9 Most Underrated Vietnamese Foods You Should Try

Jul 05, 2024

When you think of Vietnamese cuisine, what comes to mind? Chances are, it’s the iconic pho or perhaps banh mi. While these dishes are undoubtedly delicious, they only scratch the surface of Vietnam’s rich culinary landscape. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most underrated Vietnamese foods that deserve just as much attention as their more famous counterparts.

underrated vietnamese foods Water fern cake

Beyond Pho, what can you expect from Vietnamese foods?

Vietnamese cuisine is a harmonious blend of fresh ingredients, vibrant flavors, and diverse textures. While pho has become synonymous with Vietnamese food worldwide, the country’s culinary traditions offer so much more. From hearty soups to delicate rice paper rolls, underrated Vietnamese foods showcase the country’s regional diversity and culinary ingenuity.

What makes these underrated Vietnamese foods so special is their ability to balance flavors and textures. You’ll find dishes that combine sweet, sour, salty, and umami tastes, often accompanied by a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables. These lesser-known dishes also reflect Vietnam’s history, with influences from Chinese, French, and other Southeast Asian cuisines.

Now, let’s dive into 9 underrated Vietnamese foods that will take your taste buds on an unforgettable journey.

9 underrated Vietnamese dishes

Banh Cuon – Steamed rice paper rolls

Banh cuon is a delicate and delicious dish that often flies under the radar of international visitors. These soft, thin rice noodle rolls are filled with seasoned ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. The rolls are then steamed to perfection and served with a side of nuoc mam (Vietnamese dipping sauce), fried shallots, Vietnamese pork roll, and some fresh herbs.

What makes banh cuon truly special is its texture. The rice noodle wrapper is so thin it’s almost translucent, allowing the flavors of the filling to shine through. It’s a light yet satisfying dish that’s perfect for breakfast or as a snack.

underrated vietnamese foods Steamed rice paper rolls

Find it at:

  • Banh cuon gia truyen – 50 Doi Can, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
  • Banh cuon Phuong – 68 Hang Cot, Hang Ma, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Banh Da Cua – Red noodle soup with crab

Hailing from the port city of Hai Phong, banh da cua is a noodle soup that deserves more recognition among underrated Vietnamese foods. The dish features flat, red or brown rice noodles in a rich tomato and crab-based broth. It’s typically topped with crab meat, pork, and sometimes fish balls.

The unique aspect of banh da cua is its use of red and brown rice noodles, which have a nutty flavor and chewy texture. Combined with the sweet-savory broth and fresh toppings, it creates a complex and satisfying meal that’s a true representation of Hai Phong’s culinary heritage.

underrated vietnamese foods Red noodle soup with crab

Find it at:

  • Banh da cua Ba cu – 179 Cau Dat, Ngo Quyen, Hai Phong
  • Banh da cua Ly Quoc Su – 14 Cha Ca, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Banh Beo – Water fern cake

Originating from the imperial city of Hue, banh beo are small steamed rice cakes topped with dried shrimp, crispy pork rinds, and scallion oil. These bite-sized delights are served in small dishes and eaten with a spoon, making them a fun and interactive food experience.

The beauty of banh beo lies in its simplicity and the contrast of textures. The soft, slightly chewy rice cake base pairs perfectly with the crunchy toppings. A drizzle of nuoc cham sauce adds a tangy, savory element that ties everything together.

underrated vietnamese foods banh beo Vietnam

Find it at:

  • Banh beo O Le – Kiot 104, 17/9 Kim Long, Hue
  • Banh beo Hue O Trinh – 126 Bui Thi Xuan, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Banh Bot Loc – Rice dumpling cake

Another gem from Hue, banh bot loc is translucent dumplings made from tapioca flour. They’re filled with shrimp and pork, then either steamed in banana leaves or boiled. The result is a chewy, slightly sticky dumpling with a savory filling that bursts with flavor.

What sets banh bot loc apart from other dumplings is its unique texture. The tapioca wrapper becomes almost transparent when cooked, allowing you to see the filling inside. It’s a testament to the creativity of Vietnamese cuisine and a must-try among underrated Vietnamese foods.

underrated vietnamese foods Rice dumpling cake

Find it at:

  • Banh beo nam loc Ba Do – 8 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Phu Hiep, Hue
  • Long Vi Dung nom bo kho – 23 Hoan Kiem Lake, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Banh Trang Tron – Rice paper salad

Banh trang tron, or mixed rice paper salad, is a popular street food in Ho Chi Minh City that hasn’t quite made it to international fame yet. This dish combines strips of rice paper with a variety of toppings like dried shrimp, beef jerky, quail eggs, peanuts, and fresh herbs.

