Survival Vietnamese: Knowing your different food names

So far I’ve covered numbers and the basics of ordering food. The next important thing you’ll need to know to “survive” in Vietnam is knowing the different names of foods. Most of the time you can just look and point at what you want at the little food stalls but sometimes it’s nice to be able to read or recognize different food names. Especially if you want to go to a restaurant or cafe and are given a menu. Unless you’re in a big city like, Hanoi, Saigon, or a big tourist destination, you probably won’t find translated menus.

Here are some basic food items:

Cơm (pronounced gum): Rice

: Chicken

(the c is prounounced like a g): Fish

(pronounced like b-aww): Beef

Chay (pronounced like j-eye): Vegetarian

Hải Sản (pronounced hi-san): Seafood

Here are some meal items and useful key words:

Phở (pronounced f-uh): This is a rice noodle soup with meat broth. The noodles are flat, wide noodles.

Hủ tiếu (pronounce hoo th-ee-oo): A rice noodle soup with thin rice noodles.

(pronounced mee): egg noodles

Bún (pronounced boon): vermicelli noodles

Xào (pronounced sow): fried. For example if you see mì xào, that means stir fried egg noodles.

Chiên (pronounced jean): fried. For example, if you see cơm chiên, that means fried rice.

Nem nướng (pronounced nem n-ooung): grilled pork sausage. This is what hot dogs should taste like in the U.S. Typically served with rice noodles. My favorite way to eat them is in wraps.

Rau muống xào tỏi (pronounced r-ow m-ooung sow th-oi): This is my go to dish when I don’t know what else to worry. It’s stir fried morning glory with garlic.

Anyways, this is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to food in Vietnam. This will be a good starting place though if you need to “survive” in Vietnam. I’ll continue to add to the list as I think of useful items. In any case, you’ll be very happy with the food in Vietnam no matter what you order.


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