Modern Vietnamese cuisine is highly influenced by French cuisine. It’s the thing no Vietnamese could deny. Even though the colonization era wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for us, the French left behind some amazing things in our architecture, cuisine, and language that we now treasure.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris a few times, and each visit makes me a bit homesick. The vibes, the street corners, and especially the authentic Vietnamese food there bring back fond memories of the bustling streets of Saigon and Hanoi.
So, today, let’s chat about the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine. I’ve got a list of 12 French-Vietnamese food delights that might surprise you, but trust me, they’re absolutely worth trying if you ever find yourself in Vietnam.
And here’s a little bonus – if I’ve got a recipe for any of them, I’ll share it with you so you can whip up these delicious goodies at your home kitchen.
Table of Contents
1. PHỞ – VIETNAMESE NATIONAL DISH
Up until now, there’s an ongoing debate in Vietnam about the roots of “Phở”. This dish found its way to Vietnam in the early 1900s during French colonization.
Some argue that it has its origins in the French dish “Pot au feu”, while others claim that Pho stems from the Cantonese noodle soup “牛肉粉” (ngưu nhục phấn) due to its use of oriental spices like cinnamon, star anise, black cardamom, and cloves.
Regardless, my ancestors skillfully combined all these flavors to create the most heartwarming and fragrant noodle soup ever.
Hailing from Nam Dinh province, Pho made its journey to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Following the Geneva Accords in 1954, Pho traveled with the millions of Vietnamese who fled from the North to the South. After the Vietnam War, Pho accompanied millions of Vietnamese refugees to Western countries, marking its extraordinary journey.
While Beef Phở (Phở Bò) stands as the original version, around 1939, Chicken Phở (Phở Gà) emerged due to the unavailability of beef on certain weekdays in the market.
The Pho widely embraced in Western countries these days is typically the Southern variant. However, in some European cities (like Prague or Berlin) with the traces of the Soviet Union and a significant number of Vietnamese migrants from Northern Vietnam, you could come across the Northern version.
I find the Northern version to be more homely, yet the Southern version is heartier. Both are undeniably delicious in their own right.
2. PHỞ BÒ SỐT VANG – VIETNAMESE RED WINE BEEF STEW PHO
While there may still be some debate about the origins of traditional pho, “Phở Bò Sốt Vang” is unquestionably a Vietnamese-French fusion creation. This unique dish finds its roots in the French culinary world, particularly in the classic “Beef Bourguignon” (French Red Wine Beef Stew).
This noodle soup is the specialty of Hanoi (Don’t mix it up with “Bò Kho” – Vietnamese Beef Stew in the South). Bò Sốt Vang boasts the bold aroma of Pho spices and is luxuriously braised in rich red wine, and the soup can be enjoyed with rice noodles or bread. Surprisingly, making Phở Bò Sốt Vang is much easier than traditional Phở.
-> My Recipe for Phở Bò Sốt Vang (Red Wine Beef Stew Pho)
If you plan to visit Hanoi, don’t forget to check out this post about the top must-try dishes in Hanoi, Vietnam.
3. BÁNH MÌ
One of the most iconic French-Vietnamese foods is called “Bánh Mì”. Originating from a French short baguette with a thin, crisp crust and a soft, airy texture, it’s typically split lengthwise and generously filled with delectable ingredients.
These can include Vietnamese liver pâté, Vietnamese Mayo, Vietnamese Ham (chả lụa), Vietnamese red pork belly (thịt đỏ), or roasted pork belly (heo quay), Vietnamese meat balls (xíu mại) all complemented by a touch of đồ chua (pickled carrots & daikon) , resulting in one of the most delightful stuffed sandwiches ever.
-> I already have a post about Banh Mi Sandwich recipe and where to enjoy delicious Banh Mi in Vietnam.
Also, there’s this fancy twist on the Banh Mi Sandwich – it’s the Banh Mi charcuterie board (Banh Mi Platter). Trust me, they’re a breeze to put together and make for the perfect finger food or appetizer at any parties !
