Essential Vietnamese New Year Foods - Southern food

By: Nhu Tong

Have you ever tried Southern Vietnamese foods? If you could only use a few words to describe your Southern dish, what would they be? For some people, the answer is clear: rich, flavorful and sweet!

We have gotten to know more about Northern and Central Lunar New Year foods in the previous articles, so let’s head down to our last stop: Southern Vietnam.

Diverse Natural Resources Result in Flavour Richness

We all know that regional cuisines differ according to the climate and local products. So in Southern Vietnam, the abundance of rice, fresh fruits, veggies as well as coconuts are reflected in the dishes of this region, which tend to emphasize sweeter flavors.

southern foodImage source: vietnamworldheritages.com

The warm weather and fertile soil of Southern Vietnam create an ideal condition for growing various fruits, vegetables, and raising livestock. As a result, food in Southern Vietnam gets a more vibrant flavor profile with the generous use of garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs.

Additionally, thanks to the widespread use of coconut and sugarcane, sugar is added to more food here than anywhere else in the country giving the dishes a distinctly sweet taste—just like how sweet and friendly Southern people are.

Bánh Tét (Tet Cake or Vietnamese Round Glutinous Rice Cake)

If bánh chưng is an indispensable part of Northerner’s Tet, bánh tét plays the same vital role in Central and South Vietnam. Year after year during Tet holiday, Southern families enjoy this Tet cake, the central dish of the Southern Tet celebration.

According to Southern people's belief, bánh tét is a symbol of a prosperous life. That’s why it is considered a New Year specialty although its available throughout the year.

As we have talked about Central bánh tét in the previous article. In this article, I’m going to introduce you something totally new! The Southern version of bánh tét that isn’t well known by foreigners. This sweet and vegetarian dish is called bánh tét ngọt.

Basically, bánh tét ngọt is the ordinary bánh tét but filled with vegetarian ingredients like banana, back mung bean, mung bean instead of pork.

southern foodImage source: st.phunuonline.com.vn

The process of making bánh tét is time consuming and provides an opportunity for family members to catch up, bond and revel in the holiday spirit. In preparing this dish, glutinous rice must be carefully chosen and washed before being stir fried with coconut milk and some salt. Then the hardest part comes, filling the cake. The exact taste of the cake’s insides is up to you. This could be savory or sweet depending on the taste of each family.

Watch how Southern people make their special bánh tét:

Video source: RunAwayRice

Bánh tét ngọt also differs from region to region, as locals tend to base their recipes on what natural ingredients are close at hand put their own hallmark spin on bánh tét. For example, Can Tho is famous for its unique bánh tét lá cẩm (violet Tet cake). This bánh tét's sticky rice is soaked in purple water colured by lá cẩm (magenta leaves), which gives the cake a more eye-catching, charming purple appearance. Inside the cake, there are tasty ingredients such as mung bean, black mung bean, and sometimes salted egg yolks. All are tightly and beautifully wrapped in banana leaves. The cake is cut into pieces, which show the dark purple of banana, the yellow of green bean, and the orange of egg. The flavour of glutinous rice cake is tender and tasty.

Some just make Tet cakes for family consumption and gifts, some make it for businesses, and some have become artisans by elevating their Tet cake making to a craft.

Video source: Cooky TV

Củ kiệu tôm khô (Pickled Scallion Heads Served with Dried Shrimp)

If Central’s people like to savor bánh tét with dưa món (pickled vegetables), Southern people love to enrich their sense of taste with pickled scallion heads and dried shrimp. Even as early as mid December, the housewives have already bought scallion heads in preparation for Tet.

This rustic yet simple-looking dish, contrary to popular belief, requires an extra meticulous cooking process.

southern foodImage source: static1.bestie.vn

First things first: scallion heads are soaked for hours in water. Then the roots are carefully washed and then exposed to the sun until their leaves turn dry and wilt. Next, all the scallion heads are put into a clean jar. One layer of sugar is covered with one layer of scallion heads. After placing all the ingredients together, one must leave the jar in a dry area for about 10 days until the scallion heads are slowly fermented and eventually are ready to be taken out.

southern foodImage source: thucthan.com

Finally, one serving dish of củ kiệu isn’t complete without some dried shrimp on top. Make sure to prepare more dried shrimp in advance for our littlest diners. I assure you kids will definitely be fond of this savoury, sweet and sour dish.

And there it is! Your Southern Tet feast is halfway finished!

Thịt kho Tàu / Thịt kho hột vịt (Pork Braised With Eggs and Coconut Water)

This Vietnamese dish of braised pork with egg and coconut milk is best cooked by the Southern people. Just like other Southern housewives, my mom, a true Southerner, would prepare a giant pot of pork braised with eggs, enough for the whole family to eat during Tết.

Two days before the Lunar New Year’s Eve, my mom would go to the nearby markets early in the morning to choose the ingredients: the best meat, eggs, as well some coconuts for her giant pot of thịt kho hột vịt.

