Culture Features

12 Vietnamese Dishes That Everyone Should Try In Their Lifetime

You may remember Connie Bang-Co Aboubakare, also known as @occomestibles, the influencer who took us on a trip to Southern California’s Little Saigon and all the amazing Vietnamese restaurant foods highlighted during the tour of her Chomping Grounds.

Connie was a recent guest on the Foodbeast Katchup podcast and spoke about her origins as an influencer and how she had to learn to cook Vietnamese food once she got married. What set her apart from many food bloggers is that she photographs the Vietnamese meals she would make for her husband and sons and fills her feed with them.

Vietnamese food has always been a beloved cuisine here at the Foodbeast office and while many of us have tried it, there are always those few dishes that not too many know about, but wish they had sooner. Towards the end of the episode, host Geoffrey Kutnick asks Connie what were some essential dishes she could not live without, to which she replied with quite a few Vietnamese options.

Looking at all the different dishes in her feed really inspired us to dive into Vietnam’s rich cuisine.

Thanks to her Katchup visit, we’ve compiled a comprehensive Foodbeast list of all the amazing Vietnamese dishes everyone should try at least once in their life.

Cá Kho Tộ (Braised Claypot Fish)


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One of the first dishes Connie mentions, that she can’t live without, is a braised claypot fish dish called Cá Kho Tộ. Catfish is cooked in a braising liquid of sugar and fish sauce within a clay pot in a process referred to as “kho.” Because the dish is so rich in flavor, it’s typically served with plain white rice and vegetables. It’s one of the more common dishes she would make for her family, and looking back, my mom would make this about once a week as well.

Bánh Xèo (Savory Crepes)


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A while back, Connie also hosted a Foodbeast Kitchen live stream that highlighted her love of Bánh Xèo, another item she mentions in the podcast. Essentially, Bánh Xèo are thin Vietnamese crepes that are cooked with flour and turmeric powder and filled with fresh meats such as shrimp, chicken, or pork, as well as fresh vegetables. You can eat them directly with fish sauce, or rip them up and roll them into a spring roll.

Cơm Tấm (Broken Rice)

An inexpensive comfort dish, Cơm Tấm translates to “broken rice.” What originated as a street food item, you would typically find grilled meats on top of broken white rice, a steamed egg cake, julienne pork, and pickled greens.

Bánh Bột Chiên (Fried Flour Cake)

A hearty breakfast dish, Bánh Bột Chiên translates to fried flour cakes. Cooked with fried eggs and green onions, the dish is popular in both Vietnam and China. The flour is cut into thick rectagular strips, and served with a tangy soy sauce that the cakes can be dipped into. There is also a turnip cake and radish cake variation that can be cooked in the same way.

Cánh Gà Chiên Nước Mắm (Fish Sauce Fried Chicken Wings)

One of my personal favorite Vietnamese dishes, Cánh Gà Chiên Nước Mắm is mores an appetizer than a meal — unless you’re me and double up on orders. Not too different from how Cá Kho is made, the chicken wings are fried and coated in a glaze made from sugar and fish sauce. Sometimes, fried garlic is also added to the mix.

What I love most about fish sauce chicken wings are that every restaurant has their own take on them, and you can easily get yourself a few wings for relatively cheap.

Bánh Bột Lọc (Savory Tapioca Dumplings)


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Made with tapioca flour, the dumplings are stuffed with shrimp and pork, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed. Once cooked, Bánh Bột Lọc is served with a sweet and spicy fish sauce and fried shallots. From Central Vietnam, the dish is eaten as an appetizer to a full meal. Foodbeast producer Theresa Tran mentions this as one of her favorite Vietnamese dishes, although it will take about 15 of them to fill her up.

Bún Riêu (Pork and Crab Soup)


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One of the more popularized Vietnamese dishes, Bún Riêu is a soup made with pork, crab, shrimp paste, dried shrimp, egg, rice vermicelli and lots of tomatoes. This leads to a super robust and umami flavor compared to the more classic Pho dish. After pho, this is one of the more popular Vietnamese soup dishes around.

Bánh Khọt (Savory Pancake Bites)


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Bánh Khọt, mini savory pancakes, feature pretty much the same exact ingredients as the more popular Banh Xeo, but comes in a sort of cupcake form. Because of this cooking method, the texture comes out much more different giving it a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. Unlike Banh Xeo, the proteins of Bánh Khọt are cooked on top of the dish rather than inside. Not unlike a gourmet cupcake.

