The best food tours in Vietnam
- on May 22, 2023       By: BN
Some countries have great cuisine, some have a captivating history, and some are incredibly beautiful. Vietnam, however, has all three in spades. With its colonial past and a number of minority ethnic groups, Vietnam is more than just Pho – it's a wealth of tastes, flavour combinations and culinary experiences just waiting to be discovered.
Where better to start than in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and the place of origin of Pho? Vietnam's famous noodle soup dish gained popularity after the war with the United States and has become a Vietnamese staple ever since while finding its way onto menus around the world. For such a simple dish of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and beef or chicken, the flavours can be surprisingly complex, and you might notice the difference between Pho Hanoi and Pho Saigon.
>> Read more: The best Vietnamese pho soup, Hanoi pho or Saigon pho?
Another local favourite in Hanoi is Cha ca, a fish dish spiced with turmeric, and Banh cuon, a light meal containing steamed rice noodle sheets stuffed with pork and mushrooms and served with a sauce of sweet fish. You'll have no trouble finding these foods in Hanoi - it would be hard to find a street in the Old Quarter that doesn't sell them.
>> Read more: Top 10 unmissable dishes in Vietnam
The Hmong people who inhabit the mountains of Sapa are warm and friendly, and many visitors leave the area with a handmade souvenir – but a great way to create real memories is to share their unique and special dishes. Thang co, made with spicy horse meat and organs, may not look too appetizing but tastes surprisingly pleasant, and it is a dish that many may not have the chance to try again.
For the delicate, the Sapa’s “Lon cap nach” - charcoal-roasted pork dish might be a better choice. Both can be found in markets in Sapa and the surrounding area.
>> Read more: The 10 typical Sapa dishes to try
The former capital of Vietnam, Hue's famous dish is Bun bo Hue. A noodle soup that has lived too long in the shadow of Pho, Bun bo Hue is a much more exciting dining experience, with salty, spicy, sweet and sour tastes all prevalent and with distinctive hints of lemongrass served among thicker rice noodles. Although the name implies that it contains beef, it is common to find pork products in this dish as well, alongside the usual vegetables. A perfect meal to re-energize after exploring the imperial ruins of Hue.
After spending the whole afternoon wandering around the yellow-brown UNESCO World Heritage buildings of Hoi An, one could be forgiven for being fed up with the colour - but exceptions must be made for the Cao lau. A dish that can be found only in Hoi An, Cao lau has noodles in the colour of Hoi An's famous buildings served in a bowl with grilled pork and locally sourced mixed greens. It can be hard, to tell the truth from myth - some say Cao lau can only be made with water from an ancient well and with lye ash from a local tree - but one fact is obvious: it is a delicious must-try dish for any visitor to Hoi An.
Another mouth-watering meal to try here is Com ga Hoi An – a classic chicken and rice dish available throughout the city.
>> Read more: Top 10 best places for a gourmet tour in Hoi An
We now venture into the cool highlands of Vietnam, and there is one product known throughout the country that is synonymous with Dalat – coffee. Dalat's altitude and atmosphere make it an ideal place to grow coffee, and indeed, you'll see it sold all over Vietnam. With a number of quirky cafes to visit and classic java egg brewing methods available to try, your cup of coffee in the office canteen might feel a little underwhelming when you get back - although you can always bring some back with you.
Dalat's highlands also make it one of the only places in Vietnam where strawberries grow, so you might want to treat yourself to a strawberry ice cream while you're there – after all, your culinary tour is almost over.
>> Read more: What to visit in Da Lat, city of eternal spring?
A true Saigon signature dish is the Com tam or broken rice. It’s a great way to reuse leftover broken rice, it has meat such as pork chops, pork skin, chicken or fish patties served over the broken rice and topped with the usual Vietnamese dishes. However, we started with Pho and so it's only natural to end with perhaps Vietnam's second most famous dish - Banh mi. This sandwich is a real throwback to the period of French colonialism and sees various pork or other meat products served in a crispy baguette alongside cheese, pâté and crispy vegetables. It’s available on every corner, the best ones may see you waiting a long time, as their delicious taste and ease of consumption make them a popular choice for Vietnamese and backpackers alike. Either way, it's better than a ham sandwich.
>> Read more: The 7 popular dishes to try in Saigon
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