Foodie's Guide to Hanoi's Signature Dishes

Food is definitely an important factor that can either make a vacation a success or an absolute failure. Foodies need not worry about Hanoi, though, as the street food culture here is well established and you can almost always find a dependable café or roadside stall to satiate your appetite!


1. Pho Bo / Pho Ga

Pho bo at Hanoi Imperial Hotel - definitely the best pho I had in Hanoi!

The most iconic of foods that originate from Vietnam, pho is probably the signature dish that locals will be proud to introduce you to when you arrive here. It is a soup dish comprising rice noodles topped with a generous serving of herbs and meat – either beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga). After trying both dishes, I will definitely recommend the beef version as the meat is much juicier and tenderer than the tough chicken. 

Pho bo at a roadside stall - with tender beef and silky rice noodles

I originally planned to visit the restaurant below as it was highly recommended by many tourists and also offered various options to suit different preferences in tastes – rare steak and flank (tai nam), rare steak (tai) and well done steak (chin) at affordable prices. However, the restaurant was jam-packed with locals having a steamy bowl of pho before heading off to work. Since our hotel’s rendition of pho was remarkably impressive and I was rushing off for a day tour to Tam Coc, I decided to leave this foodie expedition to the next time I return to Hanoi!

Pho Gia Truyen
Address: 49 Bat Dan
Opening Hours: 0700h – 1100h
Expect to Pay: VND 35,000 – 45,000


2. Banh Mi (and Vietnamese Drip Coffee)

Since Vietnam was under French colonial rule for several decades, it is no surprise that French cuisine has influenced the culinary culture here. Banh mi is the Vietnamese rendition of the baguette and has an endless selection of fillings for you to choose from to add into yours. I had mine with roast beef, eggs, pate and the usual veggies. Cafes offering banh mi can be found all over the Old Quarter, so you can simply stop by one for breakfast or teatime before heading off to your next destination! 

Awesome banh mi can be found everywhere in Hanoi!

Oh yeah, it goes really well with a cup of the famous Vietnamese drip coffee. I recommend ordering a chilled milk coffee – besides being able to beat the heat with a cold drink, the ice also helps to dilute and reduce the sweetness of the coffee (it’s really sweet even for this guy who drinks Caramel Milk Tea with 100% sugar!). 

3. Bun Thang

No, it has got nothing to do with hamburgers. Bun is a typical Vietnamese vermicelli bowl which can be served in many different ways – of which bun thang is a simple rice vermicelli dish served with chicken, egg and pork infused in a delicious broth. It is really impressive how the Vietnamese are able to make such sumptuous soup which goes with any type of noodle dish. 

A generous serving of bun thang with aromatic broth

I had my serving of bun thang at a small restaurant located relatively near to the Hoan Kiem Lake. Even though there were numerous signs with the restaurant’s name, it was quite difficult to locate the store as you will realise that the store is nowhere in sight! After asking the lady sitting next to the sign, I realised that I still had to walk through a narrow stairway (which could only accommodate 1 person walking through at any one point in time) and climb a flight of stairs to reach the cosy Bun Thang Ba Duc. I only saw locals having a feast here and no foreigners though – perhaps, it’s still a hidden gem! Anyway, at the end of the meal, you will have to head down to the main street to find the lady at a cashier counter to pay. They must be really trusting to have their counter as far out from the restaurant as compared to the typical stores which want to keep their cash hidden as much as possible.

Bun Thang Ba Duc
Address: 48 Cao Go
Opening Hours: 1800h – 2200h
Expect to Pay: VND 35,000



4. Bun Bo Nam Bo

Having had bun served in soup, it is time to savour some dry bun bo nam bo! When translated into English, this adorable name means beef noodles of the south. It is rumoured that this dish was brought back to Hanoi by the soldiers who returned from Saigon after the Vietnam War. Today, locals adore bun bo nam bo as a summer dish as it tastes light and refreshing in the midyear heat. You start off with a mouthful of juicy beef wrapped in vermicelli, which is enhanced in taste and texture by the delicious sauce, ground peanuts, green papaya and herbs. 

Bun bo nam bo: Enjoy the crunch of the peanuts and juiciness of the beef!

