Vietnamese dishes are certainly not as widely known outside the country as, say, Chinese or Indian delicacies. But here's what you should know about the local food before visiting Vietnam – it is absolutely delicious.
The staple diet amongst Vietnamese people is Pho – spicy and hot noodles. These can be enjoyed at any time of the day, although they are particularly popular at breakfast. The noodles are made from a fragrant type of rice called Gao Te. Sometime the Pho is combined to form Pho Bo (noodles with beef), prepared by stewing cow bones (or pig bones) in a large pot for a considerable period of time. Slices of fillet mignon can be served with the Pho Bo, and ginger is added for a Pho Bo Tai, where the meat is always rare. Because western tastes often prefer darker meat, the beef slices can easily be cooked longer until they become well-done.
Cha Ca is a serving of fish, minced and grilled, that has been a mainstay of Vietnamese cuisine for over a century. First invented by the Doan family of Cha Ca Street in Hanoi, this dish can be utilised as the basis for many types of fish meals, from tuna to sturgeon. The bones are separated and put into saffron water, which is later used as a sauce. The fish is meat marinated in salt, then grilled. Cha Ca is a ubiquitous dish, with people free to add their condiments of choice to enhance the rich flavour – mint, dill, shallots and many other alternatives.
Com, or boiled rice, can be eaten with any of the day's meals. It can be served as various different types, and as an accompaniment to a variety of main dishes. Many of the popular rice servings are fragrant, such as Nang Huong or Tam Thom. When the Vietnamese talk about 'mon an kho', this is, literally, 'meal without soup'. This will consist of Com, together with pork, fish or shrimp, as well as abundant vegetables, all deliciously cooked in oil. 'Mon canh' is 'meal with soup', which is a wonderfully filling soup made from spare-ribs, pork, crab meat or fish. Because Com dishes are so practical, easy to prepare and tasty, they are served throughout Vietnam from streetside food stalls.
Vendors will begin to set up their stalls at around noon, arranging tables and benches on the pavement to form makeshift restaurant areas. They will do a roaring trade throughout the day, removing their wooden furniture once the customer numbers begin dwindling into the evening. For visitors just needing a quick fix during their busy sightseeing schedule, the good news is that these dishes are convenient and inexpensive.