The Vietnamese kitchen is one of the most famous ones in the world thanks to the staple dishes such as “pho” and “banh mi”. But there’s more to the Vietnamese food than just these two dishes though. You can find spring rolls, Vietnamese style pancakes, different type of noodle soups, etc. The food in Vietnam is flavorful, tasty, dynamic and can be surprising – but the good surprise. Read on to find out about the seven things you might not know about the Vietnamese food.
1. The five flavors
Vietnamese food, like many other Asian cuisines, is based on the Xu Wing and Mahabhuta principles. These philosophies highlight the importance of the balance between the five elements for well-being and health. Many don’t know this, but each Vietnamese dish has a careful combination of five flavors: hot, bitter, salty, sweet and sour. All of these flavors makes every meal unforgettable and refreshing.
2. Breakfast can be similar to lunch
Unlike the breakfasts in the west which usually consists of porridge, yoghurt, fruit, etc, you’re not likely to find that type of breakfasts in a local restaurant. Many of the locals actually skip breakfast or eat something savory, like noodles or even banh mi. It’s not uncommon to see locals feast on a hot bowl of ‘pho’ early in the morning.
3. Food is different from region to region
The north, south and central all have each of their own specialties. The food in northern Vietnam tends to be less spicy with black pepper instead of chili. It’s also here where ‘pho’ originates from, although you can get it everywhere in the country these days. The food in the south is more sweet and they are better at using herbs because of the regions fertile soil. The central cuisine tends to be more spicy and is famous for their Quang My noodles, which you can’t find in many parts besides in central Vietnam.
4. Egg Coffee is a thing
It sounds more terrible than it actually is. It is a favorite amongst locals and tastes more like a dessert than coffee. Egg coffee contains whisked egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and robusta coffee. This type of coffee originated from Hanoi which is where you can presumably get the “ best egg coffee”. Cafe Dinh in Hanoi is especially a popular place to get your egg coffee fix, but you can try this unique type of coffee in almost every café throughout the country.
5. Desserts are usually liquid
The Vietnamese tends to favor their local desserts, especially when temperatures rise. Some of the tastiest desserts you can get is “che chuoi”, which is a banana and coconut milk soup. The cold and liquid desserts are perfect to have when you want to cool down and get something sweet. You can usually find “che” in local food stalls where you have multiple choices to choose from – everything from kidney beans, fruits, shredded coconut, mung, you can mix them all together for a surprisingly tasty dessert. Even if it looks a bit odd, give it a try. It might even become your new favorite dessert!
6. Fish sauce can be found everywhere
Fish sauce is a major component when it comes to Vietnamese food. The sauce is made from fermented anchovies and salt, can have a bit of a strong smell the first time you try it, but works well with almost every dish. Fish sauce is popular when you just eat rice, spring rolls or even in noodle soups. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, make sure that you ask the staff to not put any fish sauce in your dish, as it’s common to fry food in fish sauce.
7. Animal blood soup
Tiet Canh is a soup that’s made from slaughtered animal blood, cooked meat, herbs and fish sauce. It’s often consumed during festive occasions but you can also find it in some food stalls. The taste is described as sour, buttery and cool, and the locals often wash it down with some rice wine. If this is not your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to know there are many, many other dishes in Vietnam that you can try.
If you’re not on the visa exempt list, or wishes to stay for more than your visa-free days, you must apply for a Vietnam visa. If you’re flying to Vietnam, you can apply for a Visa on Arrival or E-Visa, which are online visas. You only need to fill out an online application form, pay and you’ll have it ready in a few days. However, if you’re crossing by land, you cannot apply for these types of visas and must go via the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate. Please note that the prices are subject to change depending on where you apply.