Making Southern thịt kho hột vịt is not too challenging if you just follow some tips. After watching my mom make it for years, here are some good tips that I can offer.

southern foodImage source: ukcdn.ar-cdn.com

In order to make the most delicious braised pork dish, you must choose the ingredients wisely. Pork belly must contain both fat and lean meat, or it will get unsuitably dry during the long cooking storage. This meat must be cut into large pieces, marinated with spices and fish sauce for about 30 minutes. While waiting for the meat to become thoroughly soaked, boil the eggs and remove shells.

To start, heat up your pot, then boil fresh coconut water and add cold water if needed. Then put all the marinated pork into the pot, cook until the meat becomes soft. Now it’s time for the next step, putting the eggs into the pot. Finally, season it to match your family's taste and simmer the food until the meat becomes super tender.

The finished dish of pork braised with egg and coconut water is considered properly done if it has these two qualities: an eye-catching and distinct golden brown color and well-seasoned, tender meat.

Learn how to make your own dish:

Video source: Jamie Oliver

This is a dish were cooks have some leeway to give it their own style and spin. For example, some Southerners love to dry pork belly in the sun before braising and some others like to braise their protein with scraped coconut meat. But my mom’s recipe is done without either step.

This dish is best paired with pickled scallion heads and a fragrant hot bowl of rice.

Canh khổ qua dồn thịt (Bitter melon Stuffed With Meat Soup)

You might be wondering why superstitious people like the Vietnamese would choose a bitter dish for their very first start of year. This might surprise you, but canh khổ qua dồn thịt is a significant part of Southern Vietnamese spirituality.

It may look simple at the outside, but bitter melon stuffed with meat contains many spiritual elements according to the Southerners’ belief system. In Vietnamese, “khổ” means “hardship”, and “qua” means “pass”. So basically, Southern people eat this dish in the first days of the New Year with the hope that unlucky things in the old year will pass and that they will welcome a peaceful new year.

southern foodImage source: orsimages.unileversolutions.com

Bitter melon has a nutritious blend of bitter and sweet flavors.

Additionally, canh khổ qua dồn thịt is also good for health thanks to the cool-tasting broth, which is a relief amid the humid and warm weather in Southern Vietnam. This food is believed to help lower the heat inside our body.

Make yourself a bowl of bitter melon stuffed with meat soup:

Video source: Helen's Recipes (Vietnamese Food)

Banner Image source: static.bongdacuocsong.net


Christmas specials in Vietnam

By: Quang Mai


Christmas specials in Vietnam


With so many restaurants and hotels running Christmas specials, it’s hard to find the perfect one for your tastes. To help you along with your decision, City Pass Guide has accumulated a list of some of the tastiest venues to go for your Christmas holiday meal.


They fill up quite fast so it’s recommended to book your reservation in advance.









Club Opera Novel


One of the only places in Hanoi with an exclusively Vietnamese themed-menu with an option of free flow sparkling wine.

17 Trang Tien 04 3972 8001
Click to see details




Fortuna Hotel


The chef’s own 4-course set dinner showcasing the finest ingredients.

6B Lang Ha st. 04 3831 3333
Click to see details




Hotel L’Opera


An international buffet will delight your tastebuds while traditional Christmas songs are played live in the background.

29 Trang Tien 04 6282 5555
Click to see details






Mercure Hotel


Two different menus for Christmas Day and Eve are available and children under four eat for free.

94 Ly Thuong Kiet 04 3944 7766
Click to see details




Silk Path Hotel


A family friendly five course dinner with entertainment such as interactive games, a clown and magician along with an appearance by Santa Clause.

195-199 Hang Bong o4 3266 5555
Click to see details










Camargue


A sophisticated French inspired six course Christmas Eve dinner makes Camargue one of the most sought after dinners in town.

74/7D Hai Ba Trung st. District 1 08 3520 4888
Click to see details




Grand Hotel


Choose from a BBQ rooftop buffet or a Christmas Gala buffet complete with gifts, a magic performance and a lucky draw.

8 Dong Khoi District 1 08 3915 5555
Click to see details




Hogs Breath


Not content to only having your Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve? If not then head to Hog’s Breath where a Holiday Set Dinner runs from the 15th of December to the 25th.

2 Hai Trieu st. District 1 08 3915 6066
Click to see details







Hotel Equatorial


Enjoy your Christmas buffet while being serenaded with carols with a real Christmas tree in the background.

242 Tran Binh Trong (08) 3839 7777
Click to see details




La Brasserie De Saigon


A four course Christmas dinner featuring a glass of sparkling wine and fresh seafood awaits you at Le Brasserie De Saigon.

38 Dong Du 08 6291 3657
Click to see details




La Cuisine


Take in a five course Christmas Eve dinner at this Miele guide listed restaurant.

48 Le Thanh Ton District 1 08 2229 8882
Click to see details







La Villa


Violin and guitar players entertain while you feast on a six course dinner.

