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A Vietnamese Food Guide From North To South


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Rebekah Wyant



Welcome to the vibrant and diverse world of Vietnamese cuisine! Renowned for its bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and harmonious balance of tastes, Vietnamese food is a culinary adventure that will leave you craving for more. From savory noodle dishes to aromatic soups and tantalizing street food, each region of Vietnam offers a unique and delightful gastronomic experience.


Embark on a food journey from the North to the South and discover the distinctive flavors that define each region. In this comprehensive Vietnamese food guide, we will explore the culinary treasures of Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam, as well as highlight some of the most famous dishes, must-try street food, traditional beverages, and delectable desserts.


Vietnamese cuisine is heavily influenced by various factors, including geography, climate, history, and cultural diversity. It features a rich blend of flavors, drawing inspiration from Chinese, French, and Southeast Asian culinary traditions. The result is an exquisite culinary tapestry that reflects the country’s rich heritage and love for food.


As you delve into the world of Vietnamese food, you’ll discover that each region has its own distinct culinary style and specialties. In the North, where cool weather prevails, you’ll find hearty dishes and diverse flavors. The Central region offers a refined and spicy cuisine that showcases the country’s royal heritage. Meanwhile, in the South, the cuisine is influenced by tropical ingredients and showcases bold and vibrant flavors.


Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a traveler looking to indulge in authentic local delicacies, or simply someone who enjoys exploring different cuisines, this Vietnamese food guide is here to satisfy your cravings. So get ready to tantalize your taste buds, learn about the culinary wonders of Vietnam, and embark on an unforgettable food adventure!


Northern Vietnamese Cuisine

As you venture into Northern Vietnam, you’ll encounter a cuisine that reflects the region’s cooler climate and diverse agricultural produce. The food in this region is known for its simplicity, delicate flavors, and emphasis on using fresh herbs and vegetables.


One of the most iconic dishes of Northern Vietnamese cuisine is Pho, a fragrant and flavorful noodle soup that has gained worldwide popularity. Made with a clear broth, rice noodles, and thinly sliced beef or chicken, Pho is typically garnished with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime, allowing you to customize the flavors to your liking.


Bun Cha is another must-try dish in Northern Vietnam. It consists of grilled pork patties served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and a bowl of dipping sauce. The combination of smoky grilled meat and the tangy flavors of the dipping sauce creates a delicious harmony of tastes.


Cuisine in the North also features a variety of savory snacks and street food. You can find Banh Cuon, delicate rice noodle rolls filled with minced pork and mushrooms, or Banh Goi, crispy pillows of fried dough stuffed with minced pork, mushrooms, and vermicelli noodles. These snacks are often enjoyed with dipping sauce and pickled vegetables.


Com Lam, or sticky rice cooked in bamboo tubes, is a specialty dish native to the mountainous areas of Northern Vietnam. The rice is infused with a unique smoky flavor from the bamboo and often served with grilled meat or stir-fried vegetables.


When it comes to beverages, Northern Vietnam offers a variety of traditional options. Che, a sweet dessert soup made with beans, fruits, and jelly, is a popular choice. Egg coffee, a unique concoction of strong coffee topped with a creamy egg yolk mixture, is a beloved beverage that originated in Hanoi.


Northern Vietnamese cuisine is a testament to simplicity and balance. The emphasis on fresh ingredients, fragrant herbs, and delicate flavors creates a dining experience that is soothing and satisfying. So, make sure to savor the culinary delights of Northern Vietnam and discover the unique charm of its cuisine.


Central Vietnamese Cuisine

The central region of Vietnam is renowned for its vibrant and spicy cuisine, influenced by the imperial dynasties that once ruled the area. With its rich history and coastal location, the food in this region showcases a harmonious blend of flavors, fresh seafood, and local ingredients.


One of the most well-known dishes from Central Vietnam is Bun Bo Hue, a flavorful and hearty soup that originated in the city of Hue. Made with beef, pork, and a rich broth infused with lemongrass and chili, Bun Bo Hue is served with thick rice noodles and garnished with herbs, bean sprouts, and lime.


Another iconic dish from this region is Cao Lau, a noodle dish unique to the ancient town of Hoi An. Cao Lau features thick rice noodles, slices of roast pork, and crispy rice crackers, all served in a savory broth. The noodles take on a distinct texture and flavor due to the use of water from a specific well in Hoi An.


