Typical Vietnamese Dishes
NEM (SPRING ROLL)
is a popular dish in Viet Nam. The dish is called Nem Ran by northerners
and Cha Gio by southerners. Nem is a preferred dish on special occasions
such as Tet Festival and other get-togethers. Ingredients to prepare
for the dish are pretty simple in comparison with others. They remain
such substances as mince pork, sea crabs, eggs mixed with minced
Jew's ears, thin-top mushroom, pachyrrhizus, then rolled in a thin
dry pancake and fried. It is such a simple but very delicious and
- 2 oz translucent rice vermicelli or cellophane noodles,
- 2 tsp dried tree ears (wood fungus or wood ears), soaked
until soft and chopped
- 3 Chinese mushroom caps, soaked until soft and chopped
- 6 oz minced pork
- 4 oz water chestnuts, chopped
- 2 stalks spring onions, chopped
- 2 tsp nuoc mam (fish sauce)
1 tsp pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 12-14 sheets banh trang
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- Cornstarch (optional)
- Put all ingredients except banh trang or rice paper in a
large mixing bowl and blend well.
- Adding a tablespoon of cornstarch will give the mixture
a smooth texture, but this is optional.
- To adjust seasoning, boil a small nugget of mixture and
taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- In a bowl of tepid water gently lower each sheet of banh
trang or spring roll skin until soft and shake off excess
- Very carefully, lay sheets on a clean chopping board.
- Place a heaped tablespoon of mixture on sheet or skin, roll
over once, and fold in sides.
- Roll over once more and tuck in firmly, patting the ends
- Finish making rolls as oil heats in the wok.
- Gently lower each roll in the oil to deep fry - a few at
a time until light brown and crisp.
Nem should be dipped in Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce). Here is the recipe
for the sauce.
Ingredients for the sauce
2 Tbls. sugar
- 2 Tbls. warm water
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 Tbls. fish sauce (nuoc mam)
- The juice and pulp from 1/2 a lime (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 red chillies, stemed, seeded and sliced thin
- 1 Tbls. white vinegar
water and sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.
the other ingredients and stir.
NOM (SALAD WITH HERBS)
Nom is a combination of a variety of fresh vegetables, considered
to be salad in Western countries. Yet, the make-up of nom is slightly
different. Nom can be prepared with or without meat or shrimp, and
is often served with 'nem' (spring roll).
main ingredients include grated pieces of turnip, cabbage or papaya
and slices of cucumber with grated boiled lean pork. Other auxiliary
ingredients are grated carrot, slices of hot chilly and broken roasted
ground nuts. These are used to make the dish more colourful. All
are mixed thoroughly before being soaked in vinegar, sugar, garlic,
hot chilly and seasoned with salt.
The presentation of the dish is also very meticulous. The mixture
of ingredients is put into a dish before being covered with some
To try a mouthful of nom is to enjoy a combination of all the tastes
life has to offer, including sour, hot, sweet, salty, and fragrant.
The dish helps digest at meal and party times. It can become an
addictive aid to assist the real connoisseur to enjoy more food.
1 lb (500 g) pearl onions or small boiling (pickling) onions,
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white (distilled) vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 lb (500 g) boneless and skinless chicken thigh and/or
breast, or about 3 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken,
bones and skin removed
- about 3 cups water or stock
- 2 cups bean sprouts (about 5 oz/150 g), rinsed and drained
- 1/2 bunch mint or Vietnamese mint (rau ram), leaves only,
coarsely torn (about 1 oz/30 g)
- 3 fresh long red chilies, seeded and very coarsely chopped
- 3 limes, freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
the onions into quarters, and marinate for about 10-15 minutes in
the vinegar, sugar, and fish sauce.
If using raw chicken, bring the water or stock to a boil and plunge
the chicken into the water or stock. Lower the heat immediately
to a bare boil, and simmer the chicken for about 5-7 minutes, or
until the flesh has cooked white and opaque throughout. Stir occasionally
to ensure even cooking. Remove from the liquid, cool, then shred
with fingers or two forks into small bits. The consistency should
be long shreds, not a fine dice. Reserve in a mixing bowl. Pre-cooked
chicken merely needs shredding.
