Have problems navigating a Vietnamese restaurant menu? You’re not alone. They are their own animals but are generally organized the same. There are more or less the same menu items – think of a Chinese restaurant menu. Instead of a “Pasta” section, there’s a “Noodles” section. “Banh” are usually savory dumplings, crepes, and little morsels made with flours and starches.
Nevertheless, Vietnamese restaurant menus can confuse with English translations. As a Vietnamese speaker, I sometimes ask for clarification too!
Last year the folks over at Pho411.ca (a now defunct site) approached me to collaborate to help Vietnamese food lovers and Vietnamese restaurant owners. Sometimes there are typos and miscommunication that get in the way of good food. Together we assembled the following content for those who may be unfamiliar with Vietnamese food terms. (Your Vietnamese language skills may be rusty!)
Also, for Vietnamese chefs and restaurant owners may benefit from having some kind of common vocabulary to use when describing Vietnamese dishes. The content in the pages below is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a starting point. I hope the information broadens your understanding of Vietnamese food and allows you to explore it more deeply.
- Sections of a Menu: How a Vietnamese restaurant menu is organizes. What types of food do you usually see? What are they?
- Common Vietnamese Restaurant Dishes: English – Vietnamese names of common foods you’d find on a menu. Restaurants, delis, bakeries and pho shops offer mostly the same things. Use this as a guide.
- Cooking Methods, Seasonings, and Ingredients: If you don’t recognize a dish, this page will help you translate the menu descriptions. How is something cooked? What kinds of seasonings or dipping sauce is served with it? What are the featured vegetables and fruits? From there you can imagine the flavors. Or, ask informed questions!
Have content to add or corrections? Add them here!