• Sticky rice with chicken and sausage. (China Squirrel)Source: China Squirrel
Our love affair with Vietnamese food definitely begins with phở, but it doesn’t end there...
28 Sep 2018 - 11:20 AM  UPDATED 25 Nov 2020 - 2:41 PM

It’s fair to say that phở has few lovers. The Vietnamese noodle soup, which was traditionally served only for breakfast (though even in Hanoi it’s now served any time of day), is balanced, restorative and deeply satisfying.

Andrea Nguyen, the author of The Pho Cookbook, perfectly summed it up in an interview with Eater: "It grounds you,” she said. “That's what it does for me emotionally and physically. It gets me into the groove of what the country is about. It's a morning country.”

While that’s hard to top, there are actually plenty of Vietnamese dishes that will quickly find a place in your heart next to phở. Kiss one of these recipes and see if you fall in love.

1. Canh chua

Vietnamese hot and sour soup

The balance of the hot and the sour, the sweetness from the tomato and pineapple and the smooth kick of chilli are all present in this soupy sensation. This easy and fragrant bowl caps off a stellar week of The Chefs' Line - thank you, Head Chef Jerry Mai for your rockstar mohawk and this rockstar bowl!

Vietnamese hot and sour soup

2. Bánh khọt

Crisp pancakes with tiger prawns and prawn floss

One of Luke Nguyen’s favourite street foods, these light and crispy pancakes are made with rice flour and coconut milk mixed with cooked rice and turmeric. You can fill the savoury pancakes with a variety of fillings, with this recipe adding tiger prawns. They are best served with a side of nuoc cham for extensive dipping. You’ll need a special báhn knot pan to make the pancakes, which you can pick up at most Asian grocery stores.

Banh khot with crispy prawns and prawn floss

3. Bún riêu

Blue swimmer crab and tomato vermicelli noodle soup

This crab noodle soup definitely gives phở a run for its money. It’s full of big pork and crab flavours, cooked in a tomato and tamarind stock then served with fresh lemon and lettuce. The slide of flavours from the briny meatiness of the broth through to the creamy noodles, tangy lemon and fresh lettuce is addictive.

4. Gỏi cuốn

Rice paper rolls with prawns and pork

Soft rice paper rolls are becoming increasingly popular in food halls across Australia. They are a delicious picnic lunch option, or perfect as a starter to the main meal. The fresh, clean flavours can be varied to suit whatever you have on hand, with this recipe by Luke Nguyen using tiger prawns, lettuce and perilla leaves. Or try this version with sesame and salmon.

7 of the best rice paper roll fillers
Fillings may vary, but once you get that perfect balance between the fresh and the crunchy, then you're in for an absolute treat.

5. Thịt kho

Caramelised pork belly

Caramelised pork belly is traditionally served during the Vietnamese lunar new year celebrations, but is now enjoyed all over the world, any time of year. The dish is the perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy, bitter and sour that pairs so beautifully with pork. The caramelised pork is meltingly tender and sweet in this recipe. It’s perfection served with some steamed baby buk choy and green beans.

6. Coa lầu

Hoi An noodles

This fresh noodle dish is a speciality from the ancient town of Hoi An. To make it authentically, you need speciality noodles made from local Hoi An rice, which are pre-soaked in a lye made from wood ash. Apparently, even the water used in the soaking has to come from a specific well for this dish to be considered authentic. Never fear, thick rice noodles are a reasonable substitute and the resulting meal is still a perfect balance of textures and flavours and delightfully good for you.

7. Báhn cuốn nóng

Handmade rice noodles filled with pork and wood-ear mushrooms

Báhn cuốn translates as “rolled sheets”, and these delicate handmade rice noodles can be filled with a variety of textures and flavours. This recipe adds pork terrine, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, fried shallots and cucumber. Serve the steamed noodle rolls drizzled with nuoc cham and garnished with fresh chilli.

8. Bún chả

Grilled pork and noodles

This Hanoi lunch favourite is another fresh noodle dish that adds plenty of herbs for punchy flavour. This version uses three types of pork - pork belly, pork neck and mince pork. The pork patties are balanced with a herb salad and rice vermicelli noodles. Crispy spring rolls are often added to bún chả, as in this recipe, adding extra crunch.

Grilled pork and spring roll noodle salad (bun cha)

This classic Vietnamese salad combines crispy spring rolls with fresh herbs, juicy meatballs, sweet and spicy sauce and, of course, vermicelli noodles.

9. Bún bò xào

Beef noodle salad

If anything is going to win a heart away from phở, it’s a beef noodle salad. In this recipe, the beef is marinated in fish sauce, garlic and lemongrass then stir-fried with the noodles. An abundance of fresh green herbs and vegetables turns the stir-fry into a delicious warm salad, drizzled with a tangy nuoc cham dressing. Unbelievably good.

10. Cơm gà chiên dơn

Crispy skinned chicken with red rice

Crispy skinned chicken is a popular street food in Hanoi. The chicken is poached in a master stock then thoroughly dried. This ensures the skin turns extra-crisp when hot oil is ladled over it just before serving. This recipe contains instructions for creating and keeping a master stock. Luke Nguyen has had this on the go for over 15 years!

11. Chả cá

Chả cá fried fish

It’s the Hanoi rite of passage for every first-time visitor – a plate of chả cá at the gorgeous, rickety Chả Cá Lã Vong in the Old Quarter, which you can make at home with this recipe. Fresh local fish is marinated in a fragrant mix of ginger, shallots, garlic, turmeric and fish sauce before being fried with a handful of dill and spring onion. Mắm tôm tổng, a spicy dipping sauce is made with mắm nêm, Vietnam’s popular fermented shrimp condiment is served on the side.

12. Xôi mặn

Sticky rice with chicken and sausage

Sticky rice (xôi) is often served for breakfast but also turns up as an afternoon snack or as an accompaniment to the main dish. This recipe is an easy ‘one pot’ dish that you’ll make time and time again.

Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? The Chefs’ Line airs every weeknight at 6pm on SBS followed by an encore screening at 9.30pm on SBS Food Network. Episodes will be available after broadcast via SBS On Demand. Join the conversation #TheChefsLine on Instagram @sbsfood, Facebook @SBSFood and Twitter @SBS_Food. Check out sbs.com.au/thechefsline for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more!

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This phở is a combination of many tips from family and friends. I use gravy beef – my dad’s touch – for sweetness. The shrimp paste and lemongrass are the X-factor additions, and the red dates and daikon reflect my Chinese heritage, and also enhance the soup’s sweetness.

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Phở varies dramatically from the north of Vietnam to the south. Every family and every street vendor has a unique understanding of what phở should taste like, what it should be garnished with and how it should be eaten. There is no right or wrong.