5 Vietnamese noodle based dishes for first time visitors
Food lovers, rejoice! Here is a list of 5 iconic noodle dishes that will add more flavor to your first ever Vietnamese trip.
1. Bun thit nuong cha gio
Bun thit nuong cha gio is fast, fresh and is probably Saigon’s answer to Hanoi’s pho noodle soup. It consists of cold rice noodles and fresh vegetables including bean sprout, diced cucumber, pickled radish, and chopped lettuce. It is topped with lean grilled pork, fried crab springrolls and crushed peanuts and pickled daikon and carrot. It is better for the midday tropical heat than a steaming bowl of pho. Vendors carefully choose meat with the right ratio of lean meat and fat before marinating to make sure the meat does not get too dry after being grilled. And don’t forget the nuoc mam fish sauce, which ties all the components together perfectly.
2. Hu tieu Nam Vang
Hu tieu (called kuy teav or Phnom Penh noodle soup) is a Cambodian-Chinese dish that Saigoneers have borrowed and changed to suit their palate. Hu tieu is a kind of noodles soup served in the southern part of the country, and there are innumerable stalls serving it in Saigon. It also has a dry version, which is slightly chewy and comes with a stronger sauce. The toppings may include pork, pork ribs, pork offal, shrimp, squid, wonton dumplings, fried garlic, fried shallots, and scallions. But minced meat is a must-have ingredient. Food vendors simmer finely minced meat in water to make the soup sweet and fatty. Hu tieu has various versions for diners to choose from. The dish also has a “dried” verison, is lightly chewy with a stronger sauce than the “wet” variety.
3. Mi Quang
Another distinctive and wildly popular dish in the central region of Vietnam is mi Quang (Quang-style noodles). The dish features thick, wide, yellow rice noodles served in red-orange turmeric sauce with a choice of pork, chicken, shrimp, quail egg, mussel, and eel served in a soupy, beefy broth. To add texture, other ingredients like banh trang (sesame rice crackers), spring onion, basil, peanuts, coriander, lettuce, and sliced banana flowers are added. In the central city of Da Nang mi Quang is served with a thick broth while southerners tend to make it a full soupy dish. And don’t forget to add the rice crackers to add even more texture to this mouthwatering dish.
4. Bun bo Hue
Bun bo Hue, or Hue beef noodle soup, is a specialty of Hue in central Vietnam, where it was invented. The broth requires both pig and beef bones to be boiled with a generous dose of lemongrass, sugar, annatto, and shrimp paste. Vendors then add various things like sliced brisket, crab balls and pork pie. Adventurous eaters can also add cubed pig’s blood for even more flavor. When served, the dish is garnished with a tangle of vegetables like lime, scallion, cilantro, banana blossoms, mint, basil, and Vietnamese coriander. But be warned, if you are not a fan of spicy food: the original version in Hue packs much more of a punch than the bun bo Hue served in Saigon or Hanoi. Furthermore, many vendors in Saigon make the broth a little sweet to fit local tastes.
5. Bun rieu cua
Bun rieu cua is a vermicelli soup with a tomato-based broth made by slowly simmering pork or chicken bone. But unlike pho or bun bo Hue (Hue beef noodle soup), to which meat slices are added, the key protein component of this soup is the crab meat mixture made of freshwater mini crabs, pork and egg that is almost like a patty. This soup is hearty and wonderful during winter as it combines lots of ingredients like fried tofu, prawns, crab meat, pig blood pudding, bean sprouts and fresh Vietnamese herbs like perilla and cilantro. If you don’t mind the pungent smell, feel free to add some shrimp paste for extra savory since the soup is slightly acidic. Though its origin is in northern Vietnam, you can easily bump into a bun rieu food stall anywhere around the country.