Food Vietnam

Forced Healthy Eating in Vietnam

I expected many things to happen when I went to Vietnam, but being forced to a healthy diet wasn’t one of them. Apparently, Vietnamese like their vegetables, so much that it’s in their every dish; breakfast, lunch, dinner, hell even in their street food. No wonder they are lean and slim. I didn’t think I’d miss Filipino dish because I’ve always been a little adventurous when it comes to food, but I did. Don’t get me wrong, I eat vegetables, but when the nutritionists say “Eat pork in moderation,” I probably misheard pork for vegetables. So I eat veggies in moderation, . Anyhoo, one of the things that I document during my travel is the food that I eat and today we are dabbling on the authentic Vietnamese cuisine.




Phở

One thing I noticed in Vietnamese food is that they are not big on rice. What they do like to eat is this noodle dish called, Phở. It’s soup with bánh phở (rice noodles), veggies, and meat (either chicken or chicken). The first time I tasted it was at Elegant Inn where I had the chicken flavor while Bing had the beef. Pho is not exactly what I would recommend to anyone who likes their broth rich and salty. Pho is what you would have if the chef forgot to put in some salt. Pho is what you should have if you want noodles but need to be on a diet.

pho-chicken-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

pho-beef-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

The most popular pho place in Ho Chi Minh is Pho 2000 because this is where former US President Bill Clinton dined during his visit. The thing that I liked about pho is the rice noodles. It is white, almost translucent, and really soft.

pho-2000-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

Gỏi cuốn

In English, salad rolls, Gỏi cuốn is herbs with small pieces of meat (oftentimes, shrimp) rolled in rice wrapper. It is served with nước chấm, a dipping sauce that accompanies just about every Vietnamese dish. I’ve tasted the worst and the best version of it. The worst version is from a side-street vendor in Bùi Viện. It was so awful, Bing and I weren’t able to finish it.

goi-cuo-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

The best version is from this restaurant where the Happy Tour Guide, Andy took us for lunch during the Mekong River tour. We were even able to make it ourselves and it was so fun! [Read: The Not so New Story of a Mekong River Cruise]

goi-cuo-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

Sorry, I wasn’t able to get the name of the restaurant. I find the Vietnamese alphabet confusing so I didn’t want to ask people about what they call a certain place or a certain thing anymore because more often than not, it involves asking them to spell it out for me. It’s tedious, and I’m lazy.

Cá Kho Tộ

Probably the most flavorful dish I’ve ever tried in Vietnam is the caramelized fish or what they call locally as Cá Kho Tộ. It’s cat fish braised in a clay pot, simmered in caramelized sugar. It has a perfect balance of sweet and salty that appealed to my taste buds, so much that I almost finished it all to myself.

caramelized-fish-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

Goi

Like I said, Vietnamese like vegetables a damn lot and Goi is one of their common salad dishes. I tried one from an obscure restaurant that was recommended by Mercy, the Filipino teacher based in Ho Chi Minh that Bing and I met. It is a mountain of banana flowers, papaya, cilantro, some bits of duck meat, and other veggies that I couldn’t even name.

goi-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

Deep-Fried Sticky Rice Balls

Rice is not as popular in Vietnam as it is in the Philippines, but when they do rice they do it with style. I mean just look at this yellow round thing that when you break reveals, well, rice. It’s Hainanese rice only deep-fried. Was it good? You bet your A it is! In fact, if only I wasn’t too stuffed already, I’d probably finish the entire ball.

sticky-rice-balls-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

Bánh mì

There is one food that I really loved in Ho Chi Minh and that’s Banh Mi. The name is derived from bánh = bread and mì = wheat. It is basically a baguette sliced in the middle and filled with cold cuts like chicken, pork, or beef, vegetables, mayonnaise, liver pâté, etc. It’s really good, so good it’s the only thing that I wanted to eat during my stay there.

banh-mi-viet-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

banh-mi-phu-quy-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

banh-mi-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

I’ve tried Banh mi at Elegant InnBánh Mì Việt, and Phú Qúy Bakery. Out of the three, the most delicious is BMV’s version.