14 Ngo Quang Huy St District 2 08 3898 2082
Click to see details




Monsoon Restaurant


A very Asian Christmas set dinner complete with a glass of sparkling wine.

1 Cao Ba Nha District 1 08 6290 8899
Click to see details




My Place


Choose from a three course lunch or five course dinner for Christmas.

195 Dien Bien Phu District 3 08 3829 8301
Click to see details







New World Hotel


A plethora of festive events for the holiday season including special room rates and private parties.

76 Le Lai District 1 08 3822 8888
Click to see details




Renaissance Riverside Hotel


Dine at 21 floors or have a cozy gathering of friends on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

8-15 Ton Duc Thanh District 1 08 3822 0033
Click to see details




Sofitel Saigon Plaza


There are options galore at the Sofitel Saigon with buffet and set menu options. Also celebrate at home with the “french touch” menu available for delivery.

17 Le Duan District 1 08 3824 1555
Click to see details










StarCity Saigon Hotel


Enjoy the festive holiday with an abundant seafood buffet and unlimited Tiger beer and soft drinks. Book early and get a 15 percent discount.

144 Nguyen Van Troi Phu Nhuan District 1 08 3999 8888
Click to see details




Vatel


A special French-Vietnamese buffet with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine at Vatel.

120Bis Suong Nguyet Anh st District 1 08 5404 2220
Click to see details




Wine and Brandy Bar


A five course dinner with paired wine suggestions for the wine lover.

38 Dong Khoi District 1 08 3829 3968
Click to see details




Le Bouchon De Saigon


Enjoy Christmas dinner at the friendly casual French bistro with homemade foie gras and Christmas turkey.

40 Thai Van Lung District 1 083 829 9263
Click to see details



 

 








Mui Ne Unique Resort – Mui Ne


Enjoy a beachside BBQ buffet for Christmas at Mui Ne Unique Resort. Dancers, musicians and an international DJ will provide entertainment along with a special appearance by Santa!

20 B Nguyen Dinh Chieu 062 374 1617

Call for details




Guava – Nha Trang


Enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner with roast turkey with all the trimmings for VND400,000/person.

17 Biet Thu 058 3524 140

Call for details




Kozak Mamay - Vung Tau


Celebrate a quiet Christmas eve in traditional Russian style with a traditional goose and all the trimmings

06-07 H3, Nguyen Tri Phuong

084 356 3776




Can Wrap & Roll Take Over the Culinary World?

By: Keely Burkey

You’re sitting down to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant. Look around: what do you typically see? For most people, a Vietnamese meal out implies two options—a cheap meal perched on a red plastic table, or fine-dining at one of Saigon’s 4- and 5-star hotels.

wrap rollImage source: wrap-roll.com

Apart from these two extremes, there are very few in between.

As the city’s F&B market becomes increasingly sophisticated, the casual-dining restaurant segment has become competitive as well. Ten years ago Saigonese likely found their daily meals at street food vendors or in small, mom-and-pop restaurants, but today Vietnamese food chains like Pho Ong Hung and Mon Hue, both owned by F&B conglomerate Huy Vietnam, are working to corner the sit-down, casual dining market.

While these chains have done well in major cities around the country, the world market beacons for the aspiring restaurateur. But can Vietnamese food, a cuisine based on fresh ingredients and homemade tastes, be franchised and replicated in other countries?

Targeting the Fresh Market

When Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh looked at Saigon’s F&B market in 2006, she spotted a glaring hole. What if a white-collar worker, either foreign or local, wanted high-quality, healthy Vietnamese food in a clean, trendy setting, without sifting through the hundreds of items on a typical Vietnamese menu?

“I wanted healthy food with good service and a very fresh and trendy atmosphere. It was something I created just for someone like me. The target customer is exactly myself.”

Every bit the professional, energetic and passionate businesswoman she sought to cater to, Oanh developed the concept for Wrap & Roll before setting off on a country-wide trip to decide what rolled cuisine was really all about. She discovered almost 100 different wrap and roll dishes, and settled on just 60 easily replicated and fresh varieties, focused on two different culinary models: the pre-made roll, and the do-it-yourself.

wrap rollImage source: wrap-roll.com

After planting these curated rolls on an easy-to-understand menu, and creating a clean and inviting atmosphere on Hai Ba Trung, magic happened. The concept worked, and within a year, four Wrap & Rolls were open for business in Ho Chi Minh City, in key locations like Phu My Hung and Diamond Plaza. Oanh modestly attributes her success to her knowledge of the market, and a little help from the perfect timing.

“The customer targets were all correct, and the timing was good. In 2006, there was a food court trend in Vietnam. Timing is very important,” she said.

Growing Pains

Expanding nationally is one thing, but franchising a Vietnamese restaurant for expansion overseas? That’s another story. At the moment, only the chain restaurant Rolld has capitalised on Vietnamese food in Australia, and soup emporium Pho Hoa Noodle Soup, which boasts to be “the only Vietnamese cuisine franchise outside of Asia”, has outlets in the US and Canada, along with several countries in Asia—but not Vietnam.