If using the sprouts, bring another pot of water to a boil. Plunge
the sprouts into the boiling water, then drain immediately and refresh
under cold water.
Roll several mint leaves at a time into a tight bundle and thinly
slice crosswise with a knife to create a chiffonade shred. Prepare
At the last moment, toss all the prepared ingredients together,
including the vinegar marinade. Season with lime juice, salt and
pepper, and if desired, garnish with a chili flower.
PHO (RICE NOODLE)
the famous noodle soup of Hanoi and considered by some to be Vietnam's
national dish, is a common breakfast or snack.
Steaming bowls of soup, often topped with chopped cooked chicken
instead of the more expensive rare beef, are sold from numerous
food stalls and small restaurants in city streets.
The success of this dish depends on the full-flavoured stock, for
which there is no quick substitute. Even though it takes a long
time to cook, it is well worth the effort. The stock can be made
in advance and frozen, making it easy to put the dish together when
Fresh ginger, thinly sliced into 2 in length
Nuoc cham sauce
Thick fresh rice noodles
Rump steak, thinly sliced
Spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
Medium onion, very thinly sliced
the bones, gravy beef, ginger, salt and water in a large pan.
- Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer very
gently, uncovered, for 3 1/2 hours.
- Skim off any scum that forms on the surface.
- Add the peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds and
nuoc cham sauce. Cook for another 40 minutes.
- Remove the gravy beef and set it aside to cool.
- Drain the stock, reserving all the liquid and discarding
the bones and spices. Return the liquid to the pan. When the
gravy beef is cool enough to handle, cut it against the grain
into very fine slices. Set aside.
- Close to serving time, plunge the noodles into a pan of
boiling water and cook them for about 10 seconds only, otherwise
they will soften and fall apart. Drain the noodles well and
divide them among large individual soup bowls.
- Arrange the toppings on a platter in the centre of the table.
- Bring the beef stock to a rapid boil. Place some slices
of the cooked meat as well as a few slices of the raw steak
into each bowl of noodles. Ladle the boiling stock over the
top, sprinkle over the spring onion (scallion) and onion slides
and serve. Each diner chooses their own toppings and can also
add sauces such as sweet chili sauce and hoisin sauce to their
red chili, bean sprouts, fresh purple basil leaves, chopped
spring onions (scallions), thin lime wedges, fresh coriander
Chili sauce and hoisin sauce (optional)
BUN CHA (NOODLE WITH FISH OR PORK)
for this dish include rice vermicelli, grilled pork and spicy, raw
vegetables and well mixed fish sauce. For a dish of bun cha you
take a dish of rice vermicelli, a dish full of vegetables and a
bowl of fish sauce combined with vinegar, sugar, hot chilly, garlic
and pepper. The sauce will then contain all the essential tastes,
sour, hot, salty, and sweet. To cap it all there would be a healthy
smell from the garlic and pepper. Grilles of well cooked pork would
be opened and the contents dropped into the bowl of fish sauce.
There are two kinds of cha (grilled pork) used, depending on the
cut of the meat. If the pork is cut into small pieces it is called
cha mieng (piece of grilled pork), but if it is minced prior to
being shaped into small cubes it is named cha bam (minced grill
Apart from pork, cha can also be made of fish, which is called 'Cha
Ca'. The vitality and popularity of 'cha ca' was recognized by a
particular event which occurred over hundred years ago in Hanoi.
The former paint street in the old quarter of the city was renamed
Cha Ca street in tribute to the delicious dish. The creation of
this famous food, which has bought so much fame to the capital city,
was attributed to the Doan family who lived at 14 Cha Ca. To make
clients notice their shop the Doan family took the initiative of
placing outside a statute of La Vong (an old fisherman), with a
fishing rod on one hand and a bamboo creel on the other hand. Hence
the name Cha Ca La Vong. The recipe written here is for grilled
pork, not grilled fish.