Roasted Duck

While Filipinos love chicken, Vietnamese people love duck. And because they like it healthy they roast the friggin’ duck. Duck meat is not as tender as that of chicken’s but I loved it all the same so it was one of the food that I really enjoyed during my stay.

roasted-duck-vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

And Other Greens

Bing and I had dinner with Steve and Phil (those guys that we met during the Mekong River tour). The food there is expensive but really good. I remembered two things from this resto, 1) the deep-fried rice 2) the garden on our table. Because there are too many greens I almost planted a tree, joke!

vietnamese-cuisine-coffeehan

Speaking of greens, I’m not sure if Vietnam has such a thing as a national vegetable, because if there is, I’m guessing it’s cilantro. It’s in almost all of their dishes that its smell wafts through the air in just about every resto that I entered. Maybe one of the reasons I had a hard time appreciating Vietnamese food is because of cilantro, you see, I happen to hate it.

I was not crazy about Vietnamese cuisine because it’s too healthy. Yeah I know, my reason sucks. Maybe because I grew up eating salty and greasy food, which is mostly what the Filipino cuisine is about. By the way, I’m not advocating unhealthy food, of course, it’s always better to be healthy. It’s just that when it comes to healthy eating, I’ve a long way to go.

But when I went back home, I found myself craving for some of their food, particularly Banh mi. Banh mi is one of the best things that I remember whenever some people ask me about my Vietnam trip. So if you too are not big on healthy eating and you happen to visit Vietnam, get yourself a banh mi. You can never go wrong with Banh mi.

 

 

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Comments (66)

  1. Gessa C
    Gessa C

    I used to hate healthy foods too but as soon as I became a mom, my taste for foods had changed! Not that much, though. I am now craving for healthy foods like fresh veges – more on green and the like. I am quite interested with the Gỏi cuốn. It is kind of fresh lumpia hahaha but sure it looks delish.

    Reply
  2. Mia Foo
    Mia Foo

    i’ve tried pho 2000 when i was in hcmc too and they were so nice! i absolutely love banh mi too, they are the perfect breakfast choice along with a cup of vietnam coffee! there’s another street food which i found absolutely delicious, and i think they’re called banh xeo? I didn’t seen any in hcmc though, but found them in nha trang. they’re like seafood crepes, eaten with lots of raw veggies!

    Reply
  3. Toni
    Toni

    Took down notes. Going over the weekend. 😉

    Reply
  4. Vyjay
    Vyjay

    That is a lot of healthy food there. I would need to depend on the greens and anything vegetarian, but I guess I should be all right.

    Reply
  5. Sally Cochrane
    Sally Cochrane

    I wouldn’t be forced to eat at all in Vietnam, I love the food there so much! So fresh and yummy.

    Reply
  6. Christina
    Christina

    I did not know that Vietnamese cuisine contains so many veggies. I will definitely be trying authentic pho when I visit some day. And hopefully, a lot of the other foods on this list including deep fried rice balls. Yum.

    Reply
  7. Me-An Clemente
    Me-An Clemente

    I missed Vietnam because of your blog post. I’m a meat lover, but I wouldn’t mind eating a lot of vegetables so long it’s Vietnamese. They’re really known for healthy food. I’m craving for beef flavored Phở and Gỏi cuốn. I just find Banh Mi hard to bite though. Anyway, thanks for sharing 🙂 You made my mouth water.

    Reply
  8. Sheri
    Sheri

    I don’t think I would survive a week on just healthy food. My body is accustomed to eating a variety of things (most not healthy), but I do think that going through a few days of eating healthy food, something different and trying out food from a new culture doesn’t hurt. LOL. There are a few things here I would like to try though, maybe at a nice Vietnamese Restaurant.

