One blog post simply wasn’t enough to cover our favorite eats over a month in Vietnam. Continuing from part one, here are our favorite Rice and Noodle dishes, Meats and Seafood, Drinks, and some honorable mentions.
Rice and Noodles
Bun Cha is the turkey sandwich of Hanoi. This is what everyone is having for lunch. You get a bowl of noodles, a plate of greens and herbs, and a bowl of grilled pork and sausage floating in a sweet and sour broth. Combine to your liking, add garlic and chiles, and enjoy! Our favorite version was at a spot in the French Quarter (located at 47c Mai Hac De) for just 30,000 VND! This place also had the flakiest, crabbiest Nem Cua (crab spring rolls) too. If you want your significant other to still like you after lunch, grab some of the complimentary mints on your way out the door.
Bun Bo Nam Bo
Stir-fried marinated beef on rice noodles and lettuce topped with pickled vegetables, chopped peanuts, and fried shallots. We loved the version we got at 67 Hang Dieu in Hanoi.
Cau Lau is made with a thick, chewy noodle — legend has it that it’s made by a single family who gets their water from a single well in Hoi An. It’s topped with roasted pork, vegetables, just a ladle full of broth to moisten things up, crispy fried noodles, lime, and chile paste. We got this from the sweet lady at stall #34 of the Central Market food hall in Hoi An.
Com Tam means “broken rice.” Broken rice is made with bits and pieces of rice grains that are damaged in the milling process. It’s cheaper than whole grain rice but it also provides an interesting texture — almost like couscous. Com Tam is usually served like we had it on a sidewalk in Nha Trang — with a grilled marinated pork chop, vegetables, and fried egg. Fried eggs make everything better.
Xoi is sticky rice. At Xoi Yen in Hanoi, a multi-level restaurant open 24 hours a day, it comes topped with some sort of bean puree paste, crispy fried shallots, and your choice of meat. I got pork belly (on the left) and Skyler got the kitchen sink, every topping available (on the right).
Meats and Seafood
Just a few blocks off the beach behind the Novotel in Nha Trang is a row of Lau (hot pot) restaurants. They bring a burner and a pot full of broth to your table. You add meat, vegetables and noodles to your liking, let it cook, and serve yourself in small bowls.
Oc Vi Saigon, a sidewalk seafood restaurant in Hanoi, serves these delicious clams in a broth that’s sweet from pineapple, fragrant from loads of lemongrass, and spicy from bright red chiles. A bowl was just 60,000 VND ($3).
Our prior exposure to squid was limited to bad versions of (probably pre-frozen) fried calimari. For our cooking class in Hoi An, Van showed us how to pick out fresh squid at the market — we picked ones still wiggling after being plucked from the water just offshore that morning. Then she showed us how to clean it and chop it up, and taught us a stir fry with lemongrass and chiles. This was, by far, the best squid we’d ever had.
We were frustrated with the lack of local eats around our hotel in Hue and disappointed with what was supposed to be the best Bun Bo Hue in town, so we turned to the internet. This article from Travel and Leisure led us to Huyen Anh, a place serving Thit Nuong — marinated grilled beef over a salad of lettuce, herbs, cucumber, bean sprouts, chiles, and chopped peanuts. We took a cab from the Citadel and walked down an alleyway into the restaurant, already packed with locals at 11:30 AM on a Friday. It was one of those places you knew would be good immediately upon walking in. We loved our lunch there, even though the cab ride was about double the cost of the meal itself!
This was a nice find thanks to a blog post on Travelfish. Kids our age or younger filled the sidewalks of an alleyway on a Friday night — munching on grilled chicken, toasted bahn mi, and grilled kebabs of honey glazed sweet potatoes. A table next to us sang along to a guy playing guitar and someone on the end of the street even brought a portable karaoke machine. We were the only Westerners in sight.
After a few too many rounds of bia hoi (see below), we thought ordering an entire Vit Quay (roast duck) and Nom Vit (duck salad) was a good idea. Then Skyler decided she didn’t want any. So I ate as much as I could by myself and had enough for breakfast (for both of us) the next day.
Bia Hoi is cheap, unfiltered, preservative-free draft beer delivered daily to shops around Vietnam. We found it mostly up north, for as little as 3000 VND/glass. That’s 14 CENTS….this has to be the cheapest beer in the world! We enjoyed grabbing a stool on a street corner and having a few with a plate of boiled peanuts.
The refreshing unsweetened Vietnamese green tea served alongside coffee and always available for just a few thousand dong at restaurants and street stalls. We’re addicts.
Far from great, but at 3 bucks a bottle, much better than the two-buck-chuck in your fridge. It’s made from local grapes (even cheaper versions of Dalat wine are made with mulberries). Drank slightly chilled, it makes for a nice change from the terrible local beers and a nice evening on your balcony in Dalat.
The Vietnamese are serious coffee addicts. We previous wrote all about the coffee we had in Vietnam. For something really unique, I highly recommend seeking out a Cafe Trung (egg coffee) in Hanoi.
Juices and Fruit Shakes
We couldn’t get over how orange their orange juice was. The skin on the oranges here is green because Vietnam never gets a Florida-style cold snap, which apparently turns the peels orange. We’re spoiled on freshly squeezed juice here in SE Asia.
Breakfast at Hoang Trinh
The Hoang Trinh guesthouse in Hoi An was the best place (of many great places) we stayed in Vietnam. The girls at the front desk were all so friendly. They’d give us fresh fruit and juice when we came back from whatever we were doing that day. And their free breakfasts — omelettes, pancakes, fruit, shakes, bread, tea, coffee, soup, noodles — were huge. “Order whatever you want, keep ordering until you are full!” they told us.
Mi Quang, a central Vietnam noodle specialty, is worth a try if you find it. It’s composed of rice noodles topped with shrimp or pork, quail eggs, fresh vegetables and herbs, crushed peanuts, and a splash of broth. We had it at Hi Restaurant, in the row of food stalls across the river in Hoi An. We also ordered crispy fried wontons that were the Vietnamese version of loaded nachos, and White Rose, little shrimp dumplings topped with fried shallots.
Com Hen is a rice dish topped with clams, chiles, herbs, vegetables, and peanuts. A hot clam broth is served on the side. We found it from a sidewalk lady while wondering around lost one night in Hue. Not our favorite, but really unique and worth a try.
Fried Eel Noodles
You’ve got to try everything once, right? There was a fried eel place near our hotel in Hanoi that was just packed every day for lunch. We shared a plate over stir fried vermicelli and the usual toppings of pickled veggies, fresh herbs, and peanuts. They were sliced thin and coated in a thin, crispy batter. Really, not bad!