So, when the private equity firm Mekong Capital took on Wrap & Roll in 2010, for Oanh it was all about grounding the company in an Asian market before expanding elsewhere. So far diners can enjoy a Wrap & Roll dinner in Singapore and Shanghai, while Taiwan, the Philippines and Cambodia are likely to be added to the list in the coming years.

“We have been receiving a lot of offers from America and even Europe, but we want to focus on this area first to easily control the quality and brand awareness.”

Quality is a top concern, especially when dealing with a cuisine dependent on fresh herbs and vegetables that can’t be exported.

wrap rollImage source: wrap-roll.com

So far, the Wrap & Roll team has maintained quality by subtly altering ingredients to fit products available locally and importing Vietnamese spices directly from Saigon.

Even more than quality concerns, Oanh also points to increased Vietnamese food competition in Asia’s F&B marketplace—a realisation that goes against the now-established narrative lamenting the lack of Vietnamese cuisine across the world. “In the region we’re focussing on, you can find a lot [of Vietnamese food] in Singapore. You also find a lot in Manila and Korea.”

With a goal to open 50 stores in five countries by 2021, it looks like Vietnam has found its first international restaurant franchise.

Banner image source: sk.pinterest.com


The Story of Tương: Vietnamese Fermented Soybean Paste

By: Tran Thi Minh Hieu

Many people believe that shrimp paste, a typical dipping sauce of Northern Vietnamese villages, is the best sauce to pair with tofu. But since I was a child, I have always preferred my tofu to be dipped in fermented soybean paste, or tương, because its sweeter, lighter smell and taste reminds me of my grandmother, who used to make it at home.

This traditional dipping sauce enjoyed by vegetarian Buddhists is now less popular in the cities, and the recipes and techniques to make good tương are only handed down within individual families. But if you get a chance to try it and compare its taste to other fermented soybean pastes, like miso in Japan and doenjang in Korea, you will find a common, treasured food tradition.

How is it made?

The sauce has a high nutritional value because it is made from soybeans fermented with a type of mold or fungi. To make this mold, sticky rice is steamed, or alternatively, ordinary rice is cooked with less water than usual, and then scattered on a woven tray and covered with leaves to keep the heat. The rice is left to ferment for approximately 7-10 days.

Each family and each region has its own method to make the mold, but the basic principle is the same: fermented rice will generate heat and create an ideal condition for the fungi to grow. Scientists call this type of fungus A. oryzae. It’s also known as koji. This fungi helps to transform rice starch into glucose, resulting in a powdery mixture with a nice golden color and a sweet taste. It is important to keep track of the mold as it develops on the rice, as sometimes other, possibly toxic, types of fungi might develop as well, which will need to be removed.

soybeanImage source: topplus.vn

At the same time, soybeans are roasted and pounded or ground into pieces, and then boiled with water and poured into clay jars. The jars are then covered and put in a sunny ventilated place to ferment. When the rice mold is fully developed, it is mixed into the jars, and the fermentation process will continue for at least 15 to 20 days to create the final product, fermented soybean paste.

soybeanImage source: sapaviet.net

Salt is an indispensable ingredient. Adding the proper amount of salt is important to ensure good taste and long storage time. Salt can be mixed with the mold after it is ready, or added directly into the jar. Either way, the end result is a perfect combination of salty, sweet, and the umami flavour of fermented soybeans.

Watch a traditional fermentation method:

Video source: VTC14 - Thời tiết - Môi trường & Đời sống

Where can you find it?

In Vietnam, fermented soybean paste is mainly used as dipping sauce for dishes served with rice, such as tofu and boiled vegetables. It can also be used as a seasoning when cooking braised fish or braised vegetables. Especially in the North, bánh đúc lạc is a popular snack in rural markets. It is a savoury cake made of rice flour and peanuts, which is then dipped in fermented soybean paste.

soybeanImage source: 1946.vn

Watch this video to learn how to use soybean paste to improve your health:

Video source: sharecare.com

The regions in Vietnam famous for their tradition of making fermented soybean paste include: Bần village in the Hưng Yên province near Hanoi, Cự Đà village in Hanoi, and the Nam Đàn district of Nghệ An province. Many people use tương and tương bần interchangeably to refer to fermented soybean paste. The Bần village has been famous for this product since the late nineteenth century.

In Southern Vietnam there is a type of fermented soybean paste called tương hột. It is made from whole-grain boiled soybeans mixed with ground roasted soybeans, fermented by rice or corn mold, or using ready-made soy sauce to speed up the fermentation process. Tương hột is also used as a condiment for braised fish, tofu or vegetables. When blended it can be used as a component in the dipping sauce for fresh spring rolls.

soybeanImage source: 2.bp.blogspot.com

Vietnamese tương and Japanese miso

If you love Japanese cuisine, you have probably tried miso soup, the Japanese comfort food made with miso paste, seaweed, tofu and green onions. However, not many people know that miso is actually the Japanese version of fermented soybean paste. Miso is similar to Vietnamese tương in components and production methods but with some differences.