    Reply
  9. michymichymoo
    michymichymoo

    I’m honestly not a fan of Vietnamese food but I would love to try it every once in a while. hehe. Haven’t tried Banh Mi tho. 😛

    Reply
  10. pinaynomad
    pinaynomad

    good stuff! I will go to Vietnam next month. I can’t wait to try bahn mi sandwich. 🙂

    Reply
  11. Lester
    Lester

    That is a log of green stuff haha! This is something one should try when going to Vietnam. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      They like ’em healthy, those Vietnamese peeps.

      Reply
  12. Christine @thetraveloguer
    Christine @thetraveloguer

    Great round up of Vietnamese food, I’m craving some right now! I’ve never tried Ca Kho To, it sounds amazing. I ate so much banh mi in Vietnam too! ?

    Reply
  13. Carol Colborn
    Carol Colborn

    Love Vietnamese food with all the veggies! I am making Vietnamese lettuce wraps for dinner in a couple of hours! And you have introduced a couple of new dishes to me with this!

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      I’m curious about your own version of Gỏi cuốn.

      Reply
  14. ariane
    ariane

    All the food looks so yummy, makes me want to go to Vietnam someday :3

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      You should go there. If you love healthy food you are going to love Vietnamese cuisine. 🙂

      Reply
  15. Sonnie
    Sonnie

    I love viet foods! Just by looking at your pics it made me crave for one. I like how how the Vietnamese mix their veggies in their dishes, and boy, the herbs brings a special taste to their food.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Then you are going to have a grand time in Ho Chi Minh. 🙂

      Reply
  16. Corinne
    Corinne

    Hilarious! I love, love, love Vietnamese food…wish I was there right now! That fish dish sounded amazing!

    Reply
  17. Hannah
    Hannah

    It all looks delicious, from one Han to another 🙂

    Reply
  18. Rey Emmanuelle
    Rey Emmanuelle

    Feed me Bánh mì all year long!! Loves it! i’m not sure how it is called locally in the Phils but here in Australia we just call it Vietnamese Pork Roll.. and it’s yum! forever noms! x

    Reply
  19. Ann Balisbis
    Ann Balisbis

    Great timing since we’re eyeing Vietnam for our next out of the country trip not only because it’s cheaper compared to others, but also their rich culture. And now that I’ve seen their food, I am definitely kicking this out of our list! LOL Kidding aside, I’m not a veggie eater. Thanks for the heads up! I might just bring some Filipino food. haha But the Roasted Duck photo made me want to try it. 🙂

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hahaha… Don’t give up on it yet. Who knows, maybe you’d find their food to your liking.

      Reply
  20. Nicole P
    Nicole P

    I too am in love with their Gỏi cuốn, but the closest thing that I can find here is the one in mak chang, and it’s missing the white wrapping. 🙁 banh mi sounds like a vietnamese version of a sub sandwich? 🙂 I feel that if I bring my husband to vietnam he’s gonna be pissed with all the greens while I’ll be feeling like I’m in heaven. hahaha!

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      When I saw banh mi, I thought of the Subway sandwich too.

      Reply
  21. Louise
    Louise

    One of the major problems I have when planning my trip to Vietnam is this. I worry that I might not survive with their food. I, just like you, is used to the typical salty and greasy foods. I was not raised to eat veggies as my mom herself don’t eat it. So travelling to Vietnam would be a big challenge which I’m not prepared to face yet. But I’ll take note on your banh mi recommendation.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Just eat the banh mi, you can never go wrong with it.

      Reply
  22. Cheryl F.
    Cheryl F.

    They (food) really look healthy but I don’t think I can take that. But for a few days travel I might consider. Lol. Anything healthy is worth a try though.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      If you’re not big on veggies you may find eating there a bit challenging.

      Reply
  23. Caroline
    Caroline

    What a fun list; I myself have had carmelized fish and its very yummy. Your pictures look so good too 🙂

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Yes, I love that caramelized fish. Thanks Caroline.

      Reply
  24. Dorothy Mae C. Torretijo
    Dorothy Mae C. Torretijo

    I’m a food lover so expect me to love all of it!!! But sad to say that you didn’t enjoy their food. But hopefully, I could visit Vietnam soon.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      I’m sad too, but to be fair they have some food that I liked.