4. VIETNAMESE LIVER PÂTÉ
There’s no way a Banh Mi shop in Vietnam could thrive without delectable liver pâté. The Vietnamese version draws inspiration from the French liver pâté but adapts the ingredients to suit Vietnamese flavors.
Vietnamese liver pâté can be crafted with pork or chicken livers, resulting in a deliciously buttery flavor, a velvety texture, and a subtle hint of 5-spice fragrance.
Beyond Banh Mi , liver pâté plays a crucial role in various Vietnamese dishes like Xôi Mặn (savory sticky rice), Bánh Pateso (Vietnamese Pâté Chaud), Bánh Mì Chảo (Breakfast combo skillet), or Bánh Hot Dog (Vietnamese hot dog cakes).
-> My recipe for Vietnamese Liver Pâté (with various local cooking tips) and where to buy delicious liver pâté in Vietnam.
5. VIETNAMESE MAYO
Another essential ingredient for a delectable Banh Mi is the Vietnamese Mayo (or sốt bơ trứng, bơ bánh mì). It’s creamy and easy to make at home.
Besides Banh Mi, it’s also an essential ingredient for Bánh Bông Lan Trứng Muối (Vietnamese Sponge Cake with Salted Egg).
-> My recipe for Vietnamese Mayo
6. VIETNAMESE COFFEE
Coffee is another French heritage in Vietnamese cuisine. During this time, due to the unavailability of fresh milk in the market, the French and Vietnamese began using sweetened condensed milk with dark roast coffee.
Vietnamese coffee typically has a higher percentage of Robusta coffee than Arabica, resulting in a bolder and stronger flavor. Traditionally, it’s prepared in a metal phin filter, but today, instant coffee is also popular in Vietnam (Read more about Vietnamese coffee brands, from mainstream favorites to local gems and gourmet delights).
The most popular Vietnamese coffee is Vietnamese iced coffee (Cà phê sữa đá), in which brewed coffee is served with condensed milk and ice.
You could also discover many variations of Vietnamese coffee, such as:
- Cà Phê Đen (Black Coffee): pure brewed coffee.
- Cà Phê Bạc Xỉu (White Coffee): similar to Cà phê sữa đá but with less coffee, more condensed milk, and some cocoa powder. It’s a specialty of Saigon, created by Chinese immigrants in Southern Vietnam.
- Cà Phê Trứng (Egg Coffee): a Hanoi specialty where black coffee is enjoyed with whipped egg yolk froth.
- Cà Phê Dừa (Coconut Coffee): more of a Vietnamese iced coffee topped with coconut milk frappe, originating from Hải Phòng, a province in Northern Vietnam.
- Cà Phê Muối (Salt Coffee): Vietnamese coffee topped with salted cream, a specialty from Huế.
There are also many creative coffee variants in Vietnam, such as Cà Phê Sữa Tươi (Fresh Milk Coffee), Cà Phê Sữa Chua (Yogurt Coffee), or Cà Phê Bơ (Avocado Coffee).
7. BÁNH FLAN / KEM FLAN (VIETNAMESE FLAN)
Bánh Flan / Kem Flan (Creme Caramel) is another delicious souvenir that the French people brought to my country.
Traditionally, in Vietnam, the flan is made with whole eggs (yep, Viet moms are all about not wasting food) and condensed milk (nowadays, we also use both condensed milk and fresh milk). Sometimes, we replace milk with coconut milk.
Now, here’s the cool part – we enjoy our flan with Vietnamese coffee, whether it’s the black coffee or the coffee with condensed milk. Trust me, both are mind-blowingly good.
Sometimes you might also catch Vietnamese folks drizzling sweet coconut milk sauce (nước cốt dừa) all over their flan.
8. BÁNH PATE SO (PÂTÉ CHAUD / VIETNAMESE MEAT PIES)
Bánh Pateso used to be my ultimate childhood snack in Vietnam. These Vietnamese meat pastries are a heavenly combo of buttery, flaky layers melding with the savory delight of pork filling.
