Friday, June 26, 2009

100 Vietnamese Foods to Try

Like most Americans, I was not familiar with Vietnamese food until the early 1980s. As a teacher to newly arrived adult immigrants, I was fortunate to be exposed relatively early to good Vietnamese cooking. Vietnamese culture puts a strong emphasis on respecting the teacher, and students who had little were generous in sharing gifts from their table.

I went on to live and work in several refugee camps in Malaysia and Indonesia--Pulau Bidong and Sungei Besi in Malaysia, and Pulau Galang in Indonesia. Although for the most part the camps in Malaysia provided less opportunity for the refugees to prepare their own dishes, still they did what they could to preserve the food they were used to. The photo at the top of this post shows children operating the mill to make soy milk and tofu. I had never been particularly fond of tofu before living on Bidong (too often in the US it was used as a substitute for meat in vegetarian dishes and just made the dishes taste wrong), but I began to eat it fairly regularly and liked it. It was on Bidong that I first tasted Banh Tieu, and I don't know that I've ever had one that tastes any better than those I had there. It was on Bidong that I also had my first Banh Mi, with onions and canned sardines in tomato sauce! This was during a stretch when the supply boats were having problems reaching the island because of rough seas. Although I don't really like sardines, the sandwich wasn't half bad.

The food was better on Galang. So were the conditions for the refugees. I think I first tasted bun rieu on Galang, at a student party. It was also on Galang that I first had tofu with lemongrass (Dau Hu Chien Xa Ot--if I remember correctly). This somehow did not make it on to Wandering Chopsticks list but it's probably my all-time favorite Vietnamese dish, something I could eat every day, and frequently did on Galang as it was a dining hall staple.

Most of the dishes I ate in Vietnam while living there for a year in 1994. We lived in Saigon near the Da Kao market and there were a number of good quan am/cafes and restaurants nearby. We have been back to visit twice since then and have eaten dishes from Can Tho to Hanoi. I am not fond of offal, innards, or sweet drinks, so I my list is incomplete in those areas. I was actually surprised to see how many of the 100 dishes I have tried.

Vietnamese 100 Foods to Try
(Those in boldface are the ones I've tried.)

