Eating healthy in Vietnam is no hard feat, as Viet cuisine includes some of the healthiest dishes in the world. The food is almost always prepared with fresh ingredients and most meals come with a huge side plate of veggies and herbs. Here are the top ten dishes in Vietnam that are not only healthy but also extremely yummy.
Goi Cuon (Fresh Spring Rolls)
Packed full of veggies and herbs, a plate of goi cuon is a delicious and healthy choice for an appetizer. It is made up of a bunch of ingredients, such as salad leaves, vermicelli noodles, shrimp, and other greens, wrapped in rice paper. Fresh spring rolls contain little oil, have almost zero fat, and yet, are flavorful. Try not to mistake cha gio or nem ran (deep fried rolls) for fresh spring rolls, as those are deep fried in a tub of oil.
A plate of goi cuon comes with fish sauce and peanut sauce for dipping. The fish sauce is light and thin, while the peanut sauce is made of peanut paste and coconut oil. The fish sauce goes best with this meal.
Goi Tom (Shrimp Salad)
Goi tom is essentially the unwrapped version of the goi cuon. It is shrimp salad, packed with a wide array of healthy vegetables, such as cabbage, cucumber, daikon, and even jalapeno peppers! This is often ordered as a side and goes well with a bowl of sticky rice.
Pho (Noodle Soup)
In general, noodle soup is considered healthy. A bowl of clear broth made fragrant by meat, some noodles, and herbs, pho is the ideal breakfast dish to get your day going. Pho is filling and not loaded with calories. It is full of fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. You can always reduce the amount of fat in your dish by asking the waiter to add less meat. Here’s a tip: “Ít bún, nhiều rau” means “fewer noodles and more veggies.”
Chao Ga (Vietnamese Congee/Rice Porridge)
In many Asian countries, congee is a food fed to those who are sick. It is easy to eat, to digest, and to absorb. The dish is made by the prolonged cooking of rice in water and letting the grains disintegrate so they become like a thick soup. Additional ingredients can be added, such as mushrooms, beans, peas, or even traditional medicinal herbs. Adding some meat, like shredded chicken, can add to the flavor.
Goi Ngo Sen (Lotus Root Salad)
A salad is typically healthy and lotus root salad is no exception. Rich in fiber and vitamins, this type of salad helps keep your digestion system healthy. Lotus root is also known for having a wide range of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, improving digestion, and reducing cholesterol. When you mix it with carrots, pork, shrimp, and herbs with proper seasoning, you will have yourself a nice meal.
Gao Lut (Brown Rice)
High in magnesium, brown rice is good food for your heart. With a rich amount of nutrition, any dish made from brown rice is considered healthy. The easiest dish, as well as the most common dish, is steamed brown rice. You can easily find this in most vegetarian restaurants or Vietnamese restaurants. They serve it with salad, stewed dishes, or mixed with peas and beans.
Kho To (Clay Pot Dishes)
In Vietnam, clay pot fish and clay pot pork are two of the most common dishes. Clay pots have the ability to absorb heat and cook food evenly. The clay also interacts with the acidity in the food and helps to neutralize the pH balance. In addition, the food will take on some natural sweetness when cooked in a clay pot and you don’t have to use extra sweetener.
Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sour Soup)
This dish is indigenous to the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. A bunch of ingredients, such as pineapple, tomato, and bean sprouts are added to a tamarind-flavored broth. The tamarind is what gives the soup a sour taste. Fish and prawns are typically added as well to give more flavor and texture to the dish. Garnishes include garlic and chopped scallions. You can either enjoy the dish as a soup or get some rice vermicelli and make it a bit of a noodle soup.
Rau Muong (Stir-Fried Water Spinach)
Rau muong is a delicious dish and often a favorite. It is water spinach that is stir fried with garlic, and you can pair it with steamed fish and a bowl of brown rice. It may be a little salty, but you can request it to be made with less fish sauce to lower the amount of sodium. Spinach and garlic are known for being packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other essentials for every part of your body.
Vietnam is full of delicious fruit, especially in the Mekong Delta. You will find many fruit orchards scattered within its provinces, where you can take a tour, pluck them right off the trees, and taste them then and there. Healthy fruit that benefits your body and that the Vietnamese love includes oranges, mangosteen, dragon fruit, milk fruit, papaya, and mangoes. You often find these sold in street stalls with a fruit dip made of powdered chili, salt, and sugar.