Gỏi Cuốn (Spring Rolls)


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One of the lighter Vietnamese dishes, spring rolls are served cold with fresh greens, prawns, pork, and rolled together with rice paper. Gỏi Cuốn can typically be enjoyed with a peanut flavored dipping sauce, or a simple fish sauce that’s mixed together with chilis. Easy to eat either as a snack or even for a long road trip in the car. Just make sure not to spill any fish sauce.

Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sour Soup)


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Tart and savory, this Vietnamese dish is typically served with rice. Made with a catfish base as well as tomatoes, pineapple, okra, beansprouts, and Vietnamese herbs. This is one of the dishes you wouldn’t typically find at a Vietnamese restaurant, but rather from the kitchen of a Vietnamese household. During the podcast Connie also mentions that this is one of her essential dishes that she likes to make at home.

Ốc Len Xào Dừa (Stir Fried Snails w/ Coconut Milk)


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A common street food in Vietnam, Ốc Len Xào Dừa roughly translates to stir fried snails in coconut milk. While the dish itself sounds pretty intimidating, the flavors that go into this dish make it a top contender for Foodbeast producer Theresa Tran. Made with coconut milk, lemongrass, Vietnamese coriander, chilies, and sea snails, you would find the Ốc Len Xào Dừa at street food carts throughout many Vietnamese cities.

“You can give me a cup of that broth and I’d drink it,” Tran says. “Also trying to get the snails out is pretty fun too.”

Phở (Rice Noodle Soup)


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One of the most iconic Vietnamese dishes, you can’t go wrong with phở. An elegant broth made from either chicken or beef, phở utilizes the flavors of charred ginger, onions, and other vegetables over a long period of time. Sure it’s on everyone’s list, but phở is so prolific to Vietnamese culture that you kind of just have to add it to the fold. Both Connie and myself enjoy beef pho, with strips of brisket that you can dip into a mixture of sriracha and hoisin sauce.

#foodbeast Cravings Fast Food Features Food Festivals FOODBEAST What's New

This Thick Cut Pork Belly Is Wrapped In Noodles And Fried So Of Course You Want It


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HOT NOOD PIG ON A STICK 🤪🤯 @tenbistro is giving SLABS of pork belly a @NoodsNoodsNoods twist! • • 👇👇👇👇👇👇👇👇👇👇 If you want to enjoy this beautiful dish from @tenbistro & more, make sure you tune in to @Foodbeast’s LIVE Kitchen League (@thejoshelkin v @jstjr) on @Twitch, where we’re giving away free tickets to @noodsnoodsnoods every 15 minutes to people in the chat! • • Slow-braised pork belly is wrapped in Chinese-style noodles before the entire thing heads into the deep fryer! It’s dipped in a Nashville Hot butter and topped with parmesan, garlic aioli, and micro cilantro for a sweet, spicy fusion! 🔥 • • Catch this WILD creation at Nood Beach on September 1st! Tickets available at! 🎫🏝

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In the history of things eaten on a stick, we can all be confident that they’ve for the most part been equally creative and delicious. Think about it: corn dogs, popsicles, kebabs, lollipops. The list can go on and on. Adding on to that illustrious lineup is an unheard of noodle-wrapped pork belly from Ten Asian Bistro in Newport Beach, California.

Considered by locals as the go-to spot for innovative fusion fare, Ten Asian Bistro lives up to that rep by coming up with a slow-braised pork belly that’s wrapped in Chinese-style egg noodles. The dynamic duo is then deep-fried until crispy, dipped in Nashville hot butter, and topped off with a blessing of parmesan cheese and garlic aioli. Yes. Please.

The catch to nabbing yourself one of these meat stick wonders is that they’re only going to be served at upcoming Foodbeast’s noodle festival, Nood Beach, going down on September 1, 2019. Info and tickets can be found at

Other creative, one-of-a-kind, and of course delicious Pan Asian-influenced dishes will also be on deck at Nood Beach, so if you’re a fan of all that (who isn’t?), then mark your calendars.

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If You’ve Ever Hated MSG, You Might Be Guilty Of Racism

When it comes to the ingredients despised in the foods we eat, I’m disappointed that MSG is still on that list. Its safety and science have been debunked more times than Obama’s birther scandal, and yet, people still have a fear and hatred of it. So much so, in fact, that the term “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” a boy-cried-wolf moniker that’s used to often falsely accuse these businesses of spiking their foods with MSG and making people sick, is still prevalent in society.

