Bun bo nam bo
This bowl of vermicelli noodles — widely popular in Hanoi — comes sans broth, keeping the ingredients from becoming sodden and the various textures intact.
The tender slices of beef mingle with crunchy peanuts and bean sprouts, and are flavored with fresh herbs, crisp dried shallots, and a splash of fish sauce and fiery chili pepper.
One of Vietnam’s most popular dishes, cao lau combines elements from various cultures.
This pork noodle dish from Hoi An is a bit like the various cultures that visited the trading port at its prime.
The thicker noodles are similar to Japanese udon, the crispy won-ton crackers and pork are a Chinese touch, while the broth and herbs are clearly Vietnamese.
Authentic cau lao is made only with water drawn from the local Ba Le well.
Ca phe trung in Vietnam
Vietnamese “egg coffee” is technically a drink but we prefer to put it in the dessert category.
The creamy soft, meringue-like egg white foam perched on the dense Vietnamese coffee will have even those who don’t normally crave a cup of joe licking their spoons with delight.
In Hanoi, follow the tiny alley between the kitschy souvenir shops at 11 Hang Gai into the clearing, and up several flights of increasingly dicey stairs to pair your ca phe trung with an unbeatable view of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Savory sticky rice is less of an accompaniment to meals in Vietnam, more a meal itself.
The glutinous staple comes with any number of mix-ins (from slithers of chicken, or pork to fried or preserved eggs), but almost always with a scattering of dried shallots on top.
Pho might be Vietnam’s most famous dish but bun cha is the top choice when it comes to lunchtime in the capital.
Just look for the clouds of meaty smoke after 11 a.m. when street-side restaurants start grilling up small patties of seasoned pork and slices of marinated pork belly over a charcoal fire.
Once they’re charred and crispy the morsels are served with a large bowl of a fish sauce-heavy broth, a basket of herbs and a helping of rice noodles.
Bun cha sets often come with the delicious nem cua be — fried crab spring rolls. Still not convinced? It’s what Obama ate during his night out with Bourdain.