Vietnam is a country which is renowned for a rich and diverse cuisine. Apart from typical dishes that make the name of Vietnam on the world cuisine map, each region on this S-shaped land is famous for its own unique specialties. These followings are highly recommended Vietnam special food for you to enjoy and explore Vietnam culture.
With the distinctive features of different culinary culture, each region of Vietnam is well-known for its outstanding specialties. Moreover, these Vietnam special foods are the perfect reflection of the spiritual and material life of that region
I. The North
1. Cốm làng Vòng (Vong village’s green rice flakes)
Vong village’s green rice flakes – a gift of spring (Source: Google)
There would be a great mistake not to mention “Com lang Vong” (green rice flakes of Vong village) – a simple and popular gift of the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi.
“Com lang Vong” is specially made from “nep cai hoa vang” (yellow flower sticky rice), which is harvested in only two crops. The best season producing the best green rice flakes is often between July and October, when the dreamlike spring knocks on the door.
There is no coincidence that this simple and pure present of Vietnam’s countryside makes its way into Vietnamese spiritual life, into music and poetry. “Com lang Vong” is recognized as an distinguished gift of Hanoi, enhancing many valuable personalities of Vietnamese farmers – hard-working, creative and responsible.
Similar to other Vietnam special food, “com”(green rice flakes) was first created to give one another as gifts on special occasions. Gradually, the elegant and pure “Com lang Vong” is found to be suitable for rituals so that it is widely used in worshipping ancestors and celebrating wedding ceremonies of Hanoian. Whenever the spring comes at the door, there is a familiar image of Vietnamese women carrying yokes heavily filled with young rice seedlings on their shoulders and selling on the streets, creating a special characteristic of the autumn of Hanoi.
People from Vong village are “notorious” for their complexity and meticulosity in making “com”. The freshly-harvested rice used in the making process needs to be entirely plucked off to the core, neither crushed up nor threshed. Afterwards, the rice is being roasted and grinded almost at the same time, leaving no time for it to cool down. During the grinding process, remember not to use too much strength in order to prevent the rice from being completely crushed. After 10 times of grinding comes the next stage of filtering and wrapping in lotus leaves.
“Com” is often savored with banana but the perfect addition is a red ripe persimmons
2. Bánh Đậu xanh Hải Dương (Hai Duong mung bean cake)
“Golden Dragon” bung bean cakes (Source: Google)
Speaking of Hai Duong’s specialty, “ Banh dau xanh” (the mung bean cake) is likely to appear first in your mind. During all the ups and downs of history, this Vietnam special food remains to be a favorable dessert of the Vietnamese all over the country. “Banh dau xanh” is not only a Tet gift or a perfect choice for visitors when exploring Hai Duong, but it is also an ideal combination to enjoy with a cup of tea or expresses the nostalgia of faraway children.
According to legend, when King Bao Dai first paid a visit to Hai Duong Town, he was offered a cake made of mung beans respectfully. The King was so lavish in his praise to the delicate, rich and elegant flavor of “banh dau xanh”, especially when eating along with tea that he decided to grant a complimenting degree for “banh dau xanh” of Hai Duong. Furthermore, “Golden Dragon” – a powerful symbol of the King – was also given to this specialty and is widely recognized until now.
The ingredients used for making green bean cakes come from very simple and familiar things in the countryside of Vietnam: mung beans, crystallized sugar, lard, and grapefruit flower attar. Besides, there is a wide variety of fillings like lotus seeds and red beans, allowing the cake to cater to different taste preferences.
“Banh dau xanh” amazes food lovers by the delicate sweetness that melts right into your mouth and leaves the alluring aroma of grapefruit flowers, urging eaters take another bite full of this sweet delight.
II. The Central
Each special Vietnam food coming from the Central of Vietnam has made a name for itself because of the rich and poignancy taste. If you have the opportunity to visit the Central, be prepared to immerse in the attractive and special explosions of flavors. Not only delicious, these dishes also show the real material, spiritual, intellectual, emotional aspects and depict various characteristic features in the culture of coastal communities.
3. Bún bò Huế (Hue-style beef vermicelli soup)
Hue-style beef vermicelli soup – a must-try specialty (Source: Google)
Not only does Hue Ancient Capital gain its reputation with its ancient beauty and poetic and dreamlike scenery, but it also becomes one of the most favorite culinary destinations for food lovers around the world to explore one of the finest, most distinctive ,and delicate culinary arts.
The major and indispensable ingredients of making “Bun bo Hue” include vermicelli, beef slices, pig’s knuckles, meatballs, and congealed pig blood, and a signature hearty broth redolent of lemongrass, ginger, and fermented shrimp paste. Under the sophisticated and skillful hands of Hue people, “Bun bo Hue” has developed to become a famous brand of this ancient capital, captivating thousands of domestic and foreign diners every year.
