Each time that Vietnam was invaded, the conquerors brought new food traditions with them. The Chinese brought noodles and wontons, the French brought baguettes, and the Americans brought hamburgers and beefsteak. The Vietnamese borrowed these foods and made them better.
Bún bò Huế
Huế became the capital of Vietnam in 1802. It was known for delicate, gloppy rice-cake-based dishes covered in fish sauce. The most famous dish is Bún bò Huế, a spicy, sour dish of fermented shrimp paste, lemongrass, ginger, pork knuckle, banana blossoms, and noodles.
Mì hoành thánh
Mì hoành thánh is a Vietnamese version of a Chinese wonton noodle soup. The yellow cylindrical noodles are flash-fried and added to a slightly sweet soup with a few wontons, some chives, a single lettuce leaf, sliced pork, minced pork, and a greasy rice cracker.
A few hundred years ago, the Vietnamese hadn’t heard of French baguettes or sandwiches. They turned this simple, foreign food item into a Vietnamese dish. Bánh mì sandwiches are made on small, airy, extremely light baguettes. They are more crumbly than the original French baguette.
A bánh mì sandwich might contain pork pâté or slices of chả lụa (Vietnamese pork luncheon meat), some cucumber, pickled carrots, spring onion sprigs, coriander, a splash of hot sauce, and a dusting of chà bông pork floss. A more exotic bánh mì might include pigskin, offal, or meatballs.
Phở bò (beef noodle soup) is a distinctively Vietnamese dish. It likely originated just outside Hanoi in the early 20th century. It is accompanied by a basket of herbs in the south or a vat of garlic vinegar in the north.
Chả cá Lã Vọng
Chả cá is a famous Hanoi dish made of fried fish, dill, and spring onion and served with cold bún (vermicelli) and peanuts.It is named for the restaurant that introduced it. This restaurant was the center of revolutionary activity against the French colonists.
Bún đậu mắm tôm
Hanoians call bún đậu mắm tôm “food for the poor” because it was a cheap dish during the meat scarcity following the war in Vietnam. It is a simple dish of cold rice noodles, tofu, and fermented shrimp paste. The dish is notable for its combination of textures—the softness of the noodles, the crispiness of the tofu, and the pungent, electric jolt of the mắm tôm (fermented shrimp paste).
Hủ tiếu Nam Vang
This slightly sweet rice noodle, prawn, and offal soup was brought to Viet Nam by Cambodian immigrants. It became a popular dish on the streets of Saigon. Variations have developed over the years—some dry, some wet, with subtle differences in ingredients, noodles, and stock.
Bún chả is a Hanoi original served only at lunchtime. Grilled pork belly and minced pork patties are served in a bowl of fish sauce with sliced chayote and carrot. It comes with a plate of lettuce, perilla leaves, bean sprouts, herbs, and fresh cold white vermicelli. U.S. President Barak Obama ate bún chả on an official visit to Vietnam, signifying the importance of Vietnamese food.
Source: 8 Essential Vietnamese Dishes
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