1. Pho - duh! You can't say you've been to Vietnam and experienced its food if you haven't tried pho. Pronounced like fur, pho is a classic Vietnamese soup noodle dish.
You can have it either with chicken or beef but the beef is a popular pick. Beef pho is the bomb! It's packed full of fresh herbs and even though the soup base is clear, it's got plenty of taste. There's a strong cilantro taste because the herb is used generously in this dish (as well as many other Vietnamese dishes).
I had my first and only "commercial" bowl at the top of the Fansipan mountain range at their cafe. It was VND65,000 (roughly RM9) and since it was a freezing 1 degree Celsius up there, it was such a treat to dig into.
2. Banh Mi - a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. The French left much influence on the Vietnamese cuisine till today and it is especially evident in the Banh mi. It is made with baguette and plenty of herbs and a common ingredient is pork and pate.
Most Banh mi can be bought at roadside stalls and will only cost you VND25,000 at most (RM3.50). For that amount, you'll get an entire sandwich that'll rival any footlong sub. These babies are also low in calories, especially if you get a vege version.
3. Pumpkin soup - whaaaaat? Pumpkin soup? Yes, pumpkin soup with just a dash of cream and made with lots of love. For some reason, the pumpkins in Vietnam are sweet and tastes absolutely heavenly.
Pumpkins back home come in a very pallid yellow hue and tend to taste rather bland. Over there, the pumpkin has a buttery texture and an incredibly rich taste. Not to mention, when blended, it comes out a vibrant yellow-orange that makes for good pictures. (This image was not edited at all!)
4. White Rose - Now, this is a very fascinating dish. It looks much like a type of dimsum we can find back home but it is much lighter.
The clear white rice wrap is stuffed with shrimp and topped off with fried shallots. I only found this dish while visiting the Ancient Town of Hoi An in a little restaurant facing the river. I was told that it's a dish native to the town.
5. Vietnamese fried rice spring rolls - of course this is a staple and has to be included in the list of must-eats in Vietnam. You can have the non deep fried version, but where's the fun in that, amiright?
What I loved about the ones I had in Halong Bay was that it didn't have any peanuts (as I am allergic) and it didn't have too strong a herbal taste. Instead, the focus was on the fresh ingredients like mushrooms and the rice noodles.