First, in Japan soybeans are not roasted before boiling. They are soaked overnight instead, so the boiled beans are much softer and can be pounded into a thick, fine paste. Second, steamed rice is mixed with industrially produced koji starter, and fermented for a few days, to become kome koji (rice mold). Finally, soybean paste and kome koji are mixed together with salt and put into a jar. The ingredients need to be weighted to pressurize the mixture. This is done with a heavy bag as in this video. The jar is then covered for a month-long fermentation process.

Video source: JapaneseCooking101

Vietnamese fermented soybean paste is just as nutritious as its Japanese cousin, and even more versatile. It can be added to variations on the country’s much-loved braised fish (cá kho), used as a dipping sauce for the famed gỏi cuốn, or used as a condiment in many vegetarian dishes. The options are endless.

Banner Image source: web.media.danviet.vn


Different types of Pho in Vietnam

By: Nhu Tong

Which image first comes to mind when you think of Vietnamese phở? A hot bowl of rice noodles in beef-bone broth, served with various additives that differ depending on geographical origin? Well, there are far more wonderful dishes made from bánh phở than you may think.

The Great Phở Debate: North Vs South

Due to its versatility and popularity, Vietnamese eat phở at any time of the day almost every day. However, there is nonstop discussion among Vietnamese over which phở tastes better, the Northern or Southern version?

It only takes one look at a bowl of phở to recognise its origin.

Phở Bắc (Northern Phở)

Phở is believed to have originated in Northern Vietnam.

Primarily, Northern phở has an intense and delicate flavour due to its clear and simple broth. Beside the beef bone, anise, cloves and cinnamon harmonised into one subtle undertone flavour, Hanoians prefer eating phở tái (rare beef)—phở served with thinly sliced rare beef cooked quickly in the hot broth.

Condiments such as green onions, thinly sliced white onion, chopped cilantro or mint are put on top rather than served alongside.

vietnamese foodPhở Bắc is known for its simplicity.
Image source: Mark Wiens

 Price: VND30,000-55,000

Where to try it: Phở Bát Đàn

Address: 49 Bat Dan Street, Cua Dong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 6:00-10:00 AM; 6:00-8:30 PM
Phone: 024 6683 3535

Phở Nam (Southern Phở)

In Southern Vietnam, with its abundant produce, herbs and other ingredients are used liberally in cooking. The Southern phở is often served in bigger bowls, with loads of garnish — mint, cilantro, rice paddy herb, sawtooth herb, bean sprouts, lime, chilli, basil and hoisin sauce, for instance. The broth is even prepared with other ingredients such as chicken or tripe.

While Hanoians prefer a dish with a broth-based soup, Saigonese are much likelier to prefer a well self-seasoned one, using hoisin sauce, Thai basil, veggies, lime, green onions, mint, cilantro and bean sprouts, and the optional chilli or sriracha sauce to enrich the broth’s flavour.

vietnamese foodPhở Nam with lavish condiments served alongside.
Image source: i.pinimg.com

Price: VND40,000-55,000

Where to try it: Phở Hòa Pasteur

Address: 260C Pasteur St, Ward 8, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 6:00 AM-12:00 AM
Phone: 838297943

Watch a video of YouTuber Sonny Side from the Best Ever Food Review Show Channel trying phở bắc and phở nam:

Video source: Best Ever Food Review Show

More Phở Varieties

Apart from the famous rice noodle soup, there are six popular phở options you should definitely try.

Phở Gà — Vietnamese Noodle Chicken Soup

If you are looking for a lighter version of phở, go for phở gà. This dish is said to have emerged in 1930s in response to a government ban on slaughtering cows. Over the years it was finally recognised as one of Vietnam’s specialities. Nowadays, many eatery shophouses serve phở gà exclusively.

The broth is clear, light and gently flavoured with a slight pepperiness. It is not particularly fragrant, relying on the condiments and herbs for complexity of flavour. Each bowl is served with a little plate of Thai basil, curls of shredded morning glory and bean sprouts.

vietnamese foodPhở Gà with with its clear broth, topped with curls of shredded morning glory and bean sprouts.
Image source: assets.epicurious.com

Price: VND40,000

Where to try it: Phở Miến Gà Kỳ Đồng
Address: 14/5 Ky Dong St, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 5:00 AM-1:30 AM
Phone: 028 3843 5630

Turn left from Ky Dong Street into Hem 14 and head down to number five; there’s a real sense of industry here, the shop is likely to be full. Good dishes always take time. You can order your broth with customised options such as hủ tiếu, bún, mì trụng, mì gói or bánh phở. Don’t forget to order a cup of cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese milk coffee) and enjoy your meal.

