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Vietnamese Food Terms You Must Know


vietnam vietnamese food terms

Want to know more about Vietnamese cuisine? If so, you’ll want to learn some basic Vietnamese food terms.

First, let’s cover a little about Vietnam. Vietnam is a country located in Southeast Asia. It borders China along the north, the South China sea along the south and east coasts, the Gulf of Thailand along the southwest coast and Laos and Cambodia along the west. Its largest city is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) followed by Hanoi.

Vietnam was under French colonial rule in the mid 19th century until the mid 20th century. Some remaining French influences can be found in the Vietnamese language, architechture and food. (You may already know that banh mi uses baguettes.)

Vietnamese cuisine

Vietnamese cuisine has a distinct flavor that reflects a balance between salty, spicy, sour, bitter and sweet. Fresh herbs, vegetables and meats are often incorporated in dishes, like pho.

Like many Asian countries, rice plays a major role in Vietnam. However, not only is it an accompaniment to main dishes, but is incorporated into appetizers and snacks, often in the form of rice cakes.

Flour is also used in many dishes. Any food item that includes the Vietnamese word bánh  means that it contains flour like the bread in bánh mi, the thick noodles in bánh canh, the spongy cake in bánh bò nướng and the thin dumpling wrapper in bánh bột lọc.

Much of the flavoring comes from lime, lemongrass, garlic, chili and sauces. A widely used sauce is nước mấm, which is a Vietnamese fish sauce. Nước  (pronounced nook) means “water” and mấm means “fish sauce.”

Vietnamese food terms

Expand your international dining vocabulary with these basic food-related words translated from English to Vietnamese.

meat – thịt

  • pork – heo
  • beef – bò

poultry – gia cầm

  • turkey – gà tây
  • duck – con vịt
  • chicken – thịt gà

seafood – hải sản

  • fish – cá
  • shrimp – con tôm
  • oyster – con hàu
  • shellfish – động vật có vỏ

meatless/no meat – không thịt

  • vegetables – rau
  • fruits – trái cây
  • eggs – trứng
  • tofu – đậu hũ
  • noodles – bún
  • nuts – hạt
  • salad – gỏi
  • vegetarian – ăn chay
  • vegan – thuần chay

drinks – đồ uống

  • water – nước
  • alcohol – rượu
  • beer – bia
  • wine – rượu

other eating/dining-related terms

  • yes – Đúng
  • no – không
  • good – tốt
  • yummy – ngon ngon
  • eat – ăn
  • cook – nấu ăn
  • I’m hungry – tôi đói
  • I’m full – tôi no rồi
  • more – hơn
  • less – ít hơn
  • only – chỉ có
  • please – xin vui lòng
  • thank you – cảm ơn bạn
  • baked – nướng
  • fried – chiên
  • grilled – nướng
  • roasted – rang
  • steamed – hấp
  • hot – nóng bức
  • warm – ấm áp
  • cold – lạnh
  • bitter – đắng
  • salty – mặn
  • spicy – vị cay
  • sweet – ngọt
  • allergic – dị ứng
  • bathroom – phòng tắm

Watch this video to hear how letters and words sound in Vietnamese.

Vietnamese food to try

  • bánh mì (bahn mee) – Vietnamese sandwiches
  • bánh bèo (bahn beow) – steamed rice flour cakes; a popular street food
  • bánh xèo (bahn say-ow) – cripsy rice flour pancake
  • bún bò Huế (boon baw hway) – spicy lemongrass soup with rice vermicelli and beef
  • chả giò (cha yaw) – fried Vietnamese spring rolls
  • gỏi cuốn (goy kwoon) – fresh Vietnamese spring rolls
  • phở (fuh) – flavored broth with thinly sliced meats and/or fresh vegetables

Interested in learning about other cuisines around the world? Discover food terms from other countries here.


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