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A Beginner’s Guide to Vietnamese Culinary Style

Nothing reflects the richness in a countrys’ culture, history and geography better than the local food. The great selection of traditional Vietnamese food differs from the North to the South and encompasses 3 distinct cuisines. Before you treat yourself with the finest cuisine of Vietnam, here is my guide for understanding its 3 culinary styles.

Regional variations in Vietnam cuisine

The North

The food of the North has this brilliant balance of the sweet and the salty using mainly fish sauce and shrimp sauce.  The use of fresh herbs is not extensive as other regions because its climate is less hospitable. However, herbs, spices and aromatics are still commonly used such as star anise added in Pho broth, or herbs wrapped into spring rolls.


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Beef Pho


The freshness of each ingredient is crucial when they are all selected in the very early morning in the local market. Many people appreciate Hanoi cuisine given that it represents the most typical of culinary elite Northern Vietnam with famous dishes including Pho (noodle soup with beef/chicken), Bun Thang (Vermicelli Soup with Chicken, Egg, Pork) and Banh Cuon (rice flour steamed rolls)


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Banh Cuon


The South

The food of the South is heavily influenced by China, Cambodia, and Thailand where the sweet flavor is preferred.You can obviously realize that the dishes are typically sweeter with the use of sugar and coconut cream. Vast shorelines make seafood a staple in the diet of the local people in this region. Some common dishes are Bun Bo Nam Bo (dry noodles with beef), BanhXeo (crispy Vietnam pancake), Canh Chua (sour soup)


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Banh Xeo


The Central 

Chilly is used in most dishes in the Central of Vietnam to create a spicy flavor which sets it apart from the two other regions of Vietnam. Hue, the old capital of the last dynasty of Vietnam, reflects a typical royal style of the central Vietnamese dishes. Foodswhich are colorful, decorative and complex are served in small portions.Some of the local specialties are Cao Lau (Hoi An noodle), Bun Bo Hue (Hue Spicy Beef Noodle), My Quang(Quang Style noodle)


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Banh Beo, Banh Nam


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Cao Lau


Typical Vietnamese meal

Despite the differences, there are still similarities found all over the country.

Vietnamese life revolves around the family and community. Therefore, daily meals, especially dinnerare intangible strings to connect family members together and enjoy over a meal after a hard day. As the Vietnamese saying goes; even our Gods don’t dare to disturb us during our meals, symbolizing the importance of the meal.

A typical Vietnamese meal (lunch and/or dinner) will include steamed rice, a soup dish to eat with rice, a meat/fish dish and a vegetarian dish (either stir fried or boiled).As the second largest rice exporter in the world, rice seems to appear in almost every meal. I don’t think you will ever leave Vietnam without trying some of the high quality rice.


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Unlike the Western style, the Vietnamese don’t have individualdishes when going out for dinner. Food is placed in the middle and each member of the family has a small bowl and chopsticks which allow him/her to take food from different plates throughout the meal. Make sure you are ready to roll up your sleeves and learn how to use chopsticks since these are essential for enjoying the Vietnamese cuisine.

Where to go


1.New Day: Vietnamese Food
Add: 72 Ma May Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Tel: + 84 3 828 0315

2.Yin & Yang: Vietnamese Food
Add: 48 Ma May Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Tel: +84 4 39 35 2349

3.Cha Ca: Vietnamese Grilled Fish
Add: 14 Cha Ca Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Tel: + 84 4 3825 3929

4.Mason Sen:  Buffet – Vietnamese Food
Add: 61 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hanoi
Tel: +84 4 39 44 97 35

5.Com Viet: Set menu, A La Carte – Vietnamese Food
Add: 63 Pham Hong Thai Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Tel: +84 4 3 927 5920


1.CucGachQuan: Vietnamese Traditional Food (countryside style)
Add: 10 Dang Tat, ward Tan Dinh, District 1, HCMC
Tel: +848 38480144/ +84 1 6571010101

2.Pho Co Saigon: Vietnamese Food
Add: 211 Dien Bien Phust, Ward 6, District 3, HCMC
Tel: +84 8 8299625

3.Co Ngu: Vietnamese & Western Food
Add: 278 Vo ThiSau Street, Dist 3, HCMC
Tel: +84 8 3827 5702

4.BanhXeo: Vietnamese Pancakes
Add:46A Dinh Cong Trang, District 3, HCMC
Tel: +84 8 39306120

5.Huong Lai: Vietnamese Food
Add: 38 Ly TuTrong Street, District 1, HCMC
Tel: +84 8 3822 6814

6.Bun RieuNha: Crab Noodle Soup
Add: 19E Ky Dong, District 3, HCMC
Tel: +84 9 0866 4270/ +84 9 8471 1332


1.Elegant Restaurant and Lounge : Vietnamese Food
Add: 29 Vo ThiSau Street, HueCity
Tel: +84 914430209/+84 9142961195 /+84 911008822/+84 989143117/+84 914415268

2.Hanh Restaurant: Hue Specialty (‘Hue Lemongrass And Potato Cake’ is worth trying)
Add: 11 Pho DucChinh Street, Hue City
Tel: +84 5 4383 3552.

3.Family Home Restaurant: Vietnamese andEuropean food
Add: 11/34 Nguyen Tri Phuong Street, Hue City
Tel:   +84 5 4382 0668

4.Golden Rice: Vietnamese food
Add: 40 Pham Ngu Lao Street, Hue City
Tel: +84 5 4362 6938 

Hoi An

1.Banh Mi Phuong (Phuong Bread) : Vietnamese bread
Add: 2B Phan Chau Trinh Street, Hoi An
Tel:  +84 9 0574 3773

2.Buffet – Vietnamese food:  Vietnamese & Western food
Add: 105 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An
Tel: +84 5 102241555

3.Secret Garden: Vietnamese food
Add: Down the alley next to 60 Le Loi, Hoi An

4.Dao Tien or Dao Tien River: Set menu, Buffet, BBQ, A La Carte – Vietnamese  food
Add: 19/4 PhanBoi Chau Street, Hoi An Or 21 PhanBoi Chau Street, Hoi An
Tel: +84 5 1039 14996

Despite the regional variety, all of the cuisines apply the principle of Yin and Yang in selecting ingredients or matching dishes as compared to climatic conditions and the current physical well-being of the dinners. Concerning the food, it’s all about balancing; the sweet and the salty, the cool and the warm, the fresh and the fermented.


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