The Southern Treats

Vietnam’s cuisine is dynamic and incredibly distinct. Unlike the balance of the sweet and the salty from the North and spicy and strongly flavored from the Central Vietnam, you may notice the fresh textures and sweet flavour of the quintessential Southern dishes. If you are looking for information on culinary experiences in the South of Vietnam, browse our listing of 10  top dishes to try. By no means is this a definitive list—just 10 of the most memorable, most interesting, and most delicious dishes for me. With all that being said, are you ready to start exploring?


1, Hu Tieu Nam Vang

Kirk K, 2015


Most Vietnamese dishes fall under broad categories such as “Banh”, encompasses many versions of cakes. The same goes with “Hu Tieu” family, which always involves noodle, whether it’s dry noodles or noodle soup. This Hu Tieu version originates from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At first, you may think that it looks like Pho noodles. In fact, the noodles are made from tapioca, making them slightly thinner and chewier, compared to rice noodles for Pho. The ingredients used are fried garlic, thin sliced pork, prawns, quail eggs, a slice of liver, shallot and celery. Like many other Vietnamese noodle dishes, the broth is the key factor that determines the quality. That’s where simplicity ends. The broth is comprised of various steps and ingredients including pork bones, dried shrimp and onion, etc. If you’re in the mood for something light, then this is definitely for you.


2, Com Tam (Broken Rice)


Ken Chang, 2009


Yes, rice – one of the most commonly-used ingredients that typify Vietnamese cuisine. As you read the title, your mind may start to wonder about the weird name. In the past, Vietnamese farmers couldn’t sell their broken grains of rice, which were broken sometimes while being processed from the field. They had to eat the poor rejected grains themselves. This cheaper alternative to “unbroken” rice has actually become popular over the years due to its softer texture. Many variations of protein exist based on personal preference. My favourite is Com Tam with fragrant roasted ribs.


3, Bun Mam


Thuy Khue Ly, 2012


As I mentioned above, this is another version of noodle. Bun Mam may take a bit time to appreciate. But once you get used to it, there is no way out. It’s one of the specialties of Soc Trang province in the Mekong Delta region. Again, the broth is made from pork and fish bones. However, the broth can be taken to another whole level with intense flavour of “mam tom” (shrimp sauce). If you have visited Vietnam before, you may have noticed this popular sauce which is made from fermented shrimp. The protein varies with shrimp, squid, and catfish in combination with sliced aubergine and scallions. The long shorelines make this region become heaven of seafood.


4, Bun Rieu


Premshree Pillai, 2016

Bun Rieu is a one of the few Vietnamese noodle soups that’s tomato based with crab flavour. It’s served with crab dumplings, fried tofu, and snail. And again if your taste buds can handle “mam tom”, ask to include shrimp paste. And of course, thanks to the warm weather and fertile soil of Southern Vietnam, you may not forget the nutritious and fresh bites of a wide range of fruits, vegetables and herbs.


5, Banh Khot


Banh Khot originates from Vung Tau, located 100 km away from HCM City. Banh Khot has a beautiful golden – brown and is really crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside. The most common filling is shrimp, but then there are many different versions of the filling from pork to seafood.  It was served with sauces, pickled papaya and vegetables.


6, Banh Trang Nuong


Thu Nguyen, 2012


Banh Trang Nuong refers to a large rice cracker served with delicious toppings or you can call “Vietnamese pizza”. You can find Banh Trang mostly everywhere in HCM City. Pork, scallions and red peppers are cut into small pieces and placed in the centre of the rice cracker. Then the street vendor will add in an egg to the mixture, following by the cracker being placed on the grill. This is such a perfect to quickly grab and take a deep bite of this crunchy piece of goodness as you wonder around the HCM City.


7, Banh Trang Tron


Banh Trang Tron or rice paper salad is another unique snack in Southern Vietnam. The street vendor cut rice paper into thin strips to make the bulk of the salad. Along with it, we have dried beef, dried shrimp, boiled quail egg, green mango tossed together with soy sauce and chili and kumquat juice. Every dish has its own hero so as for me; Vietnamese dried beef is the one.


8, Cut Chien Bo


It’s possible to miss the little birds grilled over open flames. However, the scent and smoke wafts into the street, enticing me every single time to stop and eat Cut Chien Bo or quail fried in butter. Every few minutes, the street vendor will brush these birds with mixture of butter, dried herd and spices. The kick of the quail comes when they are served with pickles and baguette.


9, Cut Lon Xao Me


Hong Hanh Vu, 2012

If you see cut lon xao me or quail egg fried with tamarind for the first time, you may have the same reaction as me. However don’t be put off by the name or what they look like. The unusual food tastes way better than it looks. Served nationwide, quail egg is simple, rustic and fun to eat

Quail egg is served in other delicious ways in different regions of Vietnam, including pan-fried in tamarind sauce with peanuts.


10, Lau Cua Dong


The sweet taste of crab meat, the soft texture of crab roe and sour taste of tomatoes and tamarind. Depend on your appetite; you can add other proteins such as squid, shrimp, buffalo spinach, water mimosa. This is so tasty that I always end up eating way too much.


Author: Hong Anh

Hong Anh is a true story-teller. For her, travelling is about stepping out of your comfort zone. Each of her stories is a unique travel experience that is told and illustrated by her own distinctive style.

Hong Anh