1 large clove
Vietnamese fish sauce
Garlic, finely chopped
Shallot, finely chopped
Palm or golden caster sugar
Boneless pork lion, minced
Rice noodles, cooked
Coriander (cilantro) leaves, basil leaves, mint leaves and chives.
Lettuce leaves, torn
melt the light muscovado sugar with two-thirds of the fish
sauce in a heavy based saucepan, stirring all the time.
- Allow to cool a little then transfer it to a bowl and combine
it with the garlic, shallot, palm or caster sugar, the remaining
fish sauce and salt.
- Add the minced pork, mix thoroughly, then cover and leave
to stand for 3 hours.
- Shape the minced pork into 20-24 flat little patties, about
1 inch in diameter, place them under a preheated grill and
cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through. The
patties are also very good cooked on the barbecue.
- To serve, divide the noodles between 4 warmed bowls, add
the pork, torn lettuce leaves, bean sprouts and herbs.
- Spoon the dipping sauce over the whole lot.
XOI (STEAMED STICKY RICE)
Sticky Rice is a traditional delicious dish much enjoyed by the
Vietnamese. In rural areas, sticky rice is an indispensable part
of major banquets held on special and traditional festivals including
Tet (Lunar New Year) festival. In urban centres, Xoi is most preferred
by people in their breakfast. In Vietnam, there are a lot of things
bearing prints of the national cultural character and steamed sticky
rice is one among them.
Not many people know that the Phu Gia village near Hanoi is renowned
for making this traditional and delicious dish. Every household
there has their own way of cooking sticky rice. Its flavour is decided
by the recipes. Some households take advantage of modern facilities
which are very convenient for their cooking whereas some others
prefer traditional cooking tools as they think that the food will
be much more delicious. As a result, the traditional style set up
by their ancestors will be retained. In preparation, they have to
wash the rice carefully and soak it in clean water over night. Steamed
sticky rice will be placed in baskets whose bottom is covered with
washed lotus or banana leaves. The baskets are finally capped with
rush-woven lids to keep the heat.
from early morning the villagers get up to cook sticky rice for
selling. Many villagers in Phu Gia have become prosperous from selling
steamed sticky rice, a contribution to the diversity of traditional
craft of Hanoi.
cups sweet or glutinous rice
1/3 cup dried shrimp
1/2 pound Chinese sausage diced 3/4-inch pieces (available
in Chinese Markets, no substitute)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 pound boneless pork chops, 2 thin pieces, at least
1/4 cup chopped green onions, plus extra for garnish
1-teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Nuoc Cham, recipe follows
rice in bowl and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Allow
to soak for at least 3 hours and up to overnight. Drain the
rice in a colander and transfer it to a traditional bamboo
sticky rice steaming basket, or another steaming vessel such
as a colander or strainer that can sit above boiling water
inside of another pot. Add water to the pot and bring to a
boil. Add steaming basket with rice and cover. Steam rice
for 30 to 45 minutes, until soft and sticky. (The length of
time required to cook the rice will depend on how long the
rice was soaked, longer soakings require less steaming time.)
Remove the pot from the heat, uncover, and fluff with a fork.
Keep it warm and fluff it again right before serving.
In a small sauce pan, place the dried shrimp and 1 cup cold
water, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Drain and rinse under cold water. Dice the shrimp and place
in a bowl and set aside.
In a dry sauce pan, brown the Chinese sausage until brown
on all sides. Remove and place in the bowl with the shrimp.
In the same sauce pan, heat the 2 teaspoons oil and fry the
pork chops until brown on both sides. Remove the pork chops
and place in the bowl with the shrimp.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok over a
high flame. Add the scallions and quickly cook for 3 minutes
or until softened. Then add the pork, shrimp, and sausage,
and fry for 1 minute, stirring well, then add the fish sauce,
soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper. Continue cooking for 3
Re-fluff your rice and place in a large bowl. Add the meat
mixture to the rice, and, mix together. Press this mixture
into a 8-inch round baking pan. It can then be turned out
onto a serving platter and cut into 8 wedges. Sprinkle with
chopped green onions and a drizzle of Nuoc Cham.
Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce):
cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fresh hot chili pepper (about 1 1/2-inch long), finely chopped
1/4-cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
5 tablespoons water
In a small bowl place garlic and chili. Squeeze in the lime
and using a small knife, remove some of the pulp. Add the
fish sauce, sugar, and water. Mix well.
6) BANH CHUNG
Lunar New Year (Tet) will never be complete without this cake. It's
very heavy, very filling, an Atkin dieter's nightmare, but it taste
amazing. It takes a LONG time to cook. You read right that it takes
6 hours. And overnight soaking of rice and beans!
enough, the story of this famous dish dates back to the early history
of Vietnam, about more than 2 thousand years ago. When Hung Vuong,
king of the Van Lang kingdom, decided to choose a successor king
among his many sons, he declared that whoever pleased him with their
special present would come to the throne. Tiet Lieu, the youngest
prince came up with Banh Chung that was simple, delicious, and meaningful,
to eventually land the throne. Explaining to the father king of
why he made Banh Chung, Tiet Lieu said "Rice is the most precious
and valuable of all food found in this Kingdom, yet it is abundant.
I prepare a dish that represents the love of our nation for you
and your kingdom. The square Banh Chung is to symbolize the earth
we live on.". To complete his philosophy of the Earth and Sun,
Tiet Lieu also presented to the king another small rice-flour cake
called banh day, as it would, according to him, symbolize the sky.
200 g glutinous rice, soaked overnight
- 100-150 g mung beans, soaked overnight
- 100 g pork, cut into chunks,seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Strings and 6 phrynium leaves or banana leaves can be used
Steam or boil mung bean with half a tsp of salt until soft,
may take up to 45 minutes depending on how large your steamer
- Smash bean thoroughly.
- Place 2 leaves in one direction, slightly overlapping, then
2 perpendicular, also overlapping, and the last layer like
- If use aluminum foil, place them crossing each other.
- Place half of the rice on the leaves, topped with half of
the mung beans.
- Lay the pork on top of the beans, and then add the last
of the beans followed by last of the rice.
- Fold the leaves/foils over the cake very tightly into a
square, use string to secure the cake.
- Place in a large pot, cover with water and boil for about
- Add water every hour if necessary.
- After 6 hours or so, remove the cake, submerge it into cold
water for a few minutes.
- The cake lasts up to 10 days on a cool dry place.
- The easiest way to cut up the cake is to open it and use
the string to cut it up into 8 portions.
- Best served with pickled onions.
BANH CUON (RICE FLOUR STEAMED ROLLS)
cuon is favourite breakfast for many Vietnamese. While there are
many kinds of "banh cuon", connoisseurs insist that none
can compare to that made in Thanh Tri commune where the dish is
served with a dressing comprised of lean meat, shrimps, mushrooms,
dried onions, which have been fried to a deliciously crispy shade
of golden brown, fish sauce, and pepper. All the ingredients are
stir-fried and rolled into a banh cuon. Well-made banh cuon must
be very thin, white, and sticky. It is even tastier when dipped
in a sweet, sour, and spicy sauce.
ideal destination to try "banh cuon" is 66 To Hien Thanh
street, from 6a.m to 9a.m. This stall has operated for almost 50
years and is always full.
crispy roast pork or 4 fresh boneless pork streaky rashers
Fresh shrimps, cooked and halved
Cooked chicken, finely chopped
Pickled onions, cut into fine strips
Pickled gherkins, cut into fine strips
Round Banh Trang rice paper
make the cold crispy pork, take the four rashers of fresh
boneless pork. Mix the honey, dry sherry and chili powder
thoroughly. Spread the mixture over the pork. Allow to rest
for 1 hour or longer if possible.
- Grill the pork slices until really crisp. Turn often so
that they are evenly cooked. Allow to cool and cut into thin
- Soak the rice vermicelli in boiled water, slightly cooked.
When soft, drain thoroughly and leave to cool.
- Place a clean tea towel on the surface you are working on.
Dip singly sheets of Banh Trang into warm water and place
on the tea towel. They should be pliable and soft.