1. Banh Bao (Steamed Bun)
2. Banh Beo
(Rice Flour Discs with Dried Shrimp)
3. Banh Bot Loc/Banh Quai Vac (Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp or just Shrimp)
4. Banh Canh Cua (Udon-like Noodles with Crab)
5. Banh Chung/Banh Tet (Lunar New Year Sticky Rice Cakes)
6. Banh Cuon (Rice Noodle Rolls)
7. Banh Gio (Steamed Triangular Rice Dumplings)
8. Banh Hoi (Rice Vermicelli Sheets)
9. Banh It Tran (Round Rice Dumplings with Pork, Shrimp, and Mung Beans)
10. Banh It La Gai (Nettle Leaf Dumplings)
11. Banh Khot/Banh Cang (Mini Savory Pancakes)
12. Banh La/Banh Nam (Steamed Flat Rice Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp)
13. Banh Mi Hot Ga Op La (French Bread with Sunnyside-Up Eggs)
14. Banh Mi (Sandwiches)
15. Banh Pa Te So (Pate Chaud)
16. Banh Tieu (Fry Bread)
17. Banh Tom (Shrimp and Yam Fritters)
18. Banh Trang (Rice Paper) Bonus points for eating soaked, no-soak, and toasted varieties.
19. Banh Uot ("Wet" Rice Noodle Sheets)
20. Banh Xeo (Sizzling Crepes) Bonus points if you've eaten both the palm-sized Central-style ones, and the wok-sized Southern-style ones with turmeric and coconut milk.
21. Be Thui (Beef with Roasted Rice Powder and Fermented Bean Curd)
22. Bo Bia (Spring Rolls with Chinese Sausage, Dried Shrimp, and Jicama)
23. Bo Kho (Beef Stew)
24. Bo Luc Lac (Shaking Beef)
25. Bo Ne ("Stand Back" Steak and Eggs)
26. Bo Nhung Dam (Beef Dipped in Vinegar)
27. Bo Nuong La Lot (Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves)
28. Bo Tai Chanh (Beef Carpaccio with Lemon)
29. Bo Xao voi Khoai Tay Chien (Beef Stir-fry with French Fries)
30. Bo Xao Xa (Beef Sauteed with Lemongrass)
31. Bun Bo Hue (Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup)
32. Bun Cha Hanoi (Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork Patties)
33. Bun Nuoc Leo Soc Trang (Soc Trang-Style Noodle Soup with Fish, Pork, and Shrimp) Bonus points for its more pungent cousin Bun Mam (Noodle Soup with Fermented Fish Broth)
34. Bun Rieu (Vermicelli Rice Noodle Soup with Crab Paste)
35. Bun Thit Heo Nuong (Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork)
36. Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh (Roasted Catfish with Scallion Oil)
37. Ca Kho To (Braised Catfish in a Claypot)
38. Ca Phe Sua Da Phin (Iced Drip Coffee with Milk)
39. Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Pork-Stuffed Winter Melon Soup)
40. Canh Chua Ca (Sour Fish Soup)
41. Ca Ri Ga (Chicken Curry)
42. Cao Lau (Noodle Soup with Pork from Hoi An)
43. Cha Ca Thang Long (Hanoi-Style Fish with Dill and Turmeric)
44. Cha Gio/Nem Ran (Spring/Egg Rolls) You only get points if you've eaten the Vietnamese egg rolls wrapped in rice paper, not the version with Chinese wheat egg roll wrappers. Bonus points if you've also eaten Central-style Cha Ram (Shrimp Egg Rolls) and Cha Gio Bap/Ram Bap (Corn Egg Rolls).
45. Cha Lua (Steamed Pork Loaf)
46. Chanh Muoi (Salty Lemonade)
47. Chao Tom (Grilled Shrimp Paste Wrapped Around Sugarcane)
48. Che Bap (Corn and Tapioca Pudding with Coconut Milk) or any other coconut milk-based che such as Che Chuoi (Banana Tapioca Pudding) and Che Ba Mau (Three Color Pudding).
49. Che Sam Bo Luong (Dessert Soup with Dried Dates, Dried Longans, Lotus Seeds, and Seaweed)
50. Che Troi Nuoc (Dough Balls in Ginger Syrup)
51. Chuoi Chien (Fried Bananas)
52. Chuot Dong (Southern Field Rats)
53. Com Ga Hai Nam (Hainanese Chicken Rice) must be eaten with #82.
54. Com Hen
(Clam Rice)
55. Com Lam (Sticky Rice Steamed in Bamboo)
56. Com Tam (Broken Rice)
57. Com Ruou (Fermented Rice Wine)
58. Cua Rang Muoi Tieu (Salt and Pepper Crab)
59. Dau Phong Luoc (Boiled Peanuts)
60. De (Goat)
61. Dia Rau Song (Raw Herb Platter)
62. Do Chua (Pickled Stuff ie. Carrots and Daikon)
63. Ga Nuong Xa (Grilled Chicken with Lemongrass)
64. Gio Thu (Head Cheese with Pig Ears and Tree Ear Fungus)
65. Goi Du Du Kho Bo (Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky)
66. Goi Cuon (Salad/Spring/Summer Rolls)
67. Goi Ga (Chicken Salad)
68. Goi Mit Ngo Sen (Young Jackfruit and Lotus Root Salad)
69. Hot Vit Lon (Fetal Duck Eggs)
70. Hu Tieu (Tapioca Noodles with Pork and Shrimp) Bonus points for both Saigon, with barbecued pork and shrimp, and Nam Vang (Phnom Penh) style with liver and ground pork.
71. Kem Flan
72. Lau (Hot Pot)
73. Mam Nem (Fermented Anchovy Sauce)
74. Mam Ruoc (Fermented Shrimp Paste)
75. Mi Hoanh Thanh (Wonton Noodle Soup)
76. Mi Quang (Turmeric Noodles with Pork and Shrimp)
77. Mi Vit Tiem (Egg Noodles with Duck and Chinese Herbs)
78. Mi Xao Don (Crispy Chow Mein)
79. Muop Tom Xao (Loofah and Shrimp Stir-fry)
80. Nem Chua (Pickled Pork Sausage with Shredded Pork Skin)
81. Nem Nuong (Grilled Pork Patties)
82. Nuoc Mam Gung (Ginger Fish Sauce)
83. Nuoc Mia (Sugarcane Juice)
84. Oc Buou (Apple Snails) or any other sea snails
85. Pho Ap Chao Bo (Pan-Fried Rice Noodles Sauteed with Beef)
86. Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) bonus points if you've eaten filet mignon pho and for Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)
87. Rau Ma (Pennywort Juice)
88. Rau Muong Xao (Water Spinach Stir-fried)
89. Soda Xi Muoi (Salty Preserved Plum Drink)
90. Sinh To Bo (Avocado Shake)
91. Sinh To Ca Chua (Tomato Shake)
92. Sinh To Dam (Aloe Vera Shake)
93. Sup Mang Tay Cua (Asparagus and Crab Soup)
94. Tiet Canh (Blood Pudding)
95. Thit Heo Kho Voi Trung (Braised Pork with Eggs)
96. Tom Tau Hu Ky (Shrimp Paste Wrapped in Bean Curd Skin)
97. Tra Atiso
(Artichoke Tea)
98. Tuong Ot (Chili Sauce) bonus points for Vietnamese American Huy Fong Sriracha Chili Sauce and extra bonus points if you use it to make Sriracha Buffalo Wings
99. Xiu Mai (Meatballs)
100. Xoi (Sticky Rice)

The original link on Wandering Chopsticks can be found here.


  1. Wow! That is some list. THank you for sharing.

  2. Maris,

    Really, Wandering Chopsticks should get the thanks for the list. I've just had the good fortune to taste so many things that are on it.

  3. Hi,
    You have inspired me to try to get my Mom's recipes for 100 things on the list.


  4. Tien,
    That's great. I imagine that may have been one of the reasons why Wandering Chopsticks first came up with the list. Food is such an important part of culture and preserving your family's recipes is a way to pass your culture and history on to those who follow. Also, nothing beats Mom's cooking! I'm sure your mother will be pleased that you've asked her for the recipes. Good luck.

  5. Oh! Somehow I missed this post. It didn't even show up on my Google Alerts. Hmm.

    I really enjoyed reading about your volunteer work in the refugee camps. I went through Hong Kong in 1979 when conditions were much better. By the time they closed the camps in 1996, conditions had gotten horrible. I remember all the protests in Little Saigon as they forcibly repatriated the refugees.

  6. Wandering Chopsticks,
    At the end, when the camps were closed and people were forcibly repatriated, conditions were probably bad all over. My understanding is that in Hong Kong refugees were allowed to leave the camps during the day to work, not so in Malaysia or Indonesia.
    I visited Pulau Bidong a couple of years ago. It is a turtle sanctuary now, all the old buildings collapsed and taken over by ants and vines. We hired a boat from Pulau Redang and about half way there the driver stopped to answer his cell phone! It stunned me. When I was there in 1981, there were several thousand arrivals a month, many in boats built for rivers, not the open ocean.
    Thanks again for coming up with this list.


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