If you’ve ever despised an Asian restaurant for using MSG, alleged or otherwise, you’ve been guilty of these racist thoughts. It may not be necessarily your fault, though, as this resentment towards a group of cultures for using this ingredient is one that’s been embedded deeply in the roots of today’s status quo.

The negative and racist thoughts towards Asian restaurants come despite the fact that MSG is the key component of umami, a term to describe savory and rich flavors. Folks LOVE modern restaurants that advertise umami, yet mentioning the compound that causes that taste sensation elicits nothing but negativity.

Laotian chef Saengthong Duoangdara, a personal chef, Laotian cuisine authority, and advocate for MSG, claims that uncertainty behind utilizing MSG still exists, despite all of the scientific data suggesting otherwise. “Most of my non-Lao clients prefer their food without MSG,” says Duoangdara, who has recently talked extensively on Laotian food on Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast. He also notes that a lot of Lao restaurants today avoid using it in their food to “cater to Westerners,” but “when it comes to my cooking classes or personal chef clients, I’ll usually give them a brief history of MSG and let them know that it is safe to eat in moderation.”

Why is this the case? Partially because MSG has become deeply embedded in our culture as something to fear and shy away from while the linkage between it and umami has yet to be fully connected by society. However, MSG is predominantly used to target Asian restaurants and Asian foods and denigrate them. By understanding the controversial history of MSG, however, we all can hopefully make it a part of today’s food conversation and culture to embrace the ingredient for what it provides to our palates.

One of the key parts of that history to understand is that prior to its negative association with Asian restaurants, Americans were infatuated with MSG. After scientist Kikunae Ikeda isolated the compound from sea kelp in 1908, the company Ajinomoto was founded to commercialize and market the compound. Japan’s consumers took to it almost immediately, and by the 1930s, it had spread to China, Taiwan, and the United States. Even countries like Laos caught on to the hype, with Douangdara noting that several Laotian dishes today still rely on MSG, like gaeng nor mai bamboo stew and sai oua Laotian sausage.

According to Thomas Germain, author of A Racist Little Hat: The MSG Debate and American Culture, it was Chinese immigrants that were chiefly responsible for MSG’s move to the States. Initially, US consumers loved MSG and Chinese restaurants, and were particularly supportive of them during World War II following Japan’s invasion of China. By 1947, MSG had hit the mainstream and was actually a product called Ac’cent that you could find in grocery stores.

So what changed in American society that turned MSG into culinary public enemy #1? Mainly, it was the US’s feelings toward China, especially after Mao Zedong came to power and the nation was labeled as Communist. However, a confluence of events continued to build the association between China and MSG, eventually leading to its demonization.

The first nail in the coffin inadvertently came from Chinese immigrant Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok and his 1963 letter to the editors published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Kwok complained of symptoms suffered while eating at American Chinese restaurants that he never experienced at home. These symptoms included palpitations, a numbness of the neck, and general weakness. One of the potential culprits he named in the letter was MSG, and although there was never an official linkage, that’s where the speculation began.

What made matters worse was the title the NEJM ran Dr. Kwok’s letter under: “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” Suddenly, a linkage now existed between Chinese restaurants and something that made people sick. That combined with the growing anti-Chinese sentiment that resulted from its Communist regime made it easy to start pinning the blame on a single ethnic group.

Following Dr. Kwok’s letter, several more instances occurred complaining of similar symptoms, and studies began to appear that linked MSG to Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. These further increased public animosity to Chinese and Asian restaurants despite the fact that the rest of the food industry used it en masse as well. Following the initial hype of MSG, its umami component became favored by food processors, including Frito-Lay, who added it to their seasoning for Doritos. You can also still find MSG in many fast food items today.

What made this fear and racist connotation mainstream, however, was a piece published by the New York Times in 1969. While it focused on the consumption of dog and snake meat in Hong Kong, its final section consisted of quotes from chefs on the island talking about their usage of MSG. And thus, a connection was made between dog meat, MSG, and the possibility of unknowingly eating either in a Chinese restaurant.

“The Times didn’t make this explicit,” wrote Germain, “but the implication is clear: in the same way the sneaky Chinese might trick you into eating dog, they were just as likely to hide MSG into your food.”

