Vietnam Family Food Guide: Must-Try Dishes and Where to Find Them

Vietnam Family Food Guide: Bánh Mì Phượn in Hoi An © Aleney de Winter

Bánh Mì Phượn in Hoi An © Aleney de Winter

Discover the best of Vietnamese cuisine with our Vietnam family food guide, showcasing all the must-try dishes for both timid and adventurous palates, and the best spots to savour them as you travel across Vietnam with the fam.


Vietnam family food guide: What to eat in Vietnam with kids


Fresh herbs are the basis of many Vietnamese dishes © Aleney de Winter

Fresh herbs are the basis of many Vietnamese dishes © Aleney de Winter

Vietnamese cuisine invites families on a delightful culinary adventure that blends spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet elements to perfection. Renowned as one of Southeast Asia’s healthiest culinary options, its use of fresh ingredients is a standout.

For kids, there are no shortage of mild dishes to acclimatise kids to Vietnamese food. Younger kids will love steaming bowls of pho (a popular noodle soup featuring fragrant broth simmered with herbs and spices, filled with thin rice noodles, and accompanied by thinly sliced beef or chicken) which can be found in multiple variations across the country. Crowd-pleasing goi cuon (fresh spring rolls), rice paper wrappers stuffed with ingredients like rice noodles, pork, shrimp, fresh herbs and lettuce, are another country-wide favourite.

Other kid-friendly options include xoi ga (sticky rice and chicken), pho xao (stir-fried noodles), and the irresistible bánh xèo (pancakes with pork and prawns).

And who can resist the crispy temptation of banh mi (baguettes filled with pickled vegetables, herbs, pork and pate)? Not this family.

A street food tour is a great way for kids to sample Vietnam’s cuisine, and aspiring little chefs will love learning how to make traditional Vietnamese dishes on a farm tour and cooking class.


Must-try Vietnamese dishes and where to find them


Vietnam Family Food Guide: Pho bo is a popular soup that can be served simple or spicy

Pho bo is a popular soup that can be served simple or spicy © Aleney de Winter

Regional specialities add an extra layer of excitement to the Vietnamese culinary journey for the adventurous.

The best dishes to try in Vietnam’s north

Banh Cuon Vietnamese steamed rice rolls

Banh Cuon Vietnamese steamed rice rolls © Aleney de Winter


HANOI:
Steeped in culinary tradition, Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, boasts many dishes unique to the city. Try phở Hà Nội, the local variation of the popular soup renowned for its clear, delicate broth, tender beef or chicken slices, fresh herbs, and optional lime, chilli, and bean sprouts.

Bun cha (grilled pork patties) served with tender pork belly slices, vermicelli noodles, and fresh herbs is another essential Hanoi dish.

Banh cuon (rolled cake) are steamed rice rolls stuffed with minced pork and wood ear mushrooms, topped with fried shallots, served with cha lua (pork sausage) and fresh herbs, and served for breakfast.

Cha ca la vong (turmeric fish with dill) is a dish of white fish marinated in turmeric and galangal, then fried and served with fresh dill, peanuts, and vermicelli.

Bun Thang (noodle soup) is a chicken broth served with shredded chicken, sliced egg omelette, pork sausage, and aromatic herbs, perfect for special occasions.

Vietnam Family Food Guide: Nem cua be (fried spring rolls)

Nem cua be (fried spring rolls) © Aleney de Winter

Kids will also love Nem cua be (fried spring rolls) filled with crab meat, pork, mushrooms, and noodles, served with lettuce, herbs, and dipping sauce. Adventurous eaters might like mien xao luon (glass noodles with deep-fried eel), which you’ll find everywhere.

The best dishes to try in Central Vietnam

Banh Bot Loc Tran (Clear Shrimp and Pork Dumplings)

Street food in Central Vietnam © Aleney de Winter


HOI AN:
This pretty, popular city in Central Vietnam offers moreish cao lau (thick, springy rice noodles served with barbecued pork, fresh greens, sprouts, croutons, and broth) which is a Hoi An city specialty.

Cao Lau is a Hoi An speciality

Cao Lau is a Hoi An speciality

You’ll find Bánh bao bánh vạc (white rose dumplings) in most markets or restaurants. Delicate and visually stunning, they are crafted from translucent rice paper and filled with shrimp or pork, then steamed, topped with crispy fried shallots, and served with a sweet and tangy fish sauce.