First and foremost, the broth – considered the “soul” of the dish, is carefully stewed with beef bones and/or pork bones along with a wide variety of condiments. The key secret of making a flavorful broth comes from seasoning, including a proper dosage of shrimp sauce, in order to create a subtle fragrance and sweet taste for the dish.
Acknowledged as one of the richest and boldest flavors of the ancient capital, Hue-style beef vermicelli soup is widely known after being recognized by the “Asian Recognition Association” as one of the record Asian foods in accordance with the criterion “Value of Asian cuisine” in 2012. Nowadays, although “Bun bo Hue” is found to be served all over the S-shaped country, enjoying this special Vietnam food at its birthplace allow gourmets to fully experience the human sophistication and essence of the ancient land.
4. Cao Lầu (Vietnamese vermicelli)
A flavorful and plentiful bowl of “Cao Lau” (Source: Google)
There is no exaggeration to say that “Thanh Cao Lau” plays a crucial role in promoting special Vietnam food to foreign friends.
A plentiful bowl of “cao lau”, which costs only 20,000 to 25,000 VND each, includes generous pieces of “cao lau” with a light yellow color, well-seasoned chopped meat and crispy crackling. “Cao lau” is often eaten with blanched bean sprouts and fresh vegetables sourced directly from Tra Que Vegetable Village – one of the most trusted villages for producing high-quality and clean vegetables in Vietnam. When savoring this dish, diners have chances to enjoy the harmonious combination of the toughness of noodles, the sweetness of meat, the greasiness of crackling, and the attractive aroma of fresh herbs and other different spices such as fish sauce, soy and fragrant powder.
III. The South
Speaking of the South of Vietnam, this is considered a “dreamland” of sweet-toothed eaters with a wide range of delicious desserts from banh bot loc (small, transparent, chewy tapioca dumplings), banh khot (mini savory pancakes) to banh tam khoai mi (Steamed cassava with coconut), playing an indispensable part in many Southerners’ childhood as well as drawing a huge amount of attention of curious people from other regions.
5 . Bánh Tét (Cylindric glutinous rice cake filled with mung bean paste and fat pork)
“Banh tet” – a typical gift of Tet holiday (Source: Google)
Not only “Banh tet” is presented as a unique cultural dish of the South of Vietnam, but it also holds an important position in anniversaries, festivals, and New Year as a staple of tribute meals used for worshipping ancestors.
Similar to “Banh chung” (Chung cakes) in northern and central parts of Vietnam, “Banh tet”, consists of traditional ingredients from nature such as glutinous rice, mung beans, pork meat, and so on. However, there is one outstanding difference to distinguish between these two famous and typical special Vietnam food is the wrapping and shape. While “banh chung” uses dong leaves for the wrapping and is square-shaped, “banh tet” uses banana leaves and cylinder-shaped. Besides, the fillings of the latter are more diverse, from meat to ripe bananas.
One of the most meticulous processes of making “banh tet” is the boiling stage. “Banh tet” is arranged in layers and covered entirely with steaming water. After 8 hours of cooking, the final product is expected to be soft, sweet-scented and greasy. The banana leaf is removed and the cake is sliced into wheels when serving and offering to the ancestors.
6. Bánh cuốn ngọt ( Sweet stuffed pancake)
Colorful sweet stuffed pancakes (Source: Google)
The sweet stuffed pancake, also known as “banh uot” (wet cake), is made from thinly coated rice flour, with or without fillings inside and is served wet. Basically, the method of making cakes is similar but in each region there is a separate processing technique to adjust the cake’s size and thickness, along with the way people devour, creating an interesting diversity for the already well-known cakes.
Unlike other complex sweet desserts, “Banh cuon ngot” requires less sophistication in the making process. There are two distinct ingredients that a cook must prepare in advance: the flour and the fillings. In order to make the flour, a combination of rice flour, coconut, sugar, salt, cold water and roasted sesame seeds is added and mixed carefully with an appropriate amount.
When cooking “banh cuon ngot”, you should remember to make the layer as thin as possible so that it is easily to see right through the cake and explore the “magic” inside.
“Banh cuon ngot” enchants food lovers with its sweetness of sugar, grease of coconut, buttery taste of flour and other delicious ingredients. This type of desert is regarded frugal but no less attractive than other pastries, which satisfies even the most demanding eaters.
With these above suggestions, your culinary journey through three regions of Vietnam – North, Central and South – promises to be an unforgettable experience with loads of amazing surprises of flavor explosions wherever you go.