The thing is, most people hating on these restaurants for their usage of an umami bomb are being hypocritical. “When someone approaches me with a negative perception about using MSG,” says Douangdara, “I tell people that MSG is naturally found in many ingredients like tomatoes, mushrooms, and cheese. It is even found in non-Asian manufactured foods like stock cubes, chips, condiments, and snacks.”

MSG is still widely used in the food industry today despite public perception, as it’s the key ingredient to enhance the flavors of many of our favorite foods. Doritos, ranch dressing flavored Pringles, KFC fried chicken… the list goes on and on. We snatch these up and eat them by the handful, and yet, we get skittish around Asian restaurants that use it.

In fact, MSG is naturally in almost every single food we eat. At its most basic form, MSG is the fusion of sodium (which typically comes from salt) and glutamic acid (an amino acid, the building block of protein, which all living things have). When they combine, usually under heat, they form the key compound we associate with savory and umami flavors. When added into seasonings and sauces at an appropriate level, the delicious results can be mind-boggling.

“Personally, I think it is important to add MSG but with balance and not over using it,” says Douangdara. “It’s all about balance just like how we use salt and sugar.”

It’s not just a commonplace additive, however. Because of the natural prevalence of sodium and glutamic acid, MSG can be formed in virtually every food we eat. This includes some of the foods Doungdara previously mentioned, like steak, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheese. And yet, because of the racial undertones embedded in America’s understanding of MSG, it’s still used to target and damage restaurants of specific cultures to this day.

It should be noted that in today’s age, many Asian cuisines and cultures are starting to gain more widespread acceptance. Filipino and Laotian foods are just a couple that are growing in popularity, but the obstacle of MSG is still a potential hindrance. “It is important to shift the dialogue about Asian food and MSG,” says Douangdara, “because it gives this particular cuisine a negative perception.”

There are celebrity chefs, though, that are trying to get folks to make the connection they’re missing. David Chang regularly preaches about the pluses of MSG on his Instagram, including in a recent post where he talks about his usage of it in popcorn. He’s not alone in this crusade, as he’s been joined by the likes of Roy Choi and Andrew Zimmern in his support.

“MSG is safe and I use it everyday, and have for years,” he wrote. “No one ever complains about headaches or dizziness from the thousands of foods Americans eat all the time that are loaded with it.”

Zimmern brings up an interesting point here. According to the NYT’s piece on Hong Kong and MSG back in 1969, the city of New York actually imposed sharp regulations for MSG usage, but only for Chinese restaurants. MSG is still a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) substance, though, meaning that food processors can use it however they like, as long as it is “adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use,” according to federal regulations.

So while Asian restaurant owners have been curbing their usage because of public perception, food processors and American restaurant groups have been free to add it as they wish. All of this is proving that it’s long been time to stop using MSG as a cover to avoid or attack restaurants of another culture. By eliminating a key ingredient from their culinary arsenals, these cuisines are limited in terms of the flavor and deliciousness they can provide to our palates. “I do see some Lao and Thai restaurants that explicitly say “no MSG” in their food and I avoid those places,” says Douangdara, noting the huge difference in taste that can result. “If you don’t add MSG to your food, then you are missing out on a whole other flavor!”

Of course, there may be some that are allergic to MSG, as allergies span across dozens more compounds than the eight major ones recognized in the United States. Unless you know for sure that is the case, though, there’s no reason to not give MSG a chance, especially when there are so many cuisines and cultures that have incorporated it into their recipes.

To curb the racist sentiment surrounding MSG, however, we have to be willing to do more than just try MSG for ourselves. By challenging that inherent bias society has built towards the compound through increasing dialogue, we can change the conversation to highlight how factors beyond our control have demonized one of Japan’s greatest culinary contributions. When we’re able to alter how we think and talk about MSG, we can truly begin to celebrate how important and delicious an ingredient it really is.

Fast Food

Grab Your Chow Mein and Go With The New Panda Express Mobile Ordering App


Food court lines could very well become a thing of the past if fast food chains have anything to say about it. Following the mobile ordering trend, Panda Express is finally rolling out their own app nationwide.

Unlike other apps, Panda offers a special feature that allows group ordering across multiple platforms. This means you can order some Orange Chicken with Bacon, then sling the order along to your besties so they can order their favorite Panda dishes for the noms that shall ensue later. Admit it, the worst part of group ordering is trying to figure out how much everyone owes and how to make sure no one gets stiffed. Lucky for us, Panda’s new app lets each person on the order to pay their own bill towards the group order.

No word on whether the chain will join the Apple Pay movement, but for now, the Panda Express mobile ordering app is available on iOS and Android devices.

