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What to get at Vietnamese Restaurants....

My husband and I have recently discovered Vietnamese food. We love it, but seem to always get the same things. We'd love to branch out a bit. What are some of your favorite Vietnamese dishes that are pretty standard at most restaurants?

We love:
Spring Rolls
Summer Rolls
Ginger Chicken in a Clay Pot
Rice Vermicelli with Roast Pork

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  1. Ah if you'd asked about Chinese food I could give you an essay. But, though it's easy to be enraptured by the leaves and herbs and spices of Vietnamese food, I know much less about it, so I'll give you an essay someone else wrote, which helped inspire me. It's about pho, but there are so many kinds of pho, and it varies by region, and this essay will fan the fires of your love for it.


    Here's a Wikipedia article with a list of almost 100 dishes to order:

    And here's a Vietnamese food blog:

    1 Reply
    1. re: Brian S

      Have no idea what it's called in Viet, but Broken Rice with Fried Pork Chop and Egg, is what it's described as at my local.

      Instant drool-o-rama!

    2. One thing I'd recommend for sure in bun bo hue (though I always ask for no blood). It's a good spicy beef noodle soup. For more ideas about Vietnamese food, you might want to check out kirkk's blog: mmm-yoso!!!


      Just click on Vietnamese in the listing of categories, and you will be treated to many descriptions of dishes at Vietnamese restaurants.


      2 Replies
      1. re: Ed Dibble

        YES! if your restaurant makes Bun Bo Hue you should definitely try it.

        Also, Vietnamese food is meant to be seasoned with sauces and herbs. If you don't know how to season it correctly, don't hesitate to ask the vietnamese server. One guy I know ate his pho his whole life without knowing how to add all the sauces and herbs. He was missing out on a complete pho experience.

        1. re: Ed Dibble

          Be careful about organ meats with the bun bo hue, as well as the blood, if you don't care for them. I had bun bo hue multiple times in Hue, and loved it. About a year after returning, I found a good Vietnamese restaurant in my area, and ordered the bun bo hue, and they kept asking, are you sure that's what you want? Really? People kept coming out of the kitchen and asking if I was the one who wanted the bun bo hue. When it came, it was entirely organ meats, which I, wimp that I am, can't stand.

        2. I love chicken pho (pho ga)
          Marinated pork chops over rice
          Marinaged pork chops over vermicelli noodles
          Banh cuon (meat wrapped in very delicate, soft, floppy rice sheets--not the more sturdy kind of sheets used for spring rolls. Served with fish sauce and deep fried shallots)
          Vietnamese sandwiches are a must try as well (banh mi)

          1. Vietnamese sandwiches - They are usually made with french baguettes, meat of choice, julienned pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, cilantro and jalapenos. Banh Mi Dac Biet (deli meats & liver pate) & Banh Mi Thit Nuong (BBQ pork) are my favorites.

            Bo Kho - beef stew. Can be eaten with rice, noodles or a french baguette for dipping. I usually eat mine with the french baguette.

            Bun Rieu - noodle soup made of thin rice noodles and topped with crab and shrimp paste, served in a tomato based broth and garnished with bean sprout, prawn paste, mint leaves, whole-leaf lettuce, and tomato chunks. This is one of my favorite Vietnamese noodle dishes.

            And for dessert
            Che Xung Xa Hot Luu - it's a coconut milk dessert with tapioca, mung bean and water chestnuts. The water chestnuts are usually dyed pink. This is one of my favorite desserts.

            1. Some of our favorites not already mentioned are stuffed grape leaves and salt baked seafood (usually shrimp, scallops, or calamari).

              1 Reply
              1. re: Philly Ray

                You mean la lot leaves, unless they're cheating (big time).

              2. Some of the non mainstream Vietnamese midscale restaurants might do a catfish claypot that can be very satisfying.

                3 Replies
                1. re: K K

                  No one has mentioned Shaking beef -- This French-inspired beef dish always seems to be loved by non-foodies and foodies alike.

                  1. re: Chowpatty

                    Ah yes, as Chowpatty mentioned, Bo Luc Lac is really good. Some restaurants have Hu tie(Sp?) as well, which can come dry or in soup, I prefer dry. There's also pho ap chao, which is long flat rice noodles which are fried and covered in a sauce of sorts but sometimes it can also be like a stir fry of the same type noodle, read the English translation to make sure. If you are really lucky, you'll find a restaurant that has Mi Quang which may not be good for beginners but is a delicious noodle dish. Have fun exploring the cuisine of Vietnam!