Phở Xào — Stir-Fried Pho/Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles

At first sight, it is a simple dish, made from fried rice noodles with beef, loads of oyster-like bean sprouts, onions and spring onions. Dark soy sauce is added to give the noodles their attractive and intense brown colour. What makes this simple dish stand out is probably the smoky flavour. To get that special flavour, the dish needs preparing in a very hot wok by a skilled cook. In case you don’t want beef, there are also options with chicken or shrimp and even pork.

vietnamese foodPhở xào bò, with its attractive and intense brown colour.
Image source: cdn.tgdd.vn

We ordered a dish of stir-fried phở with beef in Bat Dan shophouse eatery, which we accidentally bumped into when strolling down Mieu Noi Street. The dish’s quality was way beyond our expectation and the owners were also very friendly. The price was clearly posted up on the menu so we didn’t have to worry about being ripped off.

Price: Normally, a dish of Phở xào costs around VND45.000.

Where to try it: Phở xào Bát Đàn — Miếu Nổi

Address: 5 Mieu Noi St, Ward 2, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

Opening hours: 6:00-2:00 PM, 4:00-10:00 PM

Phone: 0979 46 49 68

Phở Cuốn — Rice Noodle Roll

Phở cuốn is probably a perfect choice if you are on a diet. It is considered the healthiest option among all types of phở, and became a part of Hanoi cuisine in the last two decades.

In order to make phở cuốn, Vietnamese people use uncut sheets of bánh phở to roll with beef, lettuce, and other spice veggies. A highlight of phở cuốn is the light sauce made of fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic and chili served alongside.

vietnamese foodPhở cuốn is considered the healthiest option among all types of Phở.
Image source: icachlam.vn

Price: VND100,000 for two people

Where to try it: Phở cuốn Thanh Hằng
Address: 29B Ngu Xa St, Truc Bach Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 8 AM-10 PM
Phone: 98 316 03 17

Local insight: We also ordered a dish of Vietnamese spring rolls (nem or chả giò) with the phở cuốn, definitely a perfect combination. If this is your first visit to Ngu Xa street, you might get annoyed by the enthusiastic staff of the shophouse eateries here. The solution is to search for one shop that you like/are recommended and stick to it.

Phở Chiên Phồng — Deep Fried Phở (Rice Noodles) with Beef Sauce

The phở most favoured by foreigners is probably phở chiên phồng, which looks like piles of fried pillows topped with saucy meat and greens.

Small stacks of bánh phở, which is slightly larger than a postage stamp, are tossed in a wok with bubbling hot oil until they transform into golden and crispy cushions. These cushions are then scattered on a plate and smothered in thick sauce, fried beef, green broccoli or lettuce. The crispy crunch of fried noodles, a brittle of beef, the natural sweetness from veggies and the tasty sauce make this a memorable experience.

vietnamese foodPhở chiên phồng is popular among foreigners.
Image source: 4.bp.blogspot.com

Price: VND60.000

Local insight: If you can’t decide what to eat, order different dishes and share them with friends. Don’t hesitate to ask for personal bowls, the staff are more than willing to provide them.

Where to try it:  Phở cuốn 31
Address: 31 Ngu Xa, Truc Bach, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Opening hours: 24/24
Phone: 437153679

Phở Chua — Sour Pho

Not complex or classy, this dish captures the different cultures of Northern Vietnam. A delicious bowl of phở chua contains six main ingredients: noodles, sour sauce, pickles, peanuts and Northern sauce. For delicious noodles, choose the “pink rice” which is mostly planted in the Northwest region. The sour sauce is taken from the pickle jar.

vietnamese foodPhở chua is more delicious if it is paired with the chili sauce favoured by the Northern people.
Image source: asiatourist.co

Price: VND25,000-40,000

Local insight: You might not like this dish at first, but you’ll change your mind as you become more familiar with it.

Where to try it: Phở Chua Thành
Address: 242/101 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, Ward 3, District 3, HCMC
Opening hours: 3:30-7:30 PM

Phở trộn — Rice Noodle Salad

Flat rice noodles, a pork chop, herbs, peanuts and dried scallions are added to a bowl before a spoonful of sour sauce is sprinkled on top, giving this dish an extraordinary taste. The sauce is the key ingredient: no rice noodle salad is complete without it. That’s why vendors distinguish themselves by owning a “secret” recipe. It is likely you’ll never experience the same flavour of this dish in Hanoi.

vietnamese foodPhở trộn is beautifully topped with pork chops, herbs, peanuts and dried scallions.
Image source: trbimg.com

Price: VND40,000

Local insight: The sour sauce already lightens the flavour, but some people prefer drizzling a little less juice over the meat. Mix everything together and enjoy!

Where to try it: Phở trộn - Miến trộn than

Address: 127 Thich Quang Duc St, Ward 4, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

Opening hours: 6:00 AM-10:00 PM

Phone: 090 231 32 81

International Innovations

Want to experience something more out of the ordinary? Check these dishes created by phở lovers around the world.