The magic of banh trang tron is in its textural diversity. The chewy rice paper strips contrast beautifully with the crunchy peanuts and tender quail eggs. The mixture is tossed in a tangy-sweet dressing, creating a refreshing and addictive snack that’s perfect for hot days.

underrated vietnamese foods Rice paper salad

Find it at:

  • Banh trang tron chu Vien – 38 Nguyen Thuong Hien, Ward 5, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Banh trang tron – 86 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Bun Thit Nuong – Grilled pork and rice vermicelli

While not entirely unknown, bun thit nuong often gets overshadowed by other noodle dishes. This refreshing meal consists of cold rice vermicelli noodles topped with grilled pork, fresh herbs, pickled vegetables, and a generous pour of nuoc cham sauce.

What makes bun thit nuong stand out is its perfect balance of flavors and textures. The smoky, caramelized pork pairs beautifully with the cool, slippery noodles and crisp vegetables. It’s a dish that encapsulates the freshness and vibrancy of Vietnamese cuisine.

underrated vietnamese foods Grilled pork and rice vermicelli

Find it at:

  • Bun thit nuong – 1 Nguyen Trung Truc, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Bun thit nuong Kieu Bao – 139 De Tham, Co Giang, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Bun Mam – Fermented fish noodle soup

Bun mam is a bold and flavorful noodle soup that originates from the Mekong Delta region. This underrated Vietnamese food features a dark, pungent broth made from fermented fish sauce, loaded with seafood, pork, and eggplant. It’s served over rice vermicelli noodles and garnished with fresh herbs and vegetables.

The intense umami flavor of bun mam might be an acquired taste for some, but it’s a favorite among locals. The complex broth, combined with the variety of proteins and vegetables, creates a hearty and satisfying meal that’s full of traditional Vietnamese flavors.

underrated vietnamese foods Fermented fish noodle soup

Find it at:

  • Bun mam 444 – 375 Le Quang Dinh, Ward 5, Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Bun mam Co Ut – 74 Ut Tich, Ward 4, Tan Binh, Ho Chi Minh City

Banh Canh – Thick noodle soup

Banh canh is a thick noodle soup that comes in various regional variations. The noodles are made from a mixture of rice and tapioca flour, giving them a chewy, slightly glutinous texture. Common versions include banh canh cua (crab), banh canh tom (shrimp), and banh canh gio heo (pork knuckle).

What sets banh canh apart is its thick, almost gravy-like broth and the unique texture of the noodles. It’s a comforting dish that’s particularly popular during cooler weather, showcasing how underrated Vietnamese foods can be both familiar and exotic at the same time.

underrated vietnamese foods Thick noodle soup

Find it at:

  • Banh canh ghe 69 – 11 O Cho Dua, Cho Dua, Dong Da, Hanoi
  • Banh canh cua ghe Lam Son Ky – 162 Ton Duc Thang, Hang Bot, Dong Da, Hanoi

Bun Thang – Vermicelli and chicken soup

Rounding out our list of underrated Vietnamese foods is bun thang, a sophisticated noodle soup from Hanoi. This elegant dish features a light chicken broth served with thin rice noodles and topped with shredded chicken, pork, egg, and dried shrimp. It’s garnished with a variety of herbs and vegetables, creating a colorful and aromatic bowl.

The beauty of bun thang lies in its subtle flavors and the careful arrangement of ingredients. Each component is prepared separately and combined just before serving, allowing each flavor to shine individually while still creating a harmonious whole.

underrated vietnamese foods Vermicelli and chicken soup

Find it at:

  • Bun thang Thanh Thanh – 2/23 Ton That Thiep, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
  • Bun thang Ba Tong – 56 Ngo Sy Lien, Van Mieu, Dong Da, Hanoi

Join the journey to explore more underrated Vietnamese foods:

These nine underrated Vietnamese foods represent just a fraction of the country’s diverse and delicious cuisine. Each dish tells a story of regional flavors, cooking techniques, and cultural influences that have shaped Vietnam’s culinary landscape.

For more insights into Vietnamese culture, cuisine, and travel tips, visit Asia Encounter. Our team of experienced travelers and local experts can help you discover the hidden gems of Vietnam, from bustling street markets to serene countryside retreats. Let us guide you through the wonders of Vietnam, one delicious bite at a time. Maybe in your next Vietnam journey, you might just discover your new favorite dish among these underrated Vietnamese foods!


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