Must-Try Vietnamese Food & Drink While Interning in Vietnam

Posted by SE Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

It is not an exaggeration to say that Vietnam is a heaven of food.  Not all of our foods are suitable to your taste bud. However, there are quite a few signature dishes known internationally to be heartthrob and the failure to try it while you are here can result in great consequences. For example, you are going to have to power through mediocre hamburgers (we are not known for that) or very small portion of beefsteak and so on.

Let’s see the amazing Vietnamese food that you have to try during your internship in Vietnam.

1. Pho


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Now let’s start with the biggest international star of Vietnamese food – the one and only Pho. Of course everybody knows Pho, it is a comfort food for Vietnamese people that soothes your stomach on a cold day, the richness and depth in flavor can satisfy even the most skeptical person. Pho is also the epitomy of harmony in Vietnamese cuisine, the combination of rich fragrant broth with tender beef together with soft texture from the noodles topped with aromatic fresh herbs and vegetable, all the ingredients come together to create a party in your mouth.  


Meaningful Travel

You can find this common dish at most cities in Vietnam, just look for a place with a big “Pho” sign, check if there are a lot of local people eating there, if so, it is safe to go.

If you are in Ho Chi Minh City, look for Phở Lệ, Phở Hòa, Phở Quỳnh, Phở Phú Vương, these are popular Pho restaurant that represent a Southern twist of Pho.

Since the North is known to be the origin place of Pho, there are abundant restaurants to try to, the Phở Bát Đàn, Phở Lý Quốc Sư and so on.

2. Bánh Mì

Think a much more sophisticated and flavorful sandwich and there you have “bánh mì”, a Vietnamese favorite for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are a good amount of different banh mi style so that means you won’t be able to grow out of this classic for at least years. The Vietnamese banh mi main ingredient is a baguette, crunchy fragrant and warm, stuffed with a variety of protein (pork, chicken, beef, eggs, fish and so on), special sauce, herbs, pickles, cucumber slices and chilly. You can always ask the vendor to leave out certain ingredients in the banh mi. 

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The rich filling of banh mi

Banh mi is a quick and convenient way to start your day. However, some variations of this dish are suitable for lunch and dinner as well. The beefsteak banh mi for example, is a twist of Western beefsteak and Vietnamese banh mi. Basically the dish include banh mi, a thin slice of beef cooked with sauce, an egg, fries, sausage topped with slices of tomatoes and cucumber eaten with a side of veggies. 

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Banh mi with fish cake

You can find the traditional banh mi stall almost anywhere in Vietnam. Look for a simple cart filled with good stuff like this, when you see this, run for it.

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Banh mi cart

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Banh mi and Vietnamese style beefsteak

3. Chả Giò / Gỏi Cuốn

Wraps are something that you can find very common in Vietnamese cuisine because of the complexity in flavor that wraps give, you can’t see the magic inside but each bite is a new surprise that will keep you wanting more.

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Spring rolls or Cha gio. Photo:

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Summer rolls or Goi Cuon. Photo:

Cha gio and goi cuon are two different types of wrap, while cha gio is fried, has a rich filling and crunchy crust on the outside, goi cuon is a wrap dominated with rice noodles and fresh vegetables, pork and sometimes shrimp are added for flavor. If cha gio is usually served with a special sweet and sour fish sauce, the real way to eat goi cuon is to have it with peanut sauce or a special type of hoisin sauce.  

Both cha gio and goi cuon bring different flavors that will sure have you crave for more of them. They are not hard to find, you can find them both in fancy restaurants and street vendors.

4. Trà Đá

Many will be surprised that this simple drink is included in the list. However, don’t underestimate the slightly bitter aromatic cold drink that has long become the heart and soul of a meal in Vietnam. As you can probably tell, Vietnam has very hot and humid weather so a hot or sweet drink is definitely not suitable to fight away the heat. The slight bitterness of tea together with refreshing temperature of ice make for a very memorable taste that get you every time you drink it.

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5. Nước Sâm

If tra da doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth and you’re still looking for a drink that is cool, refreshing and is lightly sweet, then you should try nuoc sam. Nuoc sam is a drink made from boiling lots of herbs including sugar cane tree and melon, all these ingredients are known for their coolness, the ability to cool down your body, according to Vietnamese traditional medicine practices.


Ingredients to make nuoc sam

At the end of the day, it really is about your personal preference and sense of adventure to choose what Vietnamese dish you want to try. There is a plethora of delicious yet strange dishes that you have never thought of eating in your life and there are dishes that will leave a print on your mind for a really long time to come.


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