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7 must-try Vietnamese dishes that aren't pho

From colourful and fresh summer rolls to savoury doughnuts, dive into an incredible cuisine based on flavour and diversity.


Vietnamese dishes are some of the world’s tastiest. During the 20th century, Brits might have opted for Chinese food - as it was the Asian cuisine they were most familiar with - but the past two decades have seen a steady boom for Vietnamese food. And for good reason, Vietnamese cuisine is low in fat, incredibly fresh, and big on flavour, incorporating a colourful range of fresh vegetables, warming stocks, piles of herbs, and tropical fruits.

Perhaps you have tried some of the country’s most popular dishes. You’re most likely to have tried pho, not only because it's the national dish of Vietnam, but because it is simply delicious. While pho has permeated mainstream food culture in the UK, there might be several other typical Vietnamese foods that you might not know about – and therefore might be missing out on. 

Whether you’re planning a holiday in Vietnam, or you would like to get a little more experimental at your local Vietnamese restaurant, here are some tasty and diverse Vietnamese dishes you might need to try:

Bún bò nam bộ - beef noodles from the south

If you have always been a fan of quick, tasty, and fuss-free street food, Bún bò nam bộ might be the dish for you. Bún bò nam bộ is an invigorating combination of vermicelli rice noodles and marinated beef topped with dried onions, bean sprouts, peanuts, and green papaya.

As the name of the dish translates to ‘noodles with beef from the south’, one of the best places to try it is in Ho Chi Minh, the capital of southern Vietnam. 

Com Ga - Hoi An chicken rice

If you’re thinking of paying a visit to the UNESCO-listed city of Hoi An, you must! Not only will you be met with a unique nightlife and a range of tailors that will create customised clothing for you, but you will also get to try the city’s famed chicken rice.

Enjoy tender strips of chicken flavoured with fresh coriander, fried onions, and lots of savoury chicken stock - which is perfectly soaked up by a bed of turmeric rice.

Bánh xèo - Vietnamese crepes

If you’re a fan of crepes, you need to taste this delicious Vietnamese dish. bánh xèo comprises an irresistibly crunchy outer layer made from rice batter and turmeric. This tasty, versatile shell is then stuffed with a variety of fresh ingredients including shrimp, sprouts, pork belly, and mung beans.

Che - dessert soup

If you’re battling the fierce heat in Vietnam, che will be a lifesaver. This unique street food doubles as a desert, and has a coconut milk base served with sweet beans, jelly, fruit, and crushed ice. It can be an acquired taste for some, but give it a go.

Cá kho tộ - braised fish

Fancy something a little different? Try local catfish. Cá kho tộ is a caramelised, braised catfish which incorporates fish sauce, sugar, black pepper, green onions, and red pepper within a clay pot dish. Pair it with the national staple of white rice.

If you’re looking to eat this meal in the most authentic way possible, ask for it in restaurants in southern Vietnam where meat and fish are in abundance.

Banh ran - savoury doughnuts

Feeling peckish but not starved? Then get your hands banh ran. This bite-sized dish is the nation’s answer to the doughnut, made up of a unique combination of glutinous rice flour, mashed potatoes, and sugar. These are available with a range of delicious fillings including beef, prawns, glass noodle, and vegetables.

Gỏi cuốn - summer rolls

Now, these are some colourful classics you have probably seen or tried before. These light and healthy finger foods are a great alternative to fried spring rolls and can also be eaten on the go instead of a heartier meal like pho or noodles.

Gỏi cuốn is often rolled up with cold vermicelli, crunchy vegetables, tofu, prawn, or pork, accompanied with a creamy peanut sauce or for more depth, hoisin.

Sample all the best street foods, refreshing desserts, and hearty pho Vietnam has to offer. Check out our range of tours to Vietnam today.

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