Phở Burger

A phở option for fast-food lovers. Eat it like a burger but get the taste of phở. Burger phở is made with deep-fried rice-noodle buns, Vietnamese-style coleslaw and juicy fried beef. The side servings are a fragrant phở stock with strong notes of roasted small spring onion, along with a dipping bowl of Hoisin and Sriracha sauce.

vietnamese foodBurger Phở looks like a fantastic combination of phở ingredients in burger form.
Image source: sea-globe-xdu34h413chai.stackpathdns.com

Learn how to cook Phở Burger in this video:

Video source: Foodbeast

Phở + Burrito = Phorrito

Phorrito gives Vietnamese food a Mexican twist. Made with thinly sliced rib-eye steak, bean sprouts, cilantro, onions, Thai basil, jalapeño, lime juice and phở noodles, the burrito is wrapped in a large flour tortilla and served with sriracha and hoisin sauce. It tastes surprisingly like a bowl of phở.

vietnamese foodWhat's phở stuffed into a burrito called? A phoritto!
Image source: assets.adamriff.com

Watch this video to learn how to cook it:

Video source: INSIDER

Phở Pizza

An interesting harmony of Italian and Vietnamese cuisine, pho pizza with its crispy base is made with deep-fried rice noodles topped with stir-fried beef and veggies. Sprinkle some pepper, fried shallots and chili slices on top and that’s it. Pho pizza best served while it’s hot and the base is still crispy.

vietnamese foodAn interesting combination of Italian and Vietnamese cuisine, phở pizza.
Image source: cdn.foodbeast.com

Check the recipe in this video:

Video source: Foodbeast

Banner Image source: ibb.co


Essential Vietnamese New Year Foods - Central food

By: Nhu Tong

While Vietnam’s northern people welcome Tet with peach blossoms, green bánh chưng cakes, pickled onions and frozen meat (a tradition we covered extensively in a previous article), the people of Central Vietnam greet this time of year with a distinct meal featuring yellow apricots, fermented pork rolls and a host other traditional dishes. To borrow a colloquialism, same same but different: this region’s dishes and food cultures have a distinguished and wholly different style from North and South Vietnam.

A Hard Life Begets a Taste for Strong Flavors

Central Vietnam is known as the region with the longest coastline in the country, which suffers the most from extreme weather as a result. This combination of geography and weather conditions there have deeply shaped Central people’s custom and lifestyle. They are believed to be the hardest working and the most economizing Vietnamese.

These natural conditions have driven the region’s nutritional choices. To economize, they complete their meal with ample amounts of white rice. Also, because most central families work in fisheries, they have to preserve seafood with processes that give it with extra flavor. Because of this, Central people tend to prefer salty, spicy and fermented foods. Fermented foods are served during economic downturns and severe weather conditions, and food that are spicy and salty help them combat the numbing cold of winters.

As the Year of the Dog draws close, Vietnam’s Central families are also carefully preparing foods for the first of many days of feasting and merrymaking to come. Let's learn what a typical Central Vietnam family serves during the Lunar New Year.

Bánh Tét (Tet Cake or Vietnamese Round Glutinous Rice Cake)

When celebrating Tet with food, Vietnamese say it "ăn Tết". Maybe you don’t know Vietnamese, but the word "Tét" should sound familiar!

Like bánh chưng, bánh tét also represents heaven and the earth. It also emphasizes the importance of rice in the life of Vietnamese people. During Tet, people of Central Vietnam put a pair of Tet cakes on the altar to worship the ancestors. The first three days of the New Year are the perfect time for family and friends visit, and bánh tét is an ideal dish to serve to guests coming to the house.

new yearImage source: st.phunuonline.com.vn

This Tet specialty is made with sticky rice and filled with pork fat and beans that are seasoned with black pepper and shallots. It’s wrapped in banana leaves giving it an appealing pale green color and a slightly leafy taste. To prevent the banana leaf from coming apart while it’s cooking, people wrap it several times with plastic ribbon before steaming.

How was bánh tét first created? Some studies have claimed that bánh tét is a different version of bánh chưng—a similar food which is also stuffed with beans and pork—but this one is presented in a cylindrical shape due to the process of southward expansion in the 17th century. According to these studies, when Vietnam expanded southward to capture the former territory of Champa Kingdom, the dish was adapted to the colonized peoples tastes. Bánh tét was thus shaped by a desire to affect the linga, a phallic-shaped post associated with the deity Siva, according to Cham belief. The culture’s artistic productions prominently feature rods and poles for this reason.

new yearImage source: 3.bp.blogspot.com

One serving contains a small, neat and beautiful slices of bánh tét. Vietnamese are also known to enjoy the dish fried, which gives the bánh tét a delicious, chewy crispness.

new yearImage source: dukhach.net

Watch a video to show how bánh tét is packed:

Video source: Hướng Nghiệp Á Âu

Dưa Món (Pickled Vegetables)

Just as bánh chưng is typically paired with onion pickles in the North, bánh tét goes along with dưa món (vegetable pickles). It’s not the đồ chua (pickled vegetable) you have experienced in Vietnamese bánh mì before. The vegetables in dưa món carry a distinct, extra crunchy texture.

What’s the secret to this textural peculiarity?

