The tropical country of Vietnam is a cornucopia of fresh raw ingredients, inspiring an abundance of dishes and regional variations. If you rarely go or have never been to a Vietnamese restaurant, you may need guidance navigating the variegated menu.
We understand that going into a new restaurant to try out an ethnic cuisine you are not accustomed too can be overwhelming. On top of that, you probably don’t speak the language and may not fully understand the menu.
Don’t let these barriers prevent you from discovering what could be your new favorite foods! The truth is that most restaurants value your patronage and will go the extra mile to acquaint you with their food and make recommendations. So go ahead, take that first step. The results will amaze you!
We Asked Nationwide: Have you tried Vietnamese foods?
61.25% Said: No
We Asked Them Why?:
Out of the 1,426 people that said that they had
not tried Vietnamese foods, we asked them why?
Don’t think you will like it.
Don’t know what to order.
Think it will be too spicy.
Uncomfortable in that type of restaurant.
Here is What They Said:
Probably Too Spicy
Many people seem to think it’s spicy, and of course there are dishes that are spicy, but in fact most Vietnamese food is not spicy. On the side, there are many forms of chile.. fresh cut, paste, hot sauce, etc.. of which you can add to it, and make it as spicy as you like!
Might Be Uncomfortable
For some people, going into a restaurant, in which they may have trouble explaining what they want, or will be misunderstood, is overwhelming. So much so, they won’t even bother. Yet most Vietnamese restaurants encourage “new comers”.
Probably Won’t Like It
Many people think it will be greasy, or fishy, or that the ingredients won’t be of high quality. Although that depends on what you order, and which restaurant you are at. Most Vietnamese food is light and not greasy, and everyone’s tastes are different.
Knowing What to Order
Well that’s understandable, so that’s why we have created this guide to help people with the basics of Vietnamese foods, and what you should try if your a “first timer”. Everyone’s tastes differ, so we have tried to include a broad variety of food types.
Still don’t know what to order? Below are some typical Vietnamese foods we recommend:
Vietnamese egg rolls primarily contain pork mixed with glass noodles, but can also contain crab, shrimp, wood ear mushrooms, or carrots. Originally rolled in rice paper, some cooks now use a wheat-flour wrapper instead. The egg rolls are deep-fried to a golden crisp and served with a diluted fish sauce, lettuce, cilantro and mint. You wrap them in lettuce, with a little bit of mint and cilantro, and dip it in the fish sauce. You can also add chili to the sauce to make it spicy.
A light starter made of boiled pork, shrimp, vermicelli, and raw greens rolled inside a thin sheet of rice paper. Spring rolls are served with a dipping sauce on the side which uses hoisin sauce as a base. Crushed peanuts and chili sauce may be added to accentuate the sauce. Other types of spring rolls may include other types of meat or seafood.
Chicken Phở – It’s just like Chicken Noodle Soup done the Vietnamese way with extra layers of flavor. This healthy entrée uses fresh ingredients, rice noodles, and flavorful home cooked chicken broth. This simple, light bowl of noodle soup is not greasy or spicy.. unless you want it to be. You can give it a kick with chili sauce, or you can add even more aroma with a side of herbs, bean sprouts, lime, basil, or hoisin sauce that accompanies the dish.
Rare Beef Phở – This dish is similar to chicken phở, but the rice noodles are submerged in a bowl of beef broth instead of chicken broth. It comes with sliced raw beef which may already be in bowl or brought out on a separate plate. The thin slices of meat are meant to be cooked quickly in the hot soup at the table. The swift cooking ensures that the meat is still soft when consumed. The cut of beef served at most restaurants is top round, but some places may substitute it with filet mignon for a more tender texture.
Combo Phở – This variation of rice noodle soup uses the same broth as beef phở but includes a larger variety of meats. Unlike Rare Beef Phở, much of the protein in Combo Phở has already been simmering in the pot, including beef brisket, beef shank, beef tripe, and beef meatballs. That’s already a lot of beef, but most of the time, you’ll still get a portion of rare beef to accompany the other meats.
