Everywhere you go, Bánh mì and Phở are the proud ambassadors of Vietnamese cuisine. Who could blame them? They’re delicious and have definitely earned their reputation.
But what about the rest of Vietnamese cuisine? Loners, from everywhere in Vietnam, who haven’t broken in the trends of the food scene in the most influential foody cities. Yet to be known or fancied by New York, London, or Paris because it probably smells too much of fish sauce, Vietnamese cuisine has so much more to offer than just two popular dishes.
Here are 4 Vietnamese dishes which are cherished in their home country and which I hope you will give a try when you visit Vietnam someday, or pop in a really good authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Don’t mind the good old slurp!
1. Hủ tiếu Nam Vang
A specialty of the South, broth and noodle based but that isn’t phở. It comes with pork, prawn, quail egg(s) and lots of garnish. Spicy, hot, the proper way to eat this is in a little restaurant that gives on the street sitting on a low blue or red plastic stool.
Address: end of the road Hoa Cau behind the Co.opmart supermarket in Phú Nhuận (48 Hoa Sứ, district 7)
2. Bún bò Huế
This one has managed to make it out of the country but always remains overshadowed by its cousin, phở. It’s my mom’s favourite. Thicker vermicelli rice noodles drowned in a richer broth with different cuts of meat – on the bone of course – and the Vietnamese version of pâté. I know, you’re not used to it but give it a taste before passing any judgement. Once again, garnish it with banana blossom, Asian basil, other herbs and a squeeze of lime.
Address: “Quán Huế Mô Tê” at 2 Trần Nhật Duật Phường Tân Định District 1
3. Chả cá
I was suspicious about this dish, just because fish and fish sauce sounds like too much fish to me, newly pescatarian. But as they say, don’t judge a book by its cover: try this Vietnamese dish which is for once not broth based. This makes it actually very refreshing, that is until you reach the spicy sauce hidden at the bottom of the bowl under your noodles and veggies. Spicyphobes, keep away and if your eyes and nose start crying, reach out for the iced lotus tea (Tra Da), it always helps!
Address: “Bún Mắm Nêm Cô Nổ”, 19/13 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, District 1
4. Mì Quảng
Another rice noodle based dish. Sorry… Vietnam is one of the first rice producers in the world, what are you going to do? It’d be like asking a French pâtisserie what they have that’s gluten or dairy free. Those noodles are flat, but really nice and thick so you feel very full. The broth is on the thicker side. If all that wasn’t rich enough, they add lots of peanuts. It’s fine, surely the fresh garnish cancels it out.
Address: “Mì Quảng Mỹ Sơn” at 262 Phan Xích Long, District 7
In terms of price, let me point out to you that none of those places is fancy nor expensive, so you won’t break the bank with a meal for under 60,000 VND