The Northern Treats & Recipes

The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America says that Vietnam is the country with the lowest obesity rate. This is no surprise considering the fact that Vietnam is supposed to have the healthiest and most balanced cuisine in the world.

As a German, I have to admit that it took me some time to get used to the Northern Vietnamese food, but let me tell you one thing: Once you get used to it (which can already happen within a few days), there is no way out.

Luckily, there are some Vietnamese restaurants all over the world, but in case you do not have any nearby, we collected the best Footprint signature recipes for you to make at home. I believe that food is a significant part of a culture and by learning how to prepare it, you will connect more to this particular culture. We hope that these recipes will bring you closer to Vietnam.

Tip for Vegetarians: Just leave out the meat (or replace it with Tofu and other meat alternatives)! The food will be just as good.

Notes: TBS-Tablespoon, TS-Teaspoon, g-gramm, ml-millilitre.

#1 Phở

A must try in Vietnam. I might even dare to say that if you didn’t try Pho while being in Vietnam, you didn’t experience the country. Make sure to spice it up with pickled garlic, chilli and lots of freshly squeezed lime juice. Its origin lays in Hanoi and goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. After the partition of Vietnam in 1954, pho became popular in the South due to big immigration from North to South.



Phở gà (chicken pho) recipe by Tram

Difficulty: medium
Time: 2,5 hours (2 hours of boiling the bones)
For: 4 portions





– 3kg beef/chicken bones
– 300g red onions
– 100g ginger
– pinch of sugar
– pinch of salt
– 5l water
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 1 anise piece
– 1 onion
– 1kg chicken leg or chicken breast
– 25g spring onion
– 25g (Vietnamese) basil
– 100g Pho noodles
– Lime (optional)
– Chili and/or chilli sauce (optional)


1. Boil the bones and the chicken leg/breast for 5 minutes in 2l of hot water. Pour out the water as this water is used to clean the meat and bones.
2. Boil the chicken leg/breast and bones in 3l of fresh hot water. Once the meat is ready, take it out and put it aside. Then, add salt and sugar to the boiling bones. Reduce the heat and boil it for 1 to 2 hours on a low temperature.
3. Slice the onion and ginger into big chunks and put it on the grill together with the cinnamon and anise. Take the ingredients off the grill before they turn black and mince all ingredients. Put them all into the boiling bones.
3. Season the water once again if you wish and turn off the heat.
4. Take the Pho noodles and clean them first in a bowl of hot water.
5. Tear the chicken leg/breast into smaller pieces.
6. Cut the spring onions and basil into small pieces.
7. Take a bowl and put the pho noodles, chicken leg/breast, spring onions and basil inside and pour it with a soup ladle of the boiled bone water.
8. Add some fresh lime juice and/or chilli sauce


#2 Bánh Mỳ

Bánh Mỳ is a quick and easy sandwich, which goes perfectly at any time of the day and as both snack and meal. Whilst the meat version includes pate and ham pieces, the vegetarian version includes an omelette. Topped with cucumbers, coriander and chilli sauce, it makes the perfect Asian meal when you miss the Western food.



Bánh Mỳ by Hong Anh


Difficulty: easy
Time: 30 minutes
For: 4 people




– 4 baguette buns
– 1 package of chả (Vietnamese pork roll; alternatively, you can use any kind of meat of your choice or make an omelet instead)
– 1 large cucumber
– 2 carrots
– butter
– 1 can/package of pate
– coriander leaves
– Chili Sauce
– ½ cup white vinegar
– ½ cup of sugar
– 1TS salt


1. Cut the pork roll (or substitute) and the cucumber into long and thin slices.
2. Peel the skin off the carrot and shred it into a bowl. Add the salt into the bowl and mix well. Drain any liquid and then add the white vinegar and sugar.
3. Slice the baguette buns lengthwise and spread the butter and pate evenly on the bottom part. Place the pork roll (or substitute) and cucumber slices on the baguette bun as well as the carrot mixture. Add the coriander leaves and add the chilli sauce on the top of the baguette.


#3 Nem

The variety of spring rolls is massive and I have never felt disappointed by spring rolls. They can be served either fried or raw; with or without meat; and with a big variety of vegetables (sprouts, salads, carrots, mushrooms and many more).