                  2. re: K K

                    I forget the correct spelling, but the dish's name in vietnamese is pronounced like "ga cao doa." I'm not sure which is better about the dish, the fish or the sauce =)

                    I can't eat vietnamese food without either an iced cafe su da (vietnamese coffe w/ condensed milk) or the "three colored" drink/dessert

                  3. Any kho dishes, which will feature a delicious caramel-based sauce. (except bo kho, which is more like a beef stew)
                    Expand your pho horizons with flank, tendon, meatballs, or tripe (or a combination in the same bowl).
                    Bahn mi (sandwiches) made with housemade pate & cold cuts

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                      I love Bahn Cuon those rice crepes with shrimp and other goodies and at lunch the other day my friend ordered Tom Rang Me, shrimp in tamerind sauce. Oh I am going to have to make some of that soon. There is a recipe in that newish Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. I am just waiting for our shrimp truck that brings ups fresh shrimp from Galveston to arrive and that dish will be on our table that night.

                      1. re: Candy

                        the crepes also go by "Bahn Xio" depending where yer at...this is definately my favorite dish...ok, that and green papaya salad...hmmmmm

                        1. re: sixelagogo

                          Bahn xio is easily my favorite Vietnamese food when it's not greasy. You tear off pieces and wrap it in lettuce leaves, then dip in nuoc cham, yum! Bun thit nuong is also really great when it's hot out--it's a big bowl of cold thin rice noodles with different toppings, and you pour the nuoc cham overall and mix it up. When the noodles are properly cooked, they have this springy texture that is irresistible and refreshing.

                          1. re: sixelagogo

                            Actually Banh Xeo and banh cuon are different though they are easily confused due to the roughness of Vietnamese translation and often they different parts of Vietnam where sometimes the same word means different dishes. Bahn xeo typically refers to the crispy yellow gigantic taco thing that you refer to. Banh cuon is a delicate steamed rice sheet often stuffed with ground beef and shitake mushrooms. Sorry, if I sound snobbish i just want to clear stuff up.

                            1. re: digkv

                              I've seen both but in the new book Into The Vietnamese Kitchen she is using shrimp in her filling of bahn cuon but I'll take either both are delicious. I am really Jonesing for the shrimp in tamerind sauce, man thagt was tasty!

                              1. re: digkv

                                Banh xeo is panfried stuffed crepe, totally different from steamed banh cuon. It's not noodle-like at all and the batter is always curry flavored where I've had it, thus varying shades of yellow and golden browned in spots. Banh cuon are white, right? Never had them, would like to!

                        2. Great list so far. I'll add chao tom - shrimp paste on sugar cane. It won't fill you up, but it will definitely stoke your appetite for the dishes to come.

                          1 Reply
                          1. vermicelli with grilled beef, veggie spring rolls, and tofu skin stuffed with ground shrimp!

                            Also, yeah, I second-third-fourth banh mi.

                            1. A stuffed crisp rice pancake called banh xeo or banh khoai- a mung bean, rice flour and coconut milk batter tinted with tumeric and sprinkled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, etc. Take pieces and wrap in lettuce leaves with herbs and dip in nuoc cham. Eaten when fresh and sripy it is a delight!

                              1. You all forgot the drinks!!!!!! Besides coffee, that was mentioned. My favorites are:

                                Sinh To Bo- blended avocado shake, trust me it's incredible

                                Soda Chanh- freshed squeezed lemon or lime juice mixed with sugar and soda water
                                poured over ice

                                Also are the rice plates (com) and vermicelli bowls (bun), ask for combination. So good!!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bigboy

                                  I like the salted lemon version a great deal. Also salted plum soda...so refreshing!

                                2. My neighborhood Vietnamese place serves the only Asian desserts I've liked so far.

                                  I don't know what the Vietnamese names are, but they translated into Three-yam Pudding (taro, sweet potato and yam starch cooked to pudding consistency); Coconut Rice Pudding; and Dessert Dumplings (fried balls of dough stuffed with taro and served in a soupy syrup).

                                  1. My personal favorites, which fall more along the lines of comfort food for me (as in, my mother would only make these for me once in awhile since they're heavier dishes, often greasier than what most people expect when having Vietnamese food, and really, as far as I can tell, largely starch-based and carry little redeeming nutritional value)..

                                    -Banh Bot Chien - a rice flour cake, sliced and fried with eggs and green onions, served with a special soy sauce
                                    (better description, with pictures: http://www.noodlepie.com/2004/12/kerb...


                                    -Pate Chaud - meat filled pastry, sort of like a large empanada or dumpling but with a flakier (and greasier) dough (http://pwmf.blogspot.com/2006/01/bnh-...