      Reply
  25. bluedreamer27
    bluedreamer27

    of all the food listed here, my heart goes to the Deep-Fried Sticky Rice Balls. Is it sweet it looks appetizing to me?
    These are indeed healthy meals… the life span of Vietnamese people must be very long ^_^ …
    I think the dishes are almost identical with those in Malaysia (most of my Malaysian friends used to post similar type of dishes)
    Thanks for sharing and happy blogging to you

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      It’s not sweet, it tastes like Hainanese chicken. 🙂

      Reply
  26. Roselle Toledo
    Roselle Toledo

    I love Pho. So much that whenever there’s a Pho Hoa restaurant expect me to eat there. I’m curious if the taste is the same as the authentic Pho from Vietnam and if they also smother it with sriracha and hoisin like I do.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Maybe that’s what lacking in my pho, the sriracha and the hoisin.

      Reply
  27. Ten
    Ten

    What a vivid, mouth-watering story! Really enjoyed the sights, sounds, smells and taste of your article.

    Reply
  28. Joy Perito-Priginal
    Joy Perito-Priginal

    Sad to hear that you did not enjoy their food much!?I guess vietnamese resto here in Manila tastes differently because they already adjusted it according to Filipinos taste bud.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Now that you mentioned it, I think I have to try one of the Vietnamese restos here.

      Reply
  29. aika loraine
    aika loraine

    Whenever i go to different places; i wanted to taste all their famous delicacies. Photos you posted looks so inviting. Whew. Traveling overseas and having a taste of their food are all ontop of my list!

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      One of the best parts of traveling is the food. I also make it a point to go on a food trip whenever I go.

      Reply
  30. Anna @ shenANNAgans
    Anna @ shenANNAgans

    I want many of all the foods in my belly! OMG,… So darn good. My bestest is Vietnamese and has prepared me some of the most delicious and tasty eats I have ever experienced and I am now so desperate to get there. If the healthy food is served like this, I say yay… Awesome post, heading over to look for travel adventures to Vietnam now. 🙂

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Looks like you are going to love the food there Anna.

      Reply
  31. Rosemarie
    Rosemarie

    This is just great! I’m heading to Vietnam soon and I can’t wait to try these!

    Reply
  32. Lauren
    Lauren

    The food looks delicious! And healthy eating can only be a good thing, at least you don’t have the return from holiday diet to worry about!

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      That’s the only consolation to be honest hahaha…

      Reply
  33. Arni
    Arni

    I just recently tried Vietnamese food here in Manila and I enjoyed it even though I’m not big fan of noodles. . Did you notice any difference between the authentic version and the ones available here in Manila?

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Arni. To be honest, I haven’t tried any Vietnamese resto in Manila prior to this trip. When I got back, I went to this newly opened Vietnamese resto in our neighborhood, not the pho though, just the banh mi. I must say the banh mi tastes a lot better in Vietnam.

      Reply
  34. Krista
    Krista

    I know almost nothing about Vietnamese food, but I absolutely love Pho!! I had no idea it was so bland in Vietnam. When I’ve had it in Australia, it’s rich, strong, and so full of flavor.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Maybe it’s just me who find it bland, I don’t know hahaha… I’m used to salty food you see.

      Reply
  35. Elissa
    Elissa

    I remember travelling to Vietnam about 8 years ago and the food was definitely a highlight. So fresh, so yummy!

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      I wished I could say the same way, but oh well, maybe another time hahaha… Thanks for commenting Elissa. 🙂

      Reply
  36. Eileen | The Food Avenue
    Eileen | The Food Avenue

    Pho is one of my absolute favourite dishes! Not to mention Banh mi. I have to get to Vietnam one day – all of that food sounds right up my alley.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Then you’d probably love it authentic Eileen. 🙂

      Reply
  37. Evelyne CulturEatz
    Evelyne CulturEatz

    Great timing cause Vietnam is on my list of maybe for my next trip, thanks for the food tour! Love Banh Mi and that fish dish I would love to try.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Let me know how you find the caramelized fish Evelyn.:)

      Reply

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