Central Vietnam is also famous for its plethora of seafood dishes. The coastal towns of Da Nang and Nha Trang offer an abundance of fresh seafood, including grilled or steamed fish, clams, squid, and prawns. These dishes are often flavored with aromatic herbs and pungent sauces.


When exploring the street food scene in Central Vietnam, be sure to try Banh Xeo, a savory pancake filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. It’s enjoyed by wrapping it in fresh lettuce leaves and dipping it in a tangy sauce. Mi Quang, a noodle dish topped with shrimp, pork, and a flavorful broth, is another local favorite.


To quench your thirst, Central Vietnam offers a refreshing beverage called Nuoc Mia, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice served over ice. It’s a perfect way to beat the heat while exploring the region’s culinary delights.


Central Vietnamese cuisine is a harmonious fusion of flavors, influenced by the region’s historical significance and coastal abundance. The spicy and vibrant dishes, along with the fresh seafood options, provide a unique gastronomic experience that will leave you wanting more.


Southern Vietnamese Cuisine

Southern Vietnam offers a vibrant and diverse culinary experience that is influenced by its tropical climate, fertile soil, and multicultural heritage. The cuisine in this region is characterized by bold and complex flavors, abundant use of herbs and spices, and a wide variety of ingredients.


One of the most iconic dishes from Southern Vietnam is Banh Mi. This famous Vietnamese sandwich is a mouthwatering combination of crispy baguette, filled with a variety of ingredients such as grilled pork, pâté, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs. The flavors and textures create a delightful culinary symphony.


Another beloved dish from this region is Hu Tieu, a hearty noodle soup with a flavorful broth that can be made with either pork or seafood. It is often served with a generous amount of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime, allowing you to customize the taste to your liking.


Seafood is plentiful in Southern Vietnam, thanks to its coastal location. The region is famous for its deliciously fresh and succulent seafood dishes, such as Ca Kho To (caramelized fish in clay pot), Ca Tim Kho To (caramelized eggplant with fish), and Tom Rim (caramelized shrimp). These dishes showcase the combination of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors that define Southern Vietnamese cuisine.


The street food scene in Southern Vietnam is bustling with vibrant and flavorful options. Try Banh Xeo, a crispy pancake filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts, and wrap it in lettuce leaves along with fresh herbs. Another favorite street food is Com Tam, a dish consisting of broken rice topped with grilled pork, a fried egg, and various accompaniments.


As you explore the culinary offerings of Southern Vietnam, don”t forget to try the traditional beverage known as Ca Phe Sua Da, Vietnamese iced coffee. Made with strong coffee, condensed milk, and poured over ice, this refreshing drink is a perfect way to beat the heat and enjoy the vibrant flavors of the region.


Southern Vietnamese cuisine is a celebration of bold flavors, aromatic herbs, and the bounties of the land and sea. From street food to seafood delicacies, you’ll find a wide range of dishes that will take your taste buds on a memorable adventure through the South of Vietnam.


Famous Vietnamese Dishes

Vietnamese cuisine is known worldwide for its unique and delicious dishes. From aromatic soups to flavorful noodle dishes, there is a plethora of famous Vietnamese dishes that will satisfy any food lover’s palate.


Pho, the national dish of Vietnam, is a must-try. This fragrant and comforting noodle soup is typically made with beef or chicken, rice noodles, and a flavorful broth simmered with spices. Topped with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime, Pho is a delightful blend of textures and flavors that is truly satisfying.


Banh Mi, the iconic Vietnamese sandwich, is another dish that has gained international acclaim. Featuring a crispy baguette filled with a variety of ingredients such as grilled meats, pâté, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs, Banh Mi offers a tantalizing combination of flavors and textures.


Com Tam, or broken rice, is a popular dish that originated in Southern Vietnam. It consists of fragrant and tender broken rice topped with grilled pork, a fried egg, and various accompaniments such as pickled vegetables and fish sauce. Com Tam reflects the unique blend of flavors that define Southern Vietnamese cuisine.


Bun Cha is a beloved dish from Hanoi, which gained global attention when President Obama famously enjoyed it during his visit to Vietnam. It features grilled pork patties served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and a bowl of dipping sauce. The combination of smoky grilled meat and tangy flavors creates a delicious harmony.


