One of the most notable differences between Vietnamese and Western cuisine is breakfast. When most Westerners think of breakfast, images of toast, cereal, pastries, bacon and orange juice come to mind. In Vietnam, breakfast is a whole different ball game. A major difference in Vietnamese cuisine is the lack of dairy.
Milk, cheese, butter and yogurt are not staples in Vietnamese cuisine and often aren’t readily available in smaller markets and grocery stores., so many Western breakfast staples aren’t eaten often here. Vietnamese breakfast is usually savoury and people don’t shy away from stronger flavours such as pickled vegetables, marinated meat and spicy chilli peppers to eat first thing in the morning. Work and school start early morning, so many people go out for breakfast and grab a quick bite to eat on the way. Street vendors will open up early to sell their goods to passing commuters – always at a very cheap price!
Below I’ve listed some of the most common breakfast foods. This, however, is only a sampling of what options are out there – especially for the more adventurous eaters. So get your taste buds ready, and before you know it you will be a Vietnamese breakfast convert!
Pho is the most well-know Vietnamese dish in the world. The secret of its taste is a broth cooked on pork and beef bones (Pho Bo) or pork and chicken bones (Pho Ga) with seasoning and spices. Pho is served with rice noodles made of fragrant rice “gao te”, vegetables and meat pieces. Lemon and chilli are a “must” for the best taste of Pho.
Xoi (Sticky rice)
Xoi is one of the most popular breakfast dishes in Vietnam. Walking along the Vietnamese street you can see many street vendors carrying baskets of Xoi covered in banana leaves advertising their shops. There are two main types of Xoi: sweet and savoury. The sweet ones can be served with peanuts, corn. black urad beans, mug beans and more. The savoury one is with chicken, pork floss and/or quail eggs.
Also called Vietnamese sandwich or Saigon baguette, origins from colonial period in late 1800’s. It is made of Vietnamese baguette filled with meat options: pork, chicken, cha lua (Vietnamese sausage), meatballs, liver pate or fish patty and raw vegetables (mostly cucumber, tomato and coriander), often with mayonnaise or chilli sauce.
Bun (Rice Vermicelli)
Similar to Pho, Bun is also made of rice flour but has different shape. Pho has rather flat shape, whereas Bun is a more circular shape. There are many kinds of Bun, of which the most popular are: Bun Cha (vermicelli and grilled chopped meat), Bun Rieu (vermicelli and crab meat soup), Bun Thang (varied vermicelli), Bun Ca (vermicelli with fried fish), Bun Oc (vermicelli and snail) and Bun Bo (vermicelli with beef). The main ingredients of Bun are tomato, garcinia cowa and lemon lime, which give the soup its specific sour taste.
Also known as Cellophane Noodles or Glass Noodles, Mien has a similar shape to Bun but it is made of seaweed and cassava flour. Mien’s broth is similar to Pho but contains more sour spices and has a fishy taste because is mostly served with seafood. The most popular type of Mien in Vietnam is Mien Luon (Mien with eel) and the other variables are Mien Ngan (Mien with goose meat), Mien Cua (Mien with crab meat) or Mien Ga (Mien with chicken).
It is a paper-thin rice crepe filled with ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. Banh Cuon is served with Vietnamese ham cha lua, cucumber, boiled bean sprouts, cilantro, Vietnamese basil and topped with fried shallot. Banh Cuon is the most popular in Hanoi, where it originated.
Com Tam (Broken Rice)
Com Tam is the signature of Saigon’s street food. This rich and filling meal contains of broken rice (where the name comes from), honey marinated pork, shredded pig skins, egg meatloaf, fried eggs, cucumber and pickled carrots with a side of fish sauce. What is worth mentioning, Com Tam is one of few dishes in Vietnamese cuisine that are not eaten with chopsticks but with a knife and fork!
And of course, no breakfast is complete without a cup of Ca Phe, a flavourful coffee that can be found only in Vietnam.
Want to try a delicious Vietnamese breakfast? Then Apply now!