Banh mi, pho, iced coffee, etc. have earned high marks from international travel magazines in 2022, reaffirming Vietnam’s growing reputation as a global culinary attraction.
In January, CNN included pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) in its list of the 20 best soups in the world, along with China’s Lanzhou noodle soup, and Thailand’s tom yum goong.
"By 1930, the soup was served with slices of raw beef cooked gently in the broth," CNN said.
Now, pho bo remains the most beloved version of the dish in Vietnam and has become the most popular breakfast in the country, with options that include the original raw beef, a mix of raw and cooked beef, brisket and tendon.
A bowl of pho bo in Ho Chi Minh city and Ha Noi cost between VND30,000 to 80,000 ($1.32-3.40).
"I love pho as it is well made," Australian tourist Helyne Price told reporters.
In May, CNN included Vietnam's popular banh mi in a list of the world's 23 best sandwiches, saying "it is widely loved well beyond the country's borders."
Considered the most popular street food in Vietnam, banh mi is also known as a Vietnamese sandwich that is a fusion of cold cuts and vegetables, such as coriander, cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, and pate, combined with French condiments such as mayonnaise.
A banh mi also often includes toppings such as cha lua (Vietnamese pork bologna), a fried egg, grilled pork, and meat balls.
A loaf with all the trimmings costs from VND15,000 to VND50,000.
American tourist Rita Joe Graybill described Vietnam’s banh mi as the best dish in Vietnam and certainly worth a try.
Also in May, CNN named banh cam, a southern Vietnamese deep-fried glutinous rice ball, as one of 30 best fried foods in the world.
Banh cam is made with tender glutinous rice flour filled with mung bean paste. The balls are then rolled in sesame seeds and fried. It is a highly favored dessert in the south.
A northern parallel to this dish is the banh ran, but this variation has a sugary syrup poured over it.
Ca phe sua da
In May, Canadian travel magazine The Travel listed Vietnam among 10 countries with a unique coffee culture, with ca phe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk) the best option.
Ca phe sua da is made using ground dark roast Vietnamese coffee topped off with ice and condensed milk. This thirst quencher can be found on most sidewalk coffee stalls.
A cup costs VND10,000-15,000.
"Vietnamese coffee is the best. Love, love, love it," Australian Libby Watkins said.
She said that she visited two Vietnamese restaurants back home, but although both were run by Vietnamese, "they certainly haven't got the coffee right."
Cha ruoi dish is served with fresh vegetables at the restaurant near Hoe Nhai Slope in Ba Dinh district, Ha Noi. Photo: Khanh Tran
In June, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post introduced cha ruoi (ragworm omelet) as "a Vietnamese delicacy not for the squeamish."
The seasonal dish is made with eggs and ragworms, or palolo worms, a kind of seaworm typically harvested between late autumn and early winter in northern localities of Vietnam.
The worms are normally found in brackish water in the northern coastal provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, as well as in Hai Phong city.
The ragworms are put in hot water to remove their tentacles and then mixed with minced pork, tangerine peel, herbs and eggs. This is then fried to a crisp.
Ragworm omelet is a popular snack during the chilly days of late autumn and early winter.
In August, SCMP also featured cao lau (roasted pork with thick Vietnamese noodles), a traditional dish in the ancient town Hoi An.
"Hoi An’s fantastic cao lau noodles tick all the flavor boxes when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine; they’re sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter," said the newspaper.
Besides poached noodles, a full bowl includes bean sprouts and herbs from Hoi An's famous Tra Que Village. On top of the dish sits thin slices of barbeque pork and crispy fried pig skin.
The SCMP also described bun ca (fried fish cake noodle soup) as a "not-to-be-missed dish" on a food tour of Ha Noi.
The Ha Noi-style fish noodle soup has a light broth made with fish bones. Ingredients are added to the mix, including tomatoes, wine vinegar and fresh dill.
A bowl of fish noodle soup includes crunchy fried catfish or bouncy fishcakes, along with mounds of fresh herbs such as coriander and basil.
The Hong Kong daily also introduced bun quay, or stirred noodles, a signature dish in the southern tourist island Phu Quoc.
The noodles originated in the central region where they were only served with ground shrimp. However, the recipe changed after the dish was introduced to Phu Quoc Island in 1995. Phu Quoc locals took the taste to a new level by adding fish, squid and other ingredients.
The noodles are made on site from rice flour. The cook puts a paste made from ground shrimp, fish and squid into bowls and adds onions and herbs. The boiled water that was used to cook the noodles is then poured over the ingredients which is then stirred. The noodles are added last to the dish.
In November, international food magazine TasteAtlas selected Vietnamese duck porridge among Asia’s 10 must-try duck dishes.
Steamed pieces of duck meat are typically the main ingredient in this rice porridge that is served with a fish sauce mixed with sliced hot chilies and minced ginger.
A bowl of duck porridge is also served with shallots, carrots, ginger, green onions, coriander, black pepper, and duck blood pudding.
The dish is usually eaten with a portion of salad made with thinly shaved banana flowers, Vietnamese coriander, carrots and red onions garnished with crushed peanuts.
A bowl of Vietnamese duck porridge costs VND30,000-50,000. You can try this dish at street-side beer stalls.