Vermicelli With BBQ Pork, Shrimp & Egg Rolls
This dry noodle dish uses vermicelli topped with sliced barbecued pork, grilled shrimp, and pork egg rolls. This vibrant dish is usually filled with greens such as shredded lettuce and julienned cucumbers. It is served with a small bowl of fish sauce that has been mixed with lime, sugar, and water to dilute the strong, salty taste. The fish sauce mixture, is meant to be poured over the noodles in the desired amount.
Many types exist, but fried rice basically includes white medium-grained rice fried with a combination of vegetables, meat, and seafood, depending on regional variations. The ingredients, including the rice, are usually tossed together in a wok with soy sauce which gives the fried rice its brownish color. Eggs are typically thrown into the mix and stirred evenly, coating the rice until fully cooked.
Pork Chop With Broken Rice & Fried Egg
The grains of rice in this dish are literally broken into smaller fragments before cooking. Traditionally, this dish uses a cheaper grade of rice that had been damaged in milling. Nowadays, regular medium-grain rice can be intentionally broken to mimic this effect. The rice is steamed then served with pork chop, fried egg, and a selection of vegetables such as cucumber. The plate may also include more items such as prawn paste cake, steamed egg, or bì (a julienned pork and pork skin mixture). A bowl of sauce and broth usually accompanies this dish.
Beef with Lemongrass
An aromatic entree with sliced beef stir-fried with lemongrass and fish sauce. Lemongrass is commonly used in Asian cuisine to enhance flavors due to its distinctive scent and flavor, which has a slight hint of citrus. Due to its tough texture, the outer leaves are discarded and the inner portions are finely ground before being used stir-fry dishes. Beef with Lemongrass can be served over vermicelli or white rice.
(Bánh Mì) – Bánh mì can come in a variety of styles, but the most basic comprises of steamed stuffed pork hock, steamed pork loaf, pork paté, cilantro, jalapeños, pickled carrots and jicama- all stuffed into a baguette. Other types of Vietnamese sandwiches may remove the pork hock and pork loaf and replace them with grilled pork, grilled beef, chicken, or even canned sardines.
(Café Sữa Dá) – Vietnamese coffee is a strong beverage using coarsely ground dark roast coffee. The coffee is brewed French-style using a drip filter perched above a cup. After all the coffee finishes trickling down, it is stirred evenly with sweetened condensed milk and then poured over ice. This potent drink is sure to deliver a jolt of caffeine for anyone who needs it.
Taro is a root vegetable commonly used in Asian cuisine in both sweet and savory forms. Before being transformed into a smoothie, it must be cooked until it is soft enough to break apart. Then it is blended with ice, coconut milk, and sweetened condensed milk or sugar. In some variations, ice cream can also be added to the mix for a richer finish.
Viewed as a savory ingredient in Western cuisine, avocado smoothies are quite popular as a sweet treat in the Vietnamese food scene. Usually blended with milk and sweetened condensed milk, avocado smoothies are known for their silky texture and creamy taste.
Tri Color Dessert
This colorful dessert can also double as a drink. Sitting in coconut milk, the “tri-color” component is composed of red bean, mashed mung bean, and pandan jelly. These layers of red, yellow, and green give this dessert its descriptive name.
Sesame Seed Donuts
Resembling donut holes, these sweet spheres are made of glutinous rice flour rolled in sesame seed before frying to a golden brown. However, these “donuts” contain more than what meets the eye. Inside is a sweet filling of mashed mung bean, typically mixed with shredded coconut.
Of Course We Think We’re the “Best Vietnamese Restaurant”, But That’s Up to You!
Every restaurant may think they’re the best in the business. After all, personal taste is subjective. The only way you can truly know if you’ll like a dish is if you go taste it yourself.
Try your local, or not so local restaurant. Sometimes it’s worth the drive for great food!
Try your popular or not-so-popular restaurant, because you never know if it’s a “diamond in the rough.”
We are located at the corner of Talbert and Magnolia in Fountain Valley, CA if you’re up for a new great experience!
You’ll never know until you’ll try. So what are you waiting for? Go Eat!
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