Vietnam is a country that has plenty to offer regarding tourism. Beautiful beaches, scenic mountains, bustling cities, very rich history and culture. And on top of that – a phenomenal cuisine.
Due to minimal amounts of oil and fats, as well as massive amounts of vegetables and herbs, Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. The most familiar ingredients are mint, basil, ginger, lime, soy sauce, fish sauce, shrimp paste.
Very common are the seafood dishes, but beef and poultry (especially duck) are no strangers to Vietnamese pans and pots. Meals are served with different types of noodles (rice, egg) or with rice. An unusual option is so-called ‘sticky rice’ – a particular kind, which becomes ultra-sticky when cooked. Another super-popular and healthy dish are fresh or fried spring rolls – wrapped in rice paper vegetable or vegetable and meat delicacies.
The most famous Vietnamese soup, beef or poultry broth, is very rich in flavour. Its name – pho – comes from rice noodles which the soup is served with. Flavour of the soup is enriched with fresh herbs, vegetables and sauces: basil, parsley, dill, garlic, soy bean sprouts, sliced chilli in a spicy marinade, lemon or lime sauces.
Very common are also hot-pots – large, tin containers, filled with meat or vegetable stock. These come with many different ingredients – slices of beef, seafood, prawns, noodles, various vegetables – which are one by one added to the boiling soup. A particular semi self-made dish.
Between the dishes exotic to European palates, you can also find something familiar – sandwiches. French colonisers popularised baguettes, which, with some local modifications became a permanent part of the Vietnamese cuisine. The bread in bánh mì (bánh – bread, mì – wheat) differs from the original one as the wheat flour is mixed with the rice flour.It results in a much more airy version of the baguette. Bánh mì is served mostly with steamed, fried or roasted meat: pork, beef or poultry. Also very popular are versions with pork liver pâté, sardines in tomato sauce and fried egg. The vegetarian options with tofu or vegetables only are less common. However, each sandwich is served with an abundance of green goods: coriander, cucumber, carrot, radish, etc. The sandwich top is usually dotted with a spicy chilli sauce.
After the feast, it is a must to order a drip coffee. Vietnamese strong drink immediately wakes you up and tastes awesome. It is served in a cup covered with an aluminium container filled with freshly grounded coffee beans. The powder is infusing in the boiling water that slowly drips into the cup through a small strainer. At the bottom of the cup, there is a layer of condensed milk, which gives the coffee its sweet taste. On hot days it is recommended to try an iced version of the drink: Cà phê sữa đá.
Know before you go
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You have to try the local cuisine both ways – in restaurants and necessarily at street stalls. The latter is much cheaper and often also a lot tastier. If there are concerns about the potential stomach issues (different bacterial flora of food, sanitation, etc.) do invest in preventive probiotics therapy. As personally tested – it does work.
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While in Vietnam, street food stalls are in abundance wherever you look. This is the most recommended way to try pho. Should you prefer air-conditioned sit down – plenty of restaurants are always withing a short walking distance. However, if you are in Singapore and craving some Vietnamese cuisine – we highly recommend Uncle Ho Tuckshop, a restaurant run by Uncle Ho, delivering the most authentic taste of Hanoi.
Uncle Ho Tuckshop
100 Pasir Panjang Road #01-04, 118518 Singapore
Tel: + 65 9624 5761
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Vietnam is an affordable place, although its growing popularity does contribute to the steady rise in prices. Restaurant prices range between 2.5USD (56,000VND) and 50USD (1,116,000VND) depending on the eatery.
Of course, there are places where a meal costs a few hundred dollars, which translates into millions of Vietnamese dongs. Budget travellers will enjoy very widespread in Vietnam street stalls offering local delicacies at prices starting from just 0.50USD (11,100VND).