Fried Nem by Hang

Difficulty: medium
Time:1,5 hours
For: 6 people



Ingredients sauce:

– 1TBS sugar
– 5TBS warm water
– 1TBS fish sauce (I use NgamNgu)
– 1TBS rice vinegar (not seasoned)
– 2 garlic cloves
– 2 fresh chillis (red, with seeds)

Ingredients spring rolls:

– 100g bean thread noodles (I use PhuHuong)
– 50g of dried mushrooms (you can usually find them in Asian supermarkets)
– 1TS sugar
– ½TS salt
– ½TS fish sauce
– 300g carrot
-. 100g spring onion
– 100g dried shrimps
– 300g sprouts
– 500g minced pork
– ½TS black pepper
– ½TS vegetable oil
– Round rice paper
– chicken egg
– 200g lettuce


1. Mince 2 garlic cloves and put them into vinegar. Add the chilli, sugar and water after 10 minutes and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Put the noodles into a bowl of hot water and let them soak for 5 minutes. Do the same for the dried mushrooms and shrimps for 10 minutes (the shrimps might need longer, please check the instructions on the package or ask the vendor). Use a big bowl to mix the previously diced carrots, sprouts, mushrooms, shrimps and onions. Add the noodles as well as the vegetable oil, black pepper, sugar, salt, fish sauce and egg. Mix it well and put 2TBS of the mixture on the rice paper. Roll it into a spring roll.
3. Fry the spring rolls in a pan with hot oil until they are cross and golden brown. Serve them with the previously prepared sauce and the lettuce.


#4 Chè

As I try to follow a healthy lifestyle, Che for me is the perfect equivalent of this amazing treat I used to get every once in a while when I was younger. The best way to describe it is to call it a mix between a sweet mix of soup and pudding served over ice in a glass and eaten with a spoon. The choice is big: You can pick between several kinds of beans, seeds, fruits, which are cooked and sweetened with sugar and turned into a jelly texture. Topped with coconut rasps and coconut milk, you will feel like you are trying a little piece of heaven.



Chè recipe by Tam

This recipe is only one variation of the Chè. Feel free to add some other ingredients which you like.
Difficulty: medium to advanced
Time:45 minutes
For: 6 cups



– 3 large corncobs
– 800ml water
– 2 pandan leaves (optional)
– ¼ cup small tapioca pearls
– ½ cup sugar
– ½ cup green sticky rice
– coconut milk (as much as you wish)
– 2TBS roasted sesame seeds


1. Peel the corncobs and put the corn into a bowl by using a sharp knife.
2. Put the corn and the pandan leaves into a pot with the water and boil it until it reaches the boiling point. Then, reduce the heat to medium and boil it for another 10 minutes. Afterwards, reduce the heat to a low temperature and boil it for another 10 minutes or until the corn softens. Remove the pandan leaves.
3. Add the sugar, tapioca pearls to the mixture and stir again. Keep the stove on for another 3 minutes at a low temperature. Add the green sticky rice and stir everything.
4. Pour the mixture into cups and add the coconut milk on top. Pour the sesame seeds on top.


#5 Bánh Rán

Just as the previous two dishes, there are numerous of varieties for Banh Ran. Whilst Banh can be translated with cake, Ran means fried. Deriving from Southern Vietnam, the dough of this culinary delight consists of sticky rice flour and is deep fried. The filling can be either sweet with mung bean paste (but also with black bean paste or lotus paste) or savoury with fried noodles, vegetables and meat.


Alex Tran, 2014


Sweet Bánh Rán recipe by Hoa

Difficulty: advanced
Time: 7 hours (3-4 hours: beans soaking/ 2 hours: dough chilling)
For: 20 BánhRán balls



Ingredients Cover

– 120g of glutinous flour (sticky rice flour)
– 1TBS rice flour
– 50g of sugar
– 10g of green beans (without the shell)
– 100ml water
– 50g of sesame
– 1TBS cooking oil
– 1TS baking powder

Ingredients Filling

– 40g of green beans (without the shell)
– 30g of grated coconut
– 10g of roasted sesame
– 25g of sugar
– 1TS cooking oil


