Vietnam, the country filled with different traditions and flavours depending on where you are in the country. I remember on one of the bus tours I was on the driver explained how from North Vietnam to South, the further south you travelled the more spicy the food cuisine got. After researching this a bit more I found that because of the cold weather in North Vietnam it is a lot harder to grow different plants, whilst in the South it is a lot warmer so there is an abundance of tropical fruits and spices.
Like most Asian countries, Vietnamese people have a very strong and authentic relationship with what they are eating, especially in more rural/farming areas. Whilst I was staying at homestay in Bac Ha (Northern Vietnam) I was invited to join the host family at dinner. It was so weird but interesting to see that the family’s chicken dish was a whole chicken boiled which they picked at with their chop sticks… it included the head and feet. I don’t think I ever ever seen a whole chicken like that before, but I like the idea that none of the animal is wasted. I also noticed how most families that didn’t live in the main cities and were on farm land owned a few cows or chickens and other farm animals which I presume they would use for food.
The two most well known dishes for tourists is Pho (pronounced Fa) and a Banh Mi, both should be under $1 to buy, you could even get it cheaper if you speak Vietnamese (I found. that a lot of places charge more for tourists because they can’t read how much something actually is). These are found in basically every food court, restaurant or street vendor. Like with most international foods, western countries like Australia add to the actual traditional dishes, therefore don’t be surprised when you are disappointed with your plain meal in the actual country it originates from. I absolutely loved the Tofu Pho I got but the best ones were in Hanoi. It was basically impossible to get vegetarian Banh Mi’s this was because traditionally it is a bread roll with a tiny bit of salad (usually just cucumber and carrot) and then jam packed with different meats. Therefore, no one could understand I just wanted a salad roll, every time I got one it was just the bread roll with 1 or 2 thin slices of cucumber… it sucked!
A lot of restaurants also sell unique animals like turtles, snakes, crocodiles and rabbits fresh to be killed. These were a lot more money and I assume were just for tourists, there was also some places that served snake blood or snake wine! Rice wine is also a very expensive but delicious drink that locals seem to love having tourists try, don’t drink too much though cause it will go straight to your head!
Rice is a massive part of Vietnam’s trade and economy, apart from Thailand it exports the worlds most rice. Not only does most of the world eat Vietnamese grown rice but the country itself eats a lot of rice. Apart from rice, sweet potato, potato, corn and other root plants are grown by farmers. Traditionally the Vietnamese won’t eat any processed foods, they may eat some rice with sauce and vegetables and if they own any animals then a tiny piece of meat.
I would also highly recommend to not get any Western dishes because they are not made or cooked the same, are twice or more in price and just not nice. Apart from rice, noodles are in almost every dish otherwise hot pot soups are also very common. Another thing I found was that some places have pictures of food and let me tell you that your dish will 100% not look like that photo, learn from my mistakes.