delta – Vietnamese cuisine manages to strike a balance between fresh and satisfying, straightforward and varied.
In Vietnam, smoky grilled meats sit alongside a veritable forest of fresh herbs like mint, Vietnamese basil, perilla leaves and sawtooth coriander. Long-simmering stocks are fortified by strong, wintery spices like star anise, cloves and cinnamon. Freshwater fish is coupled with earthy turmeric and vibrant dill. And the humble baguette is transformed into the delectable banh mi with the help of picked daikon radishes and silky pate.
If you’re interested in travelling to Vietnam for an eating odyssey, visit Travelzoo.com/ca/collections/vacations/ and search for trips that cover the entirety of the country.
To get you inspired thinking about your culinary adventure through Vietnam, this article will detail a few of the food highlights moving north to south. Bon appétit!
Hanoi, the major city in the north, is all about restrained flavours and fresh ingredients. Pho – arguably the country’s most popular dish – in the hands of Hanoi is a light soup adorned with only a few accompaniments. The local “bun cha” pairs delicious grilled pork with fresh rice noodles and tart pickled vegetables. “Cha ca”, one of the city’s most famous dishes, pairs flakey white fish with turmeric, dill, roasted peanuts and fish sauce.
Hoi An, midway down the country on the coast of the South China Sea, is famous through the country for its unique culinary offerings. “Mi Quang” utilizes the fresh seafood pulled in daily and mixes it with rice noodles, chillies and plenty of fresh herbs. “Bahn Xeo”, one of the most famous dishes of the region, is a fried rice-batter pancake with all sorts of goodies – seafood, pork, bean sprouts and whatever else the vendor thinks might be delicious. Finally, you can’t pass up one of the many plastic-stooled roadside restaurants serving grilled skewers of pork wrapped in herbs and rice paper.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest city, is more about bold, in-your-face flavours and tongue scorching heat (don’t worry, you can tell vendors to make it “it cay”, or “not spicy”!) The pho down south is rich and unctuous, served alongside a mountain of herbs, sprouts, limes and chillies. The local banh mi is stocked with cold cuts, pate, pork floss, herbs, pickles and even mayonnaise – though, in truth, there are as many banh mi’s in Vietnam as there are banh mi vendors! And the café culture, left over from the French, means you’re never far from a rich cup of Vietnamese coffee, enriched with condensed milk and sugar.
There is a world of flavour awaiting you in Vietnam, wherever you go, from Hanoi all the way down to Saigon. And with attractive, perfectly priced last minute deals, the country is closer than you think.