- Place some cold vermicelli, some shrimps, chicken, pork,
pickled onion, gherkin and carrot near the centre of the Banh
Trang but towards the bottom edge. Spread the filling out
to a sausage shape.
- Roll the bottom edge of the Banh Trang up and tuck tightly
under the mixture. Fold the left and right sides into centre
and then continue rolling away from you. This roll will be
transparent and allow you to see the mixture inside. Continue
until the mixture is used up.
- Place the cold, rolled, transparent spring rolls on a platter.
- Guests help themselves to lettuce leaves, one at a time.
The roll is placed on the leaf and some mint and coriander
are added. The whole is rolled up and dipped in the dipping
or round lettuce
8) CANH CA (FISH SOUP)
The most basic daily meal for a Vietnamese layperson would have
Com (Boiled Rice)
- Canh (Soup)
- Thit kho (Cooked Meat) or Ca Kho (Cooked Fish)
is a general name for vegetable soup. The soup can be cooked with
or without meat or fish. Depending on personal taste, canh can be
served on its own, with boiled rice (most commonly) or with different
types of noodle (pho, bun, mien). The recipe bellow for Sour Fish
Head Soup - (Canh Chua Dau Ca) is just an example of 'canh'
2 Scallions, white part only, crushed with the side of a knife
Sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
2 ts Salt
2 tb Plus 4 teaspoons fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1 lg Fish head or fish carcass, split down the center
1 qt Water
1/2 c Canned sliced sour bamboo
1/4 Fresh pineapple, cut in a lengthwise section and sliced
1 d MSG (optional)
2 tb Mixed chopped fresh coriander (Chinese parsley) and green
an excellent way to get twice the pleasure out of your fish purchase,
you can use either the fish head or the fish carcass if you wish.
To the people of South Viet Nam, this is as much their traditional
dish as Southern Fried Chicken is to our southerners--and it will
meet with instant praise.
Sprinkle the scallions, black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 4 teaspoons
fish sauce over the fish head. Allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes.
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and drop in the sour bamboo and
pineapple slices. Cook at a lively boil for 5 minutes. Drop fish
head into the actively boiling water and, keeping at a boil, add
the 2 tablespoons fish sauce, remaining teaspoon salt, and a dash
of MSG. Boil the fish head for a total of 10 minutes. Transfer to
a soup tureen, sprinkle on the coriander and scallion green, and
Note: If the fish head is dropped into water that is not boiling,
it will fall apart.
9) BRAISED MEAT (THIT KHO)
Vietnamese fish sauce
Boneless pork lion, thinly sliced
Hard boiled eggs, shelled and halved
Chinese chive flowers, for garnishing
the sugar in a small casserole over a low heat until it is
melted, stirring constantly.
- Slowly add the fish sauce and keep stirring vigorously until
it is all amalgamated.
- Add the shallots, garlic, pepper and pork slices to the
caramel, cover and simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes,
giving it an occasional stir around.
- To serve, arrange the sliced pork on a warmed platter with
the eggs and pour over the sauce, covering the eggs as well
as the pork.
- Garnish with Chinese chive flowers and serve a dish of rice
on the side.
RAU MUONG XAO (STIR-FRIED WATER SPINACH)
muong has no English translation but is sometimes referred to as
water spinach. It is considered the national vegetable of Vietnam.
It resembles green frisee and has a mild spinach taste.
2 tablespoons Spinach. shredded
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped
Nuoc cham sauce
some water in a large saucepan and throw in the spinach and
- Stir to ensure that all the leaves are cooking equally.
- The vegetable will wilt, shrink and turn a vivid green in
about 3 minutes.
- Drain and rinse under cold water to prevent further cooking.
- Then squeeze as much water out of the leaves as you can.
- Heat the oil in a wok, add the garlic and stir fry until
it is just beginning to turn golden.
- Throw in the spinach and watercress leaves.
- Stir fry with the garlic until all the leaves are coated
with oil and garlic and warmed through.
- This will take about 2 -3 minutes.
- Splash in the nuoc cham sauce, mix thoroughly and serve.