With a rapidly growing popularity of gastronomy, Vietnam is attracting an increasing number of visitors coming to enjoy the brilliant, healthy, and delicious local dishes. You may have already heard of our famous Phở that many Western people mispronounce as Phò, which is hilarious for us because it means prostitute. However, to avoid this mistake you want to make sure to pronounce it as ‘fuh’ instead. But did you know that there are probably more than a dozen types of other noodles and ways to make them throughout Vietnam? In this article I am going to take you on a mouth-watering virtual food tour to try the best noodles of Northern Vietnam.
Phở, or pho, consists of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, and meat, such as beef, chicken, or duck eaten in various forms of noodle soup, stir fried dishes (phở xào), or rolled flat rice slides of noodles (phở cuốn). Phở is often served with fresh lime or home-made vinegar, fresh chilly, and a wide variety of herbs on the side. Come to the streets named Lò Đúc, Lý Quốc Sư, and Ngũ Xã - where you can probably smell the sophisticated broth made with grilled cinnamon, cloves, coriander pods, star anise, and cardamom.
Pho between the Northern and Southern parts of Vietnam, and even different restaurants within Hanoi, differs in the sweetness of broth and choices of herbs. After the Vietnam War, many refugees had brought this recipe with them out of the country to many other parts of the world, making the dish one of the most famous in Vietnamese cuisine nowadays.
Bún or rice noodles
Rice vermicelli is a thin variation of rice noodles or rice sticks. Many people confuse them with cellophane noodles or glass noodles, or even miến as we usually refer to it as; which I will explain later in the next paragraph. Among the dozens of bún made across the country, the most popular dishes in Northern Vietnam are served with grilled pork (bún chả), pork paste (bún mọc), tofu (bún đậu - originating from Hanoi), fish (bún cá), crab meat (bún riêu cua), and even snails (bún ốc). Yummy!
Be careful before ordering bún đậu on the street restaurants. They are usually served either with fish sauce, or shrimp paste sauce - which can be stinky, mostly to those who are not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine. I love shrimp paste though! One of the top must-try bun noodle dishes in Hanoi is Bún Thang. The sophisticated dish is made with chicken meat, egg, steamed pork cake (all shredded), and lots of vegetables. If you plan to stick around the Old Town area, come to the old streets named Hàng Mành, Hàng Hành, Hàng Bè, or Hàng Đậu to enjoy the best sorts of bún in Vietnam.
Miến or glass noodles
As I already mentioned, another type of delicious noodle in Vietnam that you must try is miến. Glass noodles are often served in soup or stir fried - my favourite! They can be made with chicken, duck, and even eel. Stir fried glass noodles with eels and added herbs is a favourite dish of mine from when I was a kid, which I miss a lot now that I have been living and traveling abroad for almost 5 years. Some of the best restaurants for this can be found on Hàng Điếu and Hàn Thuyên streets. If you have a chance to experience the Vietnamese Lunar New Year’s Eve with a local family, try their miến cooked with chicken or pork, bamboo shoots, and lots of yummy fresh herbs that we love!
Necessary tips for eating around Vietnam
There are certain things about eating around Vietnam that you need to know before arriving. Always ask them if there’s extra chilli in the dish already, as Asian food can be extremely spicy for Western travelers, but medium hot for the locals. Herbs, chilli, vinegar, and spices are often served on the side. Also, remember to try Kuay (quẩy in Vietnamese) and Vietnamese ice tea (trà đá). We usually enjoy the noodle soup much better with these extra treats. Many locals nowadays use the Lozi application to find the best locations for local specialties, and share their real-life experiences from eating at these places. Stay tuned for my up-coming article about Southern Vietnam’s soup guide!
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