Banh Xeo is a savory pancake that is a favorite among street food enthusiasts. It is made with a crispy rice flour batter filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. Wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped in a tangy sauce, Banh Xeo offers a delightful explosion of flavors.


These are just a few examples of the famous Vietnamese dishes that have captivated food lovers around the world. Each dish is a reflection of the country’s rich culinary heritage, incorporating an array of fresh ingredients, aromatic herbs, and a harmonious balance of flavors. Whether you’re a fan of soups, noodles, sandwiches, or street food, Vietnamese cuisine has something to satisfy every taste bud.


Street Food in Vietnam

Vietnam is renowned for its vibrant street food culture, where locals and tourists alike can indulge in a variety of delicious and affordable dishes. Walking through the bustling streets, you’ll find bustling food stalls offering an array of enticing aromas and flavors.


Pho Bo is a popular street food dish that can be found throughout Vietnam. This hearty soup is made with rice noodles, beef, and a flavorful broth, often garnished with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime. It’s the perfect comfort food to start your day or to enjoy as a light meal.


Banh Mi is another staple of Vietnamese street food. This iconic sandwich consists of a crusty baguette filled with a combination of ingredients such as grilled meats, pâté, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs. It is a delicious and filling option that can be enjoyed on the go.


Bun Cha is a popular street food dish in Hanoi, consisting of grilled pork patties served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and a bowl of dipping sauce. The smoky grilled meat combined with the tangy flavors of the sauce creates a harmonious and satisfying meal.


Banh Xeo is a savory pancake that is often found at street food stalls. Made with a rice flour batter filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and herbs, Banh Xeo is cooked until crispy and served with a tangy dipping sauce. It’s a favorite among locals and tourists alike.


For seafood enthusiasts, Vietnamese street food offers delights such as grilled squid, clams cooked in lemongrass sauce, and barbecued prawns. These fresh seafood dishes are bursting with flavor and are a must-try for seafood lovers.


In addition to savory options, street food in Vietnam also includes a range of sweet treats. You can find vendors selling Che, a sweet dessert soup made with beans, fruits, and jelly, or Banh Trang Nuong, a grilled rice paper snack topped with egg, green onions, and a variety of toppings.


When exploring the street food scene in Vietnam, it’s important to embrace the communal dining culture. Pull up a small plastic stool, sit alongside the locals, and indulge in the flavors of Vietnam. The street food experience allows you to immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture and enjoy the culinary treasures that Vietnam has to offer.


Traditional Vietnamese Beverages

In addition to its delectable cuisine, Vietnam is also known for its refreshing and unique traditional beverages. These drinks are often enjoyed to quench thirst, provide a cooling respite from the tropical heat, or to complement the flavors of Vietnamese dishes.


Nuoc Mia, or sugarcane juice, is a popular beverage that can be found throughout Vietnam. Made by juicing fresh sugarcane stalks, this sweet and refreshing drink is often served over ice and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. It’s a perfect way to cool down on a hot day.


Ca Phe Sua Da, or Vietnamese iced coffee, is a beloved drink that has become a symbol of Vietnamese culture. Strong coffee is brewed using a traditional drip filter and sweetened with condensed milk, resulting in a rich and creamy beverage. Served over ice, Ca Phe Sua Da offers a perfect balance of caffeine and sweetness.


Trà Đá, or iced tea, is a staple beverage in Vietnam. It is typically made by steeping green or black tea leaves and served over ice. Whether enjoyed plain or with a squeeze of lime, Trà Đá provides a refreshing and thirst-quenching option for tea lovers.


Sinh Tố is a popular fruit smoothie that can be found at street vendors across Vietnam. Fresh fruits such as mango, avocado, and jackfruit are blended with ice, milk, and sometimes condensed milk. The result is a creamy and flavorsome treat, perfect for those looking to indulge in the tropical flavors of Vietnam.


Rau Ma, or pennywort juice, is a traditional Vietnamese drink known for its health benefits. The leaves of the pennywort plant are juiced and mixed with sugar and lemon juice. Rau Ma is believed to have cooling properties and is often consumed during hot summer months.


Lastly, Chè is a category of Vietnamese sweet dessert soups that come in various flavors and textures. These delightful concoctions are typically made with beans, fruits, jelly, and coconut milk. Chè is enjoyed both warm and cold, providing a sweet and satisfying end to a meal.


