Banh trang nuong
Coming from the southern city of Da Lat, this street food item is often referred to as Vietnamese pizza. The “crust” is a sheet of rice paper (banh trang) that’s grilled (nuong) over charcoal to create a crispy texture while the “sauce” is egg, which really serves as a binder for all of the other ingredients more than anything else. Toppings can vary vastly from stall to stall, but some popular ones include minced meat, Vienna sausage, scallions, corn, dried shrimp, pork floss, fried shallots, chili sauce, and mayo. Some vendors will serve it flat, hence the pizza correlation, while others may roll it up or fold it in half.
Banh trang tron
Another popular street food, rice paper salad is an unassuming and addictive snack. Shredded strips of rice paper are tossed with seasoned salt, chili powder, dried shrimp, and fried shallots. From there, depending on the region, additional ingredients like julienned green mango, beef jerky, dried quid, roasted peanuts, fresh herbs, and quail eggs are added to the chewy mix, and sometimes even a tangy sauce to pull it all together.
Just about every culture seems to have its own take on sausage—and for the Vietnamese, they’re made of fatty pork, garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and black pepper. When served as an appetizer, the mixture is often slapped onto a skewer or rolled into meatballs before being grilled. Beyond that, you can also find nem paired with noodles, rice, or used as the protein of choice for spring rolls.
Another underrated noodle soup, banh canh is often likened to udon due to the thick, round noodles used in the dish. Made from tapioca flour or a combination of rice and tapioca flour, the noodles have a slightly chewy texture and easily absorb flavor. When it comes to the broth, the stock is made from pork and the viscosity differs depending on the style and region. Variations include banh canh cua, which is often a thick soup with lumps of crab, and banh canh cha ca, a thinner broth with fish cakes that’s popular in south central Vietnam.
Bun mang vit
While it may seem like most Vietnamese noodle soups have pork- or beef-based stocks, there’s also something for duck lovers. Enter bun mang vit. In addition to the duck (vit) broth, vermicelli noodles are topped off with shredded duck and earthy, crunchy bamboo shots (mang). But the best part of all is arguably the ginger fish sauce used for dipping the duck in, adding a touch of spice and umami to every bite. And if the slices of duck have been served separately atop a bed of shredded cabbage and herbs, feel free to use the sauce as a dressing for a DIY salad.
The Vietnamese word for “snail,” oc is not just a beloved food, but it’s also part of nhau culture, the act of socializing with friends over food and drink. At oc restaurants and street stalls, you’ll find dozens of saltwater and freshwater varieties that are cooked in a slew of different sauces, all meant to be washed down with beer. And even if these mollusks aren’t quite your thing, most oc establishments will also offer other seafood options such as crab, shrimp, and clams.
“Che” is a blanket term for a Vietnamese dessert that comes in the form of a drink, soup, or pudding, and there are endless options when it comes to ingredients. Che ba mau (three-color dessert), for example, consists of red kidney beans, yellow mung beans, and green pandan jelly that’s topped with a coconut sauce and crushed ice while che bap is a pudding made of corn, glutinous rice, and coconut milk. Basically, if you’re looking for a sweet end to a meal, just keep an eye out for any variation of che.