                                    And my absolute favorite, the one I had to beg and whine for and even then, even with my annoying behavior, my mother would rarely make: banh khot, which is sort of like banh beo (tiny rice flour pancakes, served at least in our household with mung beans, some mysterious shrimp concoction that was almost like dehydrated shrimp powder, sliced scallions and fish sauce), but fried on the bottom, served with a single small shrimp and some diced scallions. A special pan, with circular wells (think similar to a dish for escargots, but much larger), is required for this, and takes a heck of a lot of oil to keep the dough from sticking to the pan. Hence why my mother rarely made this dish. (http://www.vnnavi.com/restaurants/ban...; http://www.noodlepie.com/2004/11/banh...)

                                    (How I was not a fat child, given my predilection for such foods, is beyond me - oh right, my mother wouldn't always cave in to my charming requests for these dishes, that's what it was..


                                    (Oh, I just saw your request for dishes that are standard at restaurants. I don't actually know if any of these are. I know that you can get pate chaud at some bakeries, and banh khot at some places in Westminster.)

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: jacinthe

                                      Pate chaud rock. So do those meat pies filled with BBQ pork, or the ones w/chinese sausage & hardboiled egg, or ground pork & jicama.

                                      1. re: jacinthe

                                        I'm so glad you mentioned bahn beo...we used to make them at restaurant i worked it (it was big on asian street foods)...we used to call them "happy cakes" or somethign like that and made them in an appleskeever pan (some belgian/dutch cast iron pan with little divets in it)...i gott check out yer mom's pics on the site.

                                        1. re: sixelagogo

                                          Actually, I used to hate banh beo, but that's because I didn't like mung beans. Without the mung beans, I was fine.

                                          And I should have mentioned that actually, none of the sites I linked to were mine. I just wanted pictures to accompany the dishes because my descriptions never do them justice.

                                        1. the rice crepes are a must, also if it is available..there is a dish that is pork shanks simmered in coconut, fish sauce lime and herbs. There are also whole hard boiled eggs in it. It is served over rice and is heaven (name?). I heard it might be a specialty new years dish only though. I also love rare (even better raw!) beef salad. While it is usually only at the most casual places, a banh mi sandwich (typically roast pork, herbs, pickled veggies and sometimes pate on really good french roll) is killer...made well the best sandwich in the world!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: lyn

                                            Ahh, the pork/egg dish translates to something roughly like "stewed pork." It's more of a homestyle dish, kinda like the American equivalent of beef stew, which is why you don't often see it at restaurants. In fact, I've never seen it at a restaurant before... the only place I know to get it is from my mom and grandmother's kitchens =)

                                            1. re: clearskies0810

                                              yes the pork and egg dish was only offered after I had gained the trust and friendship of the owner of a place I used to go in FL. the NY Times had a recipe a few years ago but I misplaced it. It was pretty simple but not has good as at the Vietnamese place.

                                          2. Most Vietnamese restaurants serve southern-style food, so I'd recommend the following:

                                            Lemon Grass Chicken
                                            Pho Tai (Pho with rare steak)
                                            Cha Gio (deep fried egg rolls)
                                            Grilled meat and steamed egg with broken rice
                                            Phan Chao Tom (deep fried shrimp paste on sugar cane)
                                            Seven course beef
                                            Banh Tam Bi (rice noodle with coconut milk)
                                            Ca Chien Sot Chua Ngot (Deep Fried Fish with Sweet & Sour Sauce)
                                            Canh Chua Ca (Sweet & Sour Catfish Hot Pot)
                                            Soda Chanh (sour lime soda--really good)

                                            In the unlikely event they are from Hue or somewhere near central Vietnam, you should try:

                                            Bun Bo Hue (good soup but comes with cubes of congealed pig's blood, which isn't for the squeamish)
                                            Nem Chua Nuong (Charbroiled Sour Pork Patties)
                                            Nem Nuong Cuon voi Cha Ram Tom (wrapped pork roll--really good)
                                            Nem Bo Nuong Cuon voi Cha Ram Tom (wrapped pork roll--really good)
                                            Bann Beo (small rice flour pancakes with toppings)

                                            If you find a Vietnamese sandwich place (Banh Mi), try Xiu Mai.

                                            A portion of my website is about Vietnamese cooking and restaurants, but they are in the Los Angeles area. Nevertheless, it might still be helpful:


                                            1. Coconut rice crepe - banh xeo and Green Papaya Salad - Goi du du. I like Viet Green Papaya way better than Thai.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                I agree with you on the green papaya...i don't know why though...what do they use in Viet that they don't in Thai?