Traditional Vietnamese beverages offer a refreshing and diverse range of flavors that perfectly complement the country’s cuisine. Whether you’re looking for a cooling drink to beat the heat or a unique taste experience, exploring the traditional beverages of Vietnam is a delightful journey in itself.


Vietnamese Desserts

Vietnamese cuisine is not only known for its savory dishes but also for its delightful and diverse range of desserts. Vietnamese desserts are often characterized by their balanced sweetness, use of fresh fruits, and unique flavor combinations. These sweet treats provide a perfect ending to a delicious meal.


One popular Vietnamese dessert is Che, a sweet and refreshing dessert soup. Che comes in many variations, each made with different ingredients such as beans, fruits, jelly, or tapioca pearls. This dessert is enjoyed either warm or cold and provides a delightful mix of textures and flavors.


Banh Chuoi Nuong, or grilled banana cake, is a mouthwatering dessert often found in street food stalls. Slices of ripe bananas are wrapped in glutinous rice flour, grilled, and then topped with coconut milk and sesame seeds. The result is a fragrant and caramelized treat that is both soft and chewy.


Bánh Flan, or Vietnamese caramel custard, is a popular dessert influenced by French cuisine. This silky smooth custard is made with eggs, milk, and sugar, then topped with a luscious caramel sauce. It’s a rich and indulgent dessert that melts in your mouth.


Bánh Bò, also known as honeycomb cake, is a unique Vietnamese dessert with a distinct texture. Made from rice flour, coconut milk, and pandan juice, it has a soft, spongy texture and a mildly sweet flavor. The cake gets its name from its characteristic honeycomb-like appearance.


Ca Phe Trung, or egg coffee, is a decadent and indulgent Vietnamese dessert that originated in Hanoi. Strong Vietnamese coffee is topped with a rich and creamy mixture of whipped egg yolks and condensed milk. The result is a velvety smooth and sweet coffee experience that is uniquely Vietnamese.


Rau Cau, or Vietnamese jelly, is a popular dessert made with agar-agar or gelatin. It comes in a variety of flavors, from refreshing coconut to tantalizing coffee. Rau Cau is often enjoyed with a drizzle of coconut milk, creating a delightful combination of textures and flavors.


Vietnamese desserts offer a delightful culinary experience with their unique flavors, textures, and artful presentation. Whether you’re craving something sweet and cold on a hot day or a comforting warm dessert, Vietnamese cuisine has a range of desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth.



Vietnamese cuisine is a tapestry of flavors, textures, and aromas that has captivated the palates of food enthusiasts around the world. From the fragrant noodle soups of the North to the vibrant seafood dishes of the South, each region boasts its own culinary treasures.


Throughout this Vietnamese food guide, we have explored the distinctive cuisines of Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam, highlighting famous dishes, street food delights, traditional beverages, and delectable desserts. The culinary journey through Vietnam offers a kaleidoscope of flavors, from the simplicity and delicate balance of Northern dishes to the spiciness and abundance of Central cuisine, and the bold and tropical flavors of the South.


Street food in Vietnam is a sensation in itself, providing a glimpse into the vibrant local culture and offering an array of mouthwatering options to satisfy your cravings. From the iconic Pho and Banh Mi to lesser-known gems like Banh Xeo and Hu Tieu, the street food scene in Vietnam is a delightful adventure for your taste buds.


Complementing the dishes are traditional Vietnamese beverages, such as the popular iced coffee, Ca Phe Sua Da, and refreshing Nuoc Mia, which offer a perfect balance of flavors and provide a respite from the tropical heat. And don’t forget to indulge in Vietnamese desserts, from the sweet and comforting Che to the creamy and decadent Banh Flan.


As you explore Vietnamese cuisine, you not only savor the flavors but also embark on a journey through history, geography, and cultural diversity. The cuisine reflects the country’s rich heritage and the Vietnamese people’s love and passion for food.


So whether you’re a travel enthusiast, a culinary adventurer, or simply someone seeking new flavors and experiences, make sure to immerse yourself in the world of Vietnamese food. Discover the unique flavors, enjoy the vibrant street food scene, and relish the traditional beverages and desserts that make Vietnamese cuisine truly exceptional.