7 Vietnamese soups among Southeast Asia’s best
International cuisine magazine TasteAtlas has released a list of the 50 best soups in Southeast Asia and Vietnam has seven representatives in the ranking.
Bun oc (snail noodle soup) is a specialty in Hanoi where it is usually prepared with freshwater snails that are combined with a tomato-based broth. The broth is made from stewed bones, tomatoes, and other ingredients.
The dish includes rice vermicelli noodles, fish cakes, fried tofu, sliced scallions, fried shallots and cilantro.
In Hanoi, snail noodle soup can be served in two different ways: in a broth called "hot snail noodles" or with a broth in a separate bowl called "cold snail noodles," which are eaten by dipping the noodles in the broth. Lime wedges, shrimp paste, and chili sauce are optional.
TasteAtlas recommended some addresses to try the dish, including Giang's stall in Hanoi's Old Quarter, Madam Luong’s stall on Khuong Thuong Street and Thanh Hai's stall on Ky Dong Street in HCMC.
Canh chua ca (Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with fish) originates from the Mekong Delta and has become a part of daily meals in southern Vietnam.
The soup is usually made with a tamarind-based broth, chunks of pineapple, tomatoes, okra, bean sprouts, and other vegetables.
Most varieties are prepared with catfish, but some versions use carp, snakehead fish, eel, or salmon.
In Mekong Delta restaurants, the soup is always served with white rice and ca kho to (Vietnamese braised fish in clay pot).
Photo by Khanh Thien
Bun mam is a noodle soup that uses the highly pungent mam, a fermented fish/shrimp paste as its base.
The dish was originally from Cambodia, where the broth was made from mam bo hoc - Cambodian fermented fish sauce. However, locals have substituted it with fish sauce.
The type of fish and fish sauce used varies by region. Spirit fish, gourami fish, or naked catfish are all common in the Mekong Delta, particularly in the commercial hub of Can Tho as well as in Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, and An Giang provinces, which are near to Cambodia.
To further enhance the flavor of the dish, shrimp, squids, and roasted pork are added. The soup is served with herbs including water lilies, banana flower, water spinach and a small bowl of dipping sauce with lemon juice and minced chili and lemongrass.
On a tour of the Mekong Delta, you can savor a bowl of bun mam in Chau Doc Market or street-side restaurants at the foot of Sam Mountain in An Giang near the Cambodian border.
Photo by Khanh Thien
Banh canh, Vietnamese thick noodle soup, is said to originate from the southern province of Tay Ninh near the Cambodian border.
The thick noodles are made from tapioca or rice flour and the dish has different kinds of variations such as with pork, snakehead fish or crab, shrimp and other seafood.
"This noodle soup is usually thicker than other Vietnamese soups and the base is typically made from pork bones or sometimes chicken. It's seasoned with sugar, salt, and fish sauce," according to TasteAtlas.
In central tourist hubs such as Nha Trang and Phu Yen, banh canh with fish cakes are also a popular breakfast. A bowl of noodles with fish cakes is usually served as a small snack with fried and steamed fish cakes, and costs around VND15,000 (7 cents).
In Saigon, the dish is sold in many wet markets and on the streets but usually without the fish roe.
Photo by Cao Ly
Bun rieu cua (tomato and crab noodle soup) originates from northern Vietnam. The dish is a vermicelli soup with a tomato-based broth made by slowly simmering pork or chicken bone. The key protein component of this soup is the crab meat mixture made of freshwater mini crabs, pork and egg that is almost like a patty.
This soup combines lots of ingredients like fried tofu, prawn, crab meat, pig's blood pudding, bean sprouts and fresh Vietnamese herbs such as perilla and cilantro.
Though its origin is in northern Vietnam, you can easily bump into a bun rieu food stall anywhere around the country.
In HCMC, you can try the dish on Nguyen Canh Chan Street or Ganh's stall while the stall at 11 Hang Bac Street is a famous place in Hanoi that serves the dish.
Photo by Thanh Thoa
Pho ga (chicken noodle soup) is a traditional Vietnamese pho variety made with chicken.
The broth is much lighter and clearer than the one found in other beef noodle soup versions. Other ingredients used in the preparation of chicken noodle soup often include ginger, fish sauce, rice noodles, shallots, green onions, and cilantro.
Lime wedges, mint, sliced chili peppers, bean sprouts, and Thai basil sprigs cannot be missed.
A bowl of chicken noodle soup costs from VND30,000-VND50,000.
Photo by Giang Huy
Bun bo Hue, or Hue beef noodle soup, is a specialty of the former imperial capital in central Vietnam, where it was invented.
The broth requires both pork and beef bones to be boiled with a generous dose of lemongrass, sugar, annatto, and shrimp paste.
Vendors then add various things like sliced brisket, crab balls and meatballs.
When served, the dish is garnished with a tangle of vegetables like lime, scallion, cilantro, banana blossoms, mint, basil, and Vietnamese coriander.
In Hue, tourists can savor the dish at food stalls in Dong Ba Market or Kim Chau Restaurant which was praised by late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.