Foods in the south of Vietnam are not as complicated in the making as the cuisine of Central and Northern Vietnam. These dishes are often added sugar or coconut juice as sweeteners and used fat from coconut milk. The southern people just need these simple ingredients to combine and create their style of cuisine.
Lau mam (Salted Fish Hot Pot)
Salted fish hot pot is too familiar with the people of the Southwest. This dish attracts people with its savory soup which is seasoned with fermented fish, the fresh taste of seafood, and many kinds of herbs and veggies such as spinach, morning glory, and eggplant. It is usually eaten with vermicelli or Bun in Vietnamese.
A bowl of salted fish hot pot is usually used as lunch or sometimes dinner where the family members can gather and enjoy it. But now Lau mam, as a popular dish in Southern Vietnam, is also served as a separate portion that you can easily buy in local markets or at restaurants.
Price range: VND 100,000 – 250,000/hot pot, VND 40,000 – 60,000/bowl
Ca tre nuong rom (Grilled Snakehead)
Grilled snakehead is one of the most popular dishes in Southern Vietnam with a unique flavor and simple method in cooking. Snakehead is not processed or added any ingredients before grilling. They just clean it and cross a long stick from the mouth to tail, bury it in the straw, and finally burn the straw to grill.
The hot grilled snakehead is usually served with rice paper and vegetables, along with the sweet and sour fish sauce. Vietnamese often eat this dish with rice for lunch or dinner as well. The smoky smell is what makes grilled snakehead in straw irresistible.
Price range: VND 100,000 – VND 150,000/serving
Banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe)
Banh xeo in the south of Vietnam is famous all over the world for its vibrant yellow color, crispy edge, and flavorful fillings which can be made into a roll with fresh herbs. Southern Vietnamese like to use sweet and sour fish sauce in every dish, and Banh xeo is no exception; this dipping sauce will balance with the fat and sweetness of the coconut in Banh xeo’s batter. You can either enjoy this famous dish in Southern Vietnam at lunch or dinner.
Price range: VND 60,000 – 100,000/banh xeo
Com tam (Broken rice)
The broken rice length is half that of normal grain, but it brings a unique texture to the dish. Com tam is seasoned with sweet fish sauce and the juice of BBQ pork chop, and green onion oil. Sometimes, you can order it with egg meatloaf, shredded pork skin, and a sunny side egg. This dish will surely fill your stomach either for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Price range: VND 40,000 – 60,000/dish
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Ca kho to (Caramelized fish in a clay pot)
Caramelized fish in a clay pot is the favorite dish of almost every Southwesterner thanks to its typical flavor. Similar to caramelized pork braised, you will need to use a lot of spices like shallot, green onion, and chili to enhance the flavor as well as to reduce the fishy smell. And the most important ingredients that you cannot miss in Vietnamese caramelized fish are fish sauce and coconut juice.
Besides the seasoning ingredients, fish has to be cooked in a clay pot, so that everything can harmonize to make the taste fulfilled. People are used to serving Ca kho to with rice and sour soup (canh chua) in the main meal.
Price range: VND 30,000 – VND 50,000/serving for one person
Banh mi (Vietnamese baguette)
The baguette was brought by the French when they came to Vietnam, and in the process of adjustment, the Saigonese changed the French baguette into a typical bread of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with a shorter length, only about 20 cm. Instead of having a loaf of bread with butter or jam, Vietnamese tend to enjoy it with meat like a sandwich.
Depending on the ingredient put inside, Banh mi will have different names. You can add pork, chicken, sausages, roasted or grilled meat, and egg accompanied with butter, pate, cucumber, and pickles. Despite its small size, Banh mi still contains lots of nutrition for a whole day. Banh mi became a signature of Ho Chi Minh City because of its convenience and reasonable price. It was even voted to be one of the best 10 street food by The Guardian UK.
Price range: VND 15,000 – VND 40,000/banh mi
Bo bia (Spring roll with eggs and Chinese sausages)
Bo bia was originally a dish from the Chinese but had been adjusted a little bit to suit the Vietnamese flavor. It is an appetizer or a snack filled with Chinese sausage, egg, lettuce, carrot, water chestnut, herbs, and peanuts. The vegetables like carrots and water chestnuts are steamed first, and then people use rice paper to roll all ingredients together. Bo bia will be served with the delicious Hoisin sauce topped with peanuts and chili. Like most fresh rice paper rolls, Bo bia is also a signature dish in Southern Vietnam that is unique to the region.
Price range: VND 3,000 – VND 5,000/roll
Canh chua (Sweet and sour soup)
Canh chua is considered a traditional soup of the Mekong Delta region. It is typically cooked with fish, pineapple, tomatoes, bean sprouts, and all in a tamarind-flavored broth. The soup is added more salt, sugar, fish sauce to make the taste sour and sweet at the same time. The sour taste of the soup mainly comes from tamarind, which is mixed with a small amount of hot water; the mixture is then stirred for a few moments to release all the essence, and the liquid (minus the tamarind seeds and other solids) is then added to the soup.
You can also add other vegetables and meat to make different variations of Canh chua like pork, shrimp, beef, morning glory, Indian taro, and okra. Canh chua goes especially well with Ca kho to and rice. These three are enough to make a simple but healthy and delicious meal for your family.
Price range: VND 40,000 – VND 90,000/bowl
Conclusion on Vietnam Food Tour: Signature Dishes in Southern Vietnam
Thanks to the geographic location surrounded by thousands of rivers, the cuisine in Southern Vietnam mostly consists of fish, and like other regions, people always aim to prepare such nutritious and tasteful meals. These dishes are not very complicated and luxurious, they are just some traditional ordinary meals, but they hold the soul of this land.
Learn more about Vietnamese foods:
Part 2: Central Vietnam foods guide