It is not by chance that Philip Kotler, the world's leading marketing master, shared that, "Vietnam should become the world's kitchen." Vietnamese cuisine is not only plentiful, it also comes in a variety of flavours and preparation styles. This diversity is most evident in its snack collection. In fact, Saigon can be considered the food capital of Vietnam, with thousands of eateries sprouting up in the streets, selling all kinds of specialties from the North to the South.
While Hanoi is famous for pho (beef noodle soup), it is more difficult to choose Saigon’s best dish. Every street – whether big or small – has at least a few restaurants, attracting customers with their aroma of vegetables, spicy flavours, and sauces. Here are the 8 top snacks in Saigon chosen by CNN that cover almost all the specialties of the country’s three regions.
1. Banh cuon (steamed rolls made of rice-flour)
This Northern dish of steamed rice rolls is filled with a mixture of minced pork, mushrooms and shallots, and served with dipping sauce. The thin rice batter requires remarkable skill to handle, and it’s truly mesmerising to watch banh cuon being prepared.
2. Bun bo Hue (Hue beef noodles)
This is a popular dish in Central Vietnam. A bowl of Hue beef noodles includes soft vermicelli, beef, broth and the star – shrimp sauce. Hue beef noodles is served with some basil leaves, banana flowers and chopped green onions.
3. Banh xeo (rice pancake folded in half)
Banh xeo gets its name from the sound emitted when the pancake is being made. It is similar to Western crepes, except for the pork, shrimp and bean sprouts inside and the fact that it’s served with fish sauce. This is a typical dish of both the South and Central region, although they each have different ways of preparing the pancakes and sauce.
4. Be thui (char-grilled calf)
This Northern dish is made by grilling a whole calf until the meat is tender. The veal is cut into thin slices, mixed with coriander and sliced green banana, then wrapped in rice paper and served with shrimp paste.
5. Goi cuon (summer roll shrimp)
This popular Vietnamese appetiser is a little different from spring rolls. The core of goi cuon consists of sliced pork tenderloin, shrimp, soft vermicelli, lettuce, mint leaves and chives.
6. Banh trang tron (rice paper salad)
Basically, this is a salad-like dish that contains a medley of ingredients including strips of rice paper, quail eggs, green mango, different kinds of coriander, dried beef and so much more. In fact, this snack has a total of about 16 different ingredients!
From cockles to mussels, Vietnamese seafood can be prepared in a variety of ways to suit your liking. It is extremely well loved by Saigon people looking for a meal after working hours.
8. Hu tiu Nam Vang (Phnom Penh noodle soup)
This is a dish that tastes like a mix of Chinese and Cambodian cuisine. The noodle strips are thicker than those of pho noodles, the broth is prepared using pig bones instead of cow, and this dish is served with shrimp, pig liver, quail eggs, green onion and other ingredients.
9. Banh Bao (Steamed Buns)
Steamed Buns (Vietnamese for "steamed baozi buns") is a Vietnamese version of the Chinese steamed baozi buns. They're typically made with seasoned ground pork, mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, and Chinese sausage slices. All of the ingredients are neatly wrapped in a light yeasted dough and cooked into round balls.
The meal was probably influenced by Chinese baozi, but it was eventually updated with traditional Vietnamese ingredients and has since become a national favorite. It's commonly eaten for breakfast or as a snack, with tea on the side.
10. Nem Nuong (Grilled Pork Sausage)
Grilled Pork Sausage is a grilled Vietnamese sausage that originated in Nha Trang. The sausage is often cooked using ground pork fat and meat, garlic, fish sauce, shallots, sugar, black pepper, and sometimes baking soda to puff out the meat.
Before grilling, the meat is shaped into patties and balls, or skewered on skewers. Nem nng can be served in a variety of ways once cooked, including with steamed rice and fresh or pickled vegetables, wrapped in rice paper, with rice noodles, or in a bánh m sandwich.
11. Banh Ran (Deep - Fried Glutinous Rice Balls)
Deep - Fried Glutinous Rice Balls is a popular Vietnamese snack made from glutinous rice flour balls stuffed with red bean paste and deep-fried in hot oil. The filling is generally flavored with jasmine flower essence, and the crispy balls are virtually always wrapped with sesame seeds.
There's also a savory bánh rán that comes in an oval form and is commonly served with a dipping sauce made with fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, chile, and garlic.
12. Banh Dau Xanh (Mung Bean Cubes)
When Bao Dai, Vietnam's last emperor, first discovered this delectable treat, he allowed the people to print the imperial insignia of a golden dragon on the packets. To this day, the cubes are frequently wrapped in the royal colors of red and gold.
The colorful stores on Hàng Than street in Hanoi's Old Quarter sell mung bean cubes and young rice cakes (bánh cm). Look for the confectionery pyramids set out on the sidewalk.
13. Keo Cu Do (Peanut And Rice Paper Brittle)
This unique dessert consists of peanuts wrapped in molasses and malt sugar sandwiched between two sheets of rice paper. Every bite is tempered by the crunchy toasted rice sheets, which counteract the stickiness of the peanuts and molasses. Kô cu originates in Hà Tnh, a North Central province where candied peanuts have been made for decades.
14. Com Nam (Vietnamese Rice Balls)
Rice Balls is a classic Vietnamese dish made entirely of long-grain rice. As if it were a ball of dough, the rice is boiled, fluffed, then kneaded. This meal is fashioned into solid logs or balls and eaten with your hands. Each ball or log of rice is taken out and eaten, generally with sesame salt or caramelized minced pork.
Previously, Rice Balls was frequently used for road trips and picnics.
If you’re thinking of adding some Vietnamese fare to your menu, our range of ingredients make it so much easier for you to ensure consistent taste and quality in everything you serve up. Try them out and see!