Vietnamese is quite justifiably regarded as one of the world’s great cuisines. It is fresh, tasty and uses a wide range of herbs and spices to create a unique style across a wide range of dishes. While you are holidaying in Nha Trang, take the time to sample some of the local dishes available from humble street stalls with their tiny plastic chairs on the pavement,up to 5 star resorts and hotels. Here we take a look at 4 very different dishes, all popular with visitors.
Pho is the national dish, and renowned across the globe. It is a noodle soup, usually based on beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga), and can be found on seemingly every street in town. The dish uses fresh leafy vegetables, sprouts and a variety of spices, including chilli which can be added at the diner’s pleasure to make it as hot or mild as required. The broth is of vital importance, and every cook will have her own secret recipe based on years of experience, often handed down through the family.
Bo Kho is a Vietnamese stew, with the dish including potatoes, carrots and chunks of beef which are simmered for hours prior to serving, ensuring the meat literally melts in the diner’s mouth! The soup is delightful with a range of spices used, including star anise, 5 spice and black pepper, and often with hints of coconut milk. It is usually served with a bread roll (Banh mi) and fragrant herbs of the mint family which are added to provide both taste and texture.
Bun Thit Nuong is a dry noodle dish based on vermicelli noodles with pieces BBQ’d marinated pork and fried spring rolls, grated carrot, lettuce, sprouts and peanuts. The highlight is the dipping sauce, Nuoc Cham, a blend of local fish sauce and chilli which adds a ‘bite’ and depth of flavour to the dish. Again, you may need to search a little to find it on the menu, but a leisurely stroll to Xom Moi Market and its nearby streets will meet with success. It is light, fresh, a little spicy and full of flavour. Due to its readily available ingredients it is a dish you may wish to replicate at home.
A great favourite with locals and visitors alike, Ban Xeo is a delicious Vietnamese pancake dish usually eaten at dinner. As late afternoon meets dusk, plenty of street-stalls will pop up, seemingly from nowhere, in preparation of the ingredients that will serve the eager masses throughout the evening. In contrast to the breakfast pancakes we are familiar with at home, both the batter (made from rice flour) and the fillings are distinctly Vietnamese. Banh Xeo uses a variety of local favorites including seafood such as shrimp and squid, pork, bean sprouts, mung beans and leafy vegetables.
A special dipping sauce made from fish sauce, lime, sugar and water is always provided in ample quantity, and it is both light and deliciously sweet. Diners will typically want more than one, so simply keep ordering until contentment is reached, as it only takes a minute or two to prepare.
There are many other superb Vietnamese dishes that a visitor may wish to try. Simply look at the signs on the street stalls and restaurants which tell the diner what the speciality of the house is. Those outlined above are tried and tested favourites, but there is so much more to explore and sample, and searching them out can be a real adventure. Got out and try it for yourself!