Vietnamese cuisine is very tasty and diverse. While the staple food is rice and noodles served with vegetables and meat, cuisine varies geographically between the north and south. The north is renowned for its meat and seafood stir-fries and delicious noodle soups (heavy on the soy sauce), while the south is influenced by Thai, Chinese and Cambodian cuisine with more colourful, spicy and sugary dishes. Blessed with over 3,000km of coastline, seafood is the region’s specialty.
Vietnamese classics include pho – a large bowl of rice noodles flavoured with sliced beef or chicken in a fragrant broth (served at breakfast but delicious at anytime of day) - spring rolls, and shrimp paste grilled on sugar cane.
The most popular draft beer among the Vietnamese is Saigon Do (Red Saigon). 333, pronounced ‘ba-ba-ba’, is another local brand but possibly the best is Bia Saigon found in a green bottle and Biere Larue that is also available for export. Vietnam adopted a tradition of viticulture from the French colonial times. Dalat is the centre of the winelands, and you can get very good red and white wine for about USD $4 a bottle. Elsewhere you’ll probably be served international wines (often Australian) at international prices.
Coconut water and sugar cane juice is a favourite in the hot southern part of the country. Another thirst-quencher is the fabulous Sinh To, a selection of sliced fresh fruit in a big glass combined with crushed ice, sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk. Coffee or ‘cà phê’ can be found on every street corner. It’s incredibly strong and delicious served black or with sweetened condensed milk.
Safe eating while travelling in Vietnam
Nobody wants to get sick when they're travelling but the change in environment can often bring on a dodgy stomach, however, there are ways to avoid this. Firstly, start taking a probiotic a week or two before travelling and continue to take daily once in Vietnam. Secondly, ensure any food you order is piping hot when served. Avoid raw meat, salads and raw vegetables, and follow the crowds - the busier a street stall or restaurant, the fresher the ingredients.