                                                1. re: sixelagogo

                                                  Maybe the beef in a good Viet Goi Du Du? It's a little sweet. Most of the Thai versions I've tried are too heavy on the dried shrimp.

                                              2. i like Banh Canh cua. its a thicker, rounder noodle in a very flavorful broth. it has shrimp and crab meat in it and when you add all the condiments and herbs it turns out to be a hell of a dish. it makes for something good when your feeling like a little something different.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: chad86thai

                                                  Anyone ever have
                                                  Ech Chien Bo (Frog legs in either French butter sauce or a lemon grass and chili sauce)
                                                  Muc Xao Thap Cam/ Xa Ot-- sauteed squid delight or with lemon grass

                                                  Both look interesting but have yet to try either at my local place.

                                                  1. re: FoodDude2

                                                    I've had the fried frog legs in butter, and the frog legs with salt and pepper, both in Manhattan. They were awesome.

                                                    1. re: chuck98

                                                      Frogs legs with chili and basil are good too.

                                                  2. re: chad86thai

                                                    I love anything Vietnamese. I'm wondering though about the shrimp on sugar cane- I know that there are 2 different preparations: deep fried or steamed and then grilled. I've had both and while both ways are yummy, obviously the healthier version is to have it grilled. Many Vietnamese places I've tried have lied on their menus- when it says "grilled" it really is fried- actually only once when I ordered a "grilled" shrimp cane did it actually come grilled. Is this a common phenomenon?

                                                  3. I was going to start this very thread :)
                                                    I personally am stuck on bun variations - room temp rice noodles with various topping selections such as spring rolls/grilled pork/shrimp on sugar cane, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts and hopefully herbs (i never seem to get enough though). But I want to expand my horizons!
                                                    Can anyone tell me what Vietnamese spring rolls are "supposed" to be like? I remember a decade ago they were big fat "imperial" rolls, served sliced, with a high filling to wrapper ratio. I can't remember exactly what the filling was like but I loved it. But nowadays in Toronto it seems the spring rolls are thin and filled with a finely ground pork and noodle mixture that at its worst is just tasteless grey mush (IMO).

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: julesrules

                                                      you got the think and filled with grey pork and noodle stuff, but it shouldn't be tasteless...The best ones are fried in fresh, hot oil and are served with lettuce, mint, cilantro, pickled carrots and diakon andnuoc chom to dip into...just made myself hungry

                                                      1. re: julesrules

                                                        The best ones will have slices of pork, not finely ground pork. Also, there is often a few (usually three) who shrimp in them that are easily visible. But the rice noodles, herbs, and pickled veggies should make up the majority of the filling.

                                                      2. I've noticed several references to banh xeo, which I'm sorry to report is the ONLY Vietnamese dish I've tried that I didn't like! I'm still waiting to try bun bo hue, which I'm sure I'll love even if it's all innards, 'cause I love innards. Pho has become an addiction that must be fed frequently, and if I weren't supposed to be going easy on the white bread I'd be getting banh mi just about every day, as there are several really good sources for that close by. Chowpatty mentioned "shaking beef" - is that the dish that Newport Seafood has listed as French beef? That's morsels of filet sautéed with a lovely sweetish sauce, and the lettuce it's served on is if anything even better than the beef! And our Food Posse once got a whole gigantic roasted catfish, following the consumption of which our table looked like the aftermath of a major food fight. But it was sure good!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                          yes, newport seafood calls it french beef. do they give you a small side dish of salt and pepper? if they do, squeeze the lime into it and dip the shaking beef into that. oh soooo good!

                                                        2. please try a vietnamese sandwich, its an explosion of flavours and is incredibly cheap. It usually costs anywhere from $2.25-$3.00 for a sandwich. Oh and if you can get one with head cheese or schmear of pate on it thats the best.

                                                          whats that noodle dish where you dip rice noodles into nuoc cham (am I saying that right, or is that the thai version?). how about bun cha?

                                                          1. 1)Grilled pork in a light fish sauce (Bun Cha Hanoi.) Really yummy.

                                                            2) the fish/pineapple soup is a great dish to share family style.

                                                            3) shredded chicken (or shrimp) and cabbage salad

                                                            4) Stir fried beef with watercress (Bo Luc Lac)



                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: mnguyen

                                                              i prefer the chicken & cabbage salad over the (more popular) green papaya salad - so good =)

                                                            2. In addition to the Pho, I love Green Papaya & Lobster Salad, Carrot and Daikon Salad and the Iced Vietnamese Coffee. Sorry I don't know the Vietnamese name for all of these.