H/T + PicThx Eater


Bacon Mac and Cheese Egg Rolls


Recipe: Miss in the Kitchen


Costco Japan Serves Bulgogi Bakes

bulgogi bake

If you’ve ever been to Costco then you know about their food court. It’s a magical place where you can get giant slices of pizza for under $2 and really the only other place that you can find legit churros outside of Disneyland. Costco is also home of the chicken bake, aka what Hot Pockets wish they could be. Basically meat and cheese stuffed into a pizza crust this is one of the more popular items at the member’s only warehouse club, but Japan based Costco locations have something even better, Bulgogi Bakes.

A popular Korean beef dish, bulgogi isn’t something you’d think to see at a Japan Costco, but some of the writers over at RocketNews 24 managed to get their hands on one of these monstrous bakes. They described the dish as being more of an “oblong calzone” but when it came to the taste the Bulgogi Bake held it’s own.

While we’d like the beef even more if it was a little tenderer, we’ve got no complaints about the marinade that gives it a pleasant sweetness. It’s a bit like the flavor of a Japanese-style beef bowl, and it goes great with the warm, melty cheese.

Just like everything else on Costco’s food court menu the Bulgogi Bake won’t break the bank, at 400 yen ($3.90USD) do yourself a favor and try this dish out.

H/T + PicThx RocketNews 24


Food Pho Pas: 23 Simple Things You’re Doing Wrong While Eating Asian Food


Asian nations have rich histories of eating etiquette that most Americans are oblivious to, as we’re all too busy reading World Books about how General Tso made that delicious chicken he totally invented.

To help guide you through the confusing world of Eastern cuisines, we asked all sorts of experts to share the most commonly seen Asian restaurant faux pas. And for those so clueless they also don’t know how to act in steakhouses or pizza places, we’ve got more unforgivable food no-nos right here.



Sticking your chopsticks straight up in a bowl of noodles or rice is taboo in most every country in Asia — it symbolizes either death/stabbing in China, and piercing one’s soul in Japan (via Nguyen Tran, Starry Kitchen).

Not all Asians are Japanese — you don’t need to bow. (via Maharlika)


Don’t ask for chopsticks — not all Asians eat with them. (via Maharlika)


Chopsticks are for noodle dishes only. Eating a Thai curry with chopsticks is just too logistically complicated. (via Austin Bush)



Never tap your bowl with chopsticks — it’s how the homeless ask for food.

When eating dim sum, if someone pours you tea, always tap three fingers on the table as a sign of gratitude.

Don’t pour soy sauce on fried rice, because it’s already been seasoned.

It’s considered rude to take food from a shared dish and put it immediately in your mouth.

When eating a whole fish, don’t flip it over, as that symbolizes the capsizing of a boat. (via Jimmy Lee, Mikado)

When eating family-style and without a serving utensil, pick up food with the opposite end of your chopsticks; otherwise, you’re essentially double-dipping. (via Nguyen Tran, Starry Kitchen)



Don’t slurp pho.

When eating pho, use the chopsticks to move your noodles into the soup spoon, then eat out of the spoon. (via Shion Aikawa, Ramen Tatsu-Ya)

The minute food hits the table, you should start eating, rather than waiting for everyone’s food to arrive. It’s considered rude to let it get cold. (via Nguyen Tran, Starry Kitchen)

Show respect to the person who spent hours brewing the broth and don’t squirt Sriracha or hoisin sauce into pho. It’s like putting ketchup in chicken noodle soup. (via Andrea Nguyen, Viet World Kitchen)


Don’t lift your bowl off the table and eat with the bowl in your hand.

Don’t ever blow your nose during a meal, even if it’s running like crazy.

Don’t ever receive a dish or glass with one hand; always use two or put your left hand under the wrist of the right. (via Beyond Kimchee)



Never eat nigiri in more than one bite. (via Deana Saukam, Qui)

Never pour your own sake.

Don’t put wasabi on nigiri, as there is already some between the fish and rice.

Don’t dip nigiri into soy sauce rice-side-down because it will compromise the structural integrity. (via Jimmy Lee, Mikado)

Don’t use chopsticks to eat nigiri — use your hands. (via Kome)

Ramen has been specifically crafted by the chef as a complete item — don’t customize it. (via Shion Aikawa, Ramen Tatsu-Ya)

Kudos Thrillist


Bad Fortune.



via Cuddles and Rage