Another beloved Hoi An dumpling is banh vac (vac cake), featuring a similar translucent wrapper filled with ground shrimp and mushrooms, steamed, and served with a savoury dipping sauce.

And don’t miss com ga Hoi An (Hoi An chicken rice), a fragrant dish of shredded chicken, fresh herbs, and turmeric-infused rice.

HUE: The ancient capital, Hue, offers several popular dishes unique to the city. We especially love bun bo Hue (a spicy beef noodle soup with lemongrass, shrimp paste, and fresh herbs).

Sticky dumpling delights in Central Vietnam

Sticky dumpling delights in Central Vietnam© Aleney de WInter


Banh beo
(chewy steamed treats, topped with dried shrimp, crispy pork skin, scallion oil, and served with nuoc mam cham dipping sauce) is another fave.

DA NANG: Famous for its seafood, many restaurants line the beach in lovely Da Nang, serving seafood chosen from live tanks and prepared in simple recipes.

Whole fried fish in Da nang

Whole fried fish in Da nang © Aleney de Winter

We love ngheu hap sa ot (steamed oval-shaped clams known colloquially as ‘chip chip’) served with lemongrass and chilli.

For something unique that you’ll only find in the Nam O fishing village of Da Nang’s Lien Chieu District, try goi ca nam o (fish salad), featuring raw fish marinated in vinegar or lime juice, mixed with fresh herbs, shredded vegetables, and a special spicy sauce, served with rice crackers.

Non-fish dishes to try in Da Nang include mi quang (turmeric noodles with pork and shrimp), a hearty soup known for its rich flavours and unique presentation, topped with peanuts, rice crackers, and fresh herbs.

Bunthit nuong (grilled pork with vermicelli noodles) is topped with fresh herbs, and a savoury-sweet fish sauce dressing.

Banh Trang Cuon Thit Heo (special pork rolls), with thinly sliced boiled pork belly wrapped in rice paper with fresh herbs and served with a fermented fish dipping sauce, are another fave in Da Nang.

NHA TRANG: This seaside city is the spot for Bun cha ca (fish cake noodle soup), which is made from a flavourful broth loaded with rice vermicelli, fish cakes, and fresh herbs.

Whole fried fish in Da nang

Whole fried fish in Da nang © Aleney de Winter

Another popular dish in Nha Trang is nem nuong ninh hoa, grilled pork sausage skewers with rice paper, fresh herbs, and pickled vegetables, served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce.

Banh can (small rice flour pancakes), filled with shrimp or squid, are popular food with kids in Vietnam.

The best dishes to try in Vietnam’s south

Kid friendly cuisine in Vietnam: Goi cuon Rice Paper rolls

Goi cuon Rice Paper rolls


HO CHI MINH CITY:
Formerly Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City‘s culinary landscape is vibrant and diverse, offering an array of must-try dishes. Cơm tam (broken rice dish served with grilled pork chop) is a quintessential dish, and served topped with a fried egg, pickled vegetables, and fish sauce, it is a hearty meal often garnished with scallions and crispy pork skin.

A southern street food that is especially  popular is bo la lot (beef in a leaf), made from seasoned ground beef wrapped in betel leaves. These savoury rolls are often served with rice noodles, fresh herbs, and a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, lime, and sugar.

Goi cuon, or fresh spring rolls, are rice paper wrapped around shrimp, pork and vermicelli noodles.

Finally, chao long, a comforting rice porridge made with pork organs, flavoured with ginger and green onions, is a popular breakfast or late-night dish.

The best Vietnamese sweets

Af Vietnam family food guide wouldn’t be complete without sweets and Vietnamese desserts will tantalise tiny taste buds. Popular choices include  Chuoi nep nuong (grilled bananas wrapped in sticky rice) are always a favourite as are banh chuoi chien (with a crispy exterior and soft gooey interior these are a huge hit with kids).

Banh tieu (hollow doughnuts) boasting a fluffy interior and a satisfyingly crispy exterior.

Banh bo nuong (honeycomb cake) is a delightful dessert made with coconut milk and pandan leaves, offering a unique texture and flavour.

To beat the heat, grab a bowl of che (sweet soup) thats made from layers of shaved ice, sweet beans, fruits, and jellies.

Or try banh flan (Vietnamese caramel flan), inspired by the French creme caramel but topped topped with sliced fresh fruit, jellies and a splash of coconut milk.


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ABOUT US

Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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