“Pate sô” is the Vietnamese spin on “Pâté chaud,” translating to “hot pie” from the era of French colonial Vietnam. Surprisingly, whipping up Bánh pate so is a breeze, especially with store-bought puff pastry.
-> My recipe for Bánh Pate Sô (Vietnamese Pâté Chaud).
9. SỮA CHUA / DA UA (VIETNAMESE YOGURT)
Sữa Chua (meaning “Sour Milk” in Vietnamese) / Da Ua (the Vietnamese pronunciation of “yogurt”) is the Vietnamese take on French yogurt.
In the past, when fresh milk wasn’t popular, people often crafted yogurt from condensed milk. Nowadays, we use both fresh and condensed milk to create this creamy delight.
Vietnamese yogurt has a slightly sweet flavor. The benchmark for Vietnamese yogurt is that it shouldn’t spill out of the jar when you flip down the jar. It means your yogurt has to be thick and creamy enough.
You can enjoy Vietnamese yogurt on its own or mix it with fruits or black rice sticky rice (Nếp Cẩm).
In Đà Lạt, where people can raise milk cows and enjoy high-quality fresh milk, there’s a specialty yogurt known as Sữa Chua Phô Mai (Cheese Yogurt).
Because Da Lat people use full-cream milk, this yogurt boasts a thick layer of butter-like yogurt on top, affectionately referred to as “cheese” by the locals.
10. GÀ RÔ TI (VIETNAMESE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN)
Gà Roti is a delightful Vietnamese dish that you can easily find in South Vietnam, especially in the enchanting region of the Mekong River Delta (or Miền Tây).
While the term “Rô ti” has its roots in the French phrase “poulet roti,” which means “roasted chicken,” the real secret behind this recipe is that Gà roti in Vietnam looks nothing like the traditional roasted chicken dish.
Instead, the chicken is quickly fried to achieve a golden hue. Then, Vietnamese people simmered it in coconut juice until the liquid reduces, resulting in a beautiful sweet and savory glaze coating the chicken.
-> My recipe for Gà Rô Ti
11. BÁNH KẸP LÁ DỨA (VIETNAMESE PANDAN WAFFLES)
This sweet treat is actually a cool example of how we Vietnamese picked up a thing or two from French cuisine (I get it, waffles aren’t French, but we got the idea from the French).
So, instead of the usual milk and butter, we jazz things up with coconut milk and pandan flavor, giving it a super Southeast Asian twist. And besides regular flour, we add some rice flour and tapioca flour to amp up the texture of these waffles.
-> My recipe for Bánh Kẹp Lá Dứa (Vietnamese Pandan Waffles)
12. BO BUN (VIETNAMESE BEEF NOODLE SALAD)
The last one isn’t a dish influenced by the French but a popular Vietnamese delight that has found its way to France. During my visit to Paris, I was pleasantly surprised by how much the French adore Vietnamese cuisine now.
I mean, you can stumble upon truly authentic Vietnamese dishes in Paris, easily buy Vietnamese spring rolls (nem rán) at French supermarkets, and discover that Bo Bun is a Vietnamese specialty earning a place in almost every Asian restaurant.
Bo Bun is a simplified rendition of Bún Bò Xào / Bún Bò Nam Bộ, featuring stir-fried beef and shredded salad. There’s even Ga Bun, which is the chicken version of Bo Bun.
-> My recipe for Bo Bun / Bún Bò Xào / Bún Bò Nam Bộ
So, here you have it – 12 delicious French-Vietnamese food delights that are definitely worth a try. Whether you’re planning a trip to Vietnam or cooking up these dishes in your kitchen, give them a shot.
Save or pin this fantastic recipe collection so you always know where to find it. Don’t forget subscribe my food blog, “Savourthepho” and I’ll keep you updated on the latest Vietnamese and Asian recipes right on my page.