1. Put all green beans into cold water (place the beans first and pour as much water until the beans are slightly covered) and let them soak for 3 to 4 hours. Afterwards, boil them for 15 minutes with some hot water. Then, put 10g aside for the cover. The other beans will be mixed in a mixer with the coconut scrape, roasted sesames, sugar and oil until smooth. Form 20 small balls out of this mixture and let them cool in a fridge.
2. In the meantime, mix the glutinous and rice flour, sugar cooking oil and leftover beans as well as the baking powder together. Add the water gradually, so that you make sure that you don’t use too much. Finish, once you have a smooth dough, which isn’t too sticky. Let the dough cool for about 2 hours before you divide it into 20 equal portions.
3. Take out the filling from the fridge and cover them with the dough. Make sure you roll the ball tightly in your hands afterwards, so the dough is even and that there will be no holes. Afterwards, dip it into a bowl of sesame.
4. Fill up a pan with lots of oil (the oil has to cover the Bánh Rán). Put it on the stove on the hottest temperature, until the oil is hot. Then, lower the temperature down to the middle and put the Bánh Rán in the oil. Use chopsticks to turn them and fry them for about 6 to 7 minutes. Last but not least, increase the temperature to the hottest and fry them for another minute until golden brown. Let them cool on a grid with a plate underneath, so that the leftover oil doesn’t stick to the Bánh Rán.

#6 Bún Chả

Another classic from Hanoi, Bun Cha is the perfect mix of sweet and sour. The perfect combination of noodles, grilled pork, salad and a sweet mouth-watering sauce makes it impossible to resist.


Stu Spivack, 2009


Bún Chả recipe by Tra

Difficulty: medium
Time: 1 hour
For: 4 people




– 1kg of pork meat
– 1kg of rice vermicelli
– 200g perilla
– some coriander
– 2 shallots
– 10TBS fish sauce
– 3TBS rice vinegar (alternatively 1 lime)
– 5TBS brown or white sugar
– 200ml water
– 2 garlic cloves
– 1 red chilli
– ¼ green papaya
– black pepper


1. Slice the pork meat into 4x10cm slices. Marinate the pork meat with 2TBS of sugar, 5TBS of fish sauce, 2 minced shallots and some black pepper. Leave it for 30 minutes. Afterwards, grill the slices on a grid and put it in a bowl.
2. Prepare the sauce by mixing 5TBS of fish sauce, 3TBS of rice vinegar or lime, 3TBS of sugar, 200ml water, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 minced chilli and a ¼ of a green papaya.
3. Prepare the rice vermicelli according to the instructions on the package.
4. Wash the coriander and perilla and put them aside.
5. Serve the sauce in a bowl for each person and divide the meat into equal parts and put it in the bowl. Serve the vermicelli in one big bowl as well as the coriander and perilla. Each person can then take some vermicelli, perilla and coriander and dip it in the sauce before eating.

#7 Khoai lang nhân phô mai

This delight may not be typical for Northern Vietnam dishes, but should not be missed in our collection of great recipes. The sweet potato sticks with cheese filling are a delicious snack and also loved by children.

Khoai lang nhân phô mai recipe by Hien

Difficulty: medium
Time: 1 hour
For:  about 20 balls




– 3 medium sized sweet potatoes
– 20g (+20g) of tapioca starch (alternatively: all purpose flour)
– 2TBS of sugar (or more, if you like it more sweet)
– 5TBS coconut milk
– 2 to 3 cheese sticks or cut cheese cubes
– 120g tempura flour (mix of corn starch and rice/wheat flour, you can mix it yourself if you wish)
– 1TBS black sesame
– 500ml Vegetable oil (depends on pan size)
– Oil absorbent paper (e.g kitchen towel)


1. Boil the sweet potatoes in hot water until they are soft. Take them out and peel the skin off. Grind them with a fork until it becomes mashed.
2. Mix the mashed sweet potatoes with the 20g tapioca starch, sugar and coconut milk until it becomes a dough-similar texture.
3. Take one cheese string or cube and wrap the sweet potato mix around it. Make sure the cheese is covered from all sides. Use the other 20g to pour over an even space and slightly roll the sweet potato balls around it.
4. Mix the tempura flour with the black sesame and add some water. Pay attention that it does not become too liquid. Roll the sweet potato cheese sticks/balls over the mixture and deeply fry them in a pan with much oil (the sticks/balls have to be completely covered in oil). Once finished, place them on either a grid or on oil absorbing paper such as kitchen towels to remove the leftover oil.


Tipp: You can make more if you want and only fry them slightly and then put them in the freezer for the next times. If you do that, make sure, you let them cool down before placing them in the freezer.



Author: Mascha

a 23 year old German girl with restless feet and a desire travel. With a sense of adventure, she has found her love to Vietnam during the internship program with Footprint. Today she officially joins the family and seamlessly become a crucial part of it.