To answer this question, start by looking at the dried vegetables. People from Central Vietnam usually dry carrots and radishes in the sun for a few days until the vegetables get perfectly dried.

new yearImage source: jamja.vn

These dried veggies will soak up tons of flavor when cooked instead of going soggy like they otherwise would. They’ll hold texture even after sitting in the fish sauce for a few days. They remain crunchy with an al dente bite that’s truly addicting.

If it's impossible to dry your vegetables due to cloud cover or pollution, just use your oven. Set it on the lowest heat with the over door cracked open for three to four hours or if you have a gas stove give it about five to six hours with just the pilot light on. Follow these instructions and you can also achieve that same appropriate texture.

A properly executed dish of dưa món carries the aroma, flavor, and sweetness of fish sauce and sugar as well as the crunchiness of papaya. The added daikon compliments the beautiful vivid color of carrots.

Learn how to make authentic Vietnamese dưa món:

Video source: RunAwayRice

Nem chua (Fermented Pork Roll)

Nem chua is an indispensable dish of the Central Vietnamese Tet tradition. It is made from fresh pureed pork mixed with pork skin, marinated with spices, pepper, chili, all of which is fermented before becoming ripe for consumption.

new yearImage source: opentour.vn

Some won’t dare to eat nem chua at first as they know this dish is made from completely raw pork. However, once you give it a try, you will slowly fall for its addictive light sourness, sweetness, crunchiness, spiciness, and the fragrance blended on their tongue.

Each province presents their sense of flavour and natural resources by using different leaves as wrapping materials. For example, Ninh Hoa’s nem chua wears gooseberry leaves, Binh Dinh’s nem chua goes with guava leaves. These wrapping materials also contribute greatly to the flavor of each fermented pork roll.

new yearImage source: wiki-travel.com.vn

With close inspection, it’s easy to see that nem chua has two layers of wrapping. It has a layer of interior leaves, which decide the taste of nem chua mentioned above. The other is outer leaves, which are usually banana leaves. The banana leaf layer's thickness depends on how deeply fermented one would like their nem chua (more leaf means more fermentation). Normally, two layers of banana leaves are laid crisscross.

If you can’t afford to make it your own, no worry. Here are some of tips from the people of Central Vietnam to find the best nem chua. First, a well done nem chua must have dried surface. Second, it should have a slightly pink color, firm meat and reasonable sourness.

Nem chua can be eaten plain or served with wine in amongst a Tet feast. Each region has different ways to evaluate the flavor of the dish. Though North’s people prefer its original sourness, people from Central and South Vietnam usually add sugar, garlic, chili, and pepper to increase the spiciness and sweetness of nem chua.

Thịt heo ngâm mắm (Meat Soaked in Fish Sauce)

While Tet holiday could be tempting you with loads of nutritious, fatty foods, this rustic dish of meat soaked in fish sauce rolled in rice paper with various raw veggies, herbs, pickled vegetables is even more satisfying.

Meat soaked in fish sauce is a simple, flavorful yet super-easy-to-make dish. This charming treat is a traditional dish at a Tet meal in Central Vietnam. Over centuries and generations, Central Vietnam’s families still love to have a dish of meat soaked in fish sauce at their Lunar New Year feast.

new yearImage source: jamja.vn

For locals, a roll of thịt ngâm mắm is well rounded and balanced flavour wise. The salty taste of the dish coupled with veggies dipped in sweet fish sauce play nicely against the spiciness of chili, pepper, garlic, and ginger to together create an exceptional culinary experience.

Mắm Tôm Chua (Fermented Shrimp Sauce)

If we’re going to talk about Central Vietnamese cuisine, we just can’t leave out its famous dish: mắm. And, at this time of year, mắm tôm chua is proudly in attendance in a traditional Tet meal. Unlike Mắm tôm—the well-known shrimp sauce that has dark purple color and smooth surface—sour shrimp sauce owes its appealing orange color to the shrimp.

In order to make this sauce, the shrimp must be cleaned with salt water and slightly cooked in a strong rice wine. Carefully mix the shrimp with sticky rice, sliced galangal, garlic and chili before combining the mixture into a jar. Everything is covered with guava leaves and left for five to seven days.

new yearImage source: tholovesfood.files.wordpress.com

Mắm tôm chua is the best paired with thịt heo luộc (boiled pork), rolled in paper rice cake with loads of garnish including curly salad greens, cucumber, mint, herbs.

Wait. Did we forget something? Sauces!

Pour crushed garlic, chili, and sugar into the bowl of sour shrimp sauce, and mix them well with a spoon. Season the mixture until it matches your own sense of taste. Finally, squeeze a few drops of lemon in, and your sauce is ready.

Thịt Luộc Tôm Chua (Boiled Pork with Sour Shrimp Sauce) Recipe:

Video source: Helen's Recipes (Vietnamese Food)

Stay tuned for more fascinating foods presented this Lunar New Year. Next stop: a South Vietnamese traditional meal during this most festive time of year.

Banner Image source: jamja.vn

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