As the menu called the dish beef noodle salad, I naturally thought it was going to be a small portion and ordered a serving of herbal chicken soup to finish off the meal. (The soup was boiled with plenty of ingredients that gave it a really strong herbal taste and the chicken must have been boiled for an extremely long time as its meat was infused with the fragrance of the soup as well. Splendid!) However, the Bun Bo Nam Bo was really very filling, so I would suggest ordering the soup later once you’re sure you still have stomach space for some herbal goodness.

One of the best servings of herbal chicken soup I have ever eaten!

Bun Bo Nam Bo
Address: 67 Hang Dieu
Opening Hours: 0730h – 2230h
Expect to Pay: VND 60,000 (for each Bun Bo Nam Bo or Herbal Chicken Soup)


5. Cha Ca

Unsure what to do? No worries, the helpful waiters will be glad to show you the ropes!

If you feel like you need a break from street food in Hanoi and would like to pamper yourself with a delicious meal, this may be a nice option for you. Cha ca is a turmeric fish dish served with dill, but wait, there’s a twist! You will be cooking the fish and herbs yourself on the grill plate in front of you. Once done, you can place a bunch of vermicelli and mix some sauce, peanuts, herbs and chilli in a bowl and grab some fish and dill to complete your meal. 

After cooking the turmeric fish and dill, mix it up with the condiments and enjoy!

The taste is absolutely splendid and gives you an explosion of flavours in your mouth – the sweetness of the fish, the spice of the chilli, the savouriness of the sauce and the crunch of the herbs. If you had ordered the set meal, it doesn’t just end there – you can enjoy the ambience of the restaurant (and relax with the complimentary Wifi) whilst savouring a glass of Hanoi Beer and some Vietnamese tea. 

When in Hanoi, drink as the Hanoians drink.

A local dessert will be served as well – when I was there, I had pomelo served with some condiments. Overall, it was a fantastic dinner.

Your meal ends with Vietnamese tea and pomelo served with salt

Cha Ca Thang Long
Address: 19 – 21 – 31 Duong Thanh
Opening Hours: 1000h – 1500h, 1700h – 2000h
Expect to Pay: VND 160,000


Now that you have satiated your appetites, why not head on to our next day trip around Hanoi Old Quarter where you will be able to chill out at the Hoan Kiem Lake and shop till you drop at the numerous markets scatted around the Quarter? Let's explore this charming little district here.

Are you inspired to visit Hanoi after reading this post? If so, please feel free to check out the affordable flight options which have been made available by Skyscanner in the link below. Download the Skyscanner app on your mobile device to have a one-stop station to compare airfares from the various airlines available! It also offers car rental, travel agent and accommodation in various travel destinations including Hanoi.


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Comments

  1. Oh my these all look delicious!! I will have to save this for later if we travel there!

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    1. Hi Laura, they all taste just as good as they look (or even better)! They're rather affordable as well too - highly recommended :)

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  2. They look
    So delicious and appetising 👌🏼👌🏼👌🏼👌🏼

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    1. Hi there! I've never tried Vietnamese food before this trip, but now I'm absolutely in love with their cuisine :) Hanoi is a foodie's paradise!

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  3. Oh yum all this food looks so good I am getting hungry and I could use some of this pho right now.

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    1. Hi Joan, the Vietnamese really know their soups well - they must have spent lots of effort boiling such an aromatic broth.

      The silky rice noodles are to die for too! :)

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  4. All the food looks amazing! Banh Mi looks like something I would like to try.

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    1. Hi Jay! Banh mi may look like your ordinary baguette, but the locals make it so crispy it tastes fantastic. Be sure to try the pâté which is widely used by the Vietnamese and totally elevates the dish!

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  5. I feel you have to have pretty good lighting or mounted flash to get good shots of food. The alternative is to post-process the photos, and that takes so much time. Also - I love Pho!

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    1. Lighting was good in the fancier restaurants and cafés. I post processed the rest - so you're spot on! They all taste delicious though :)

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  6. A great read. Makes my mouth water. You makes me want to go to Cha Ca just for the experience. The great food would just be a plus!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, cha ca was an absolutely fantastic experience. I must have looked like a local, because they left me to my own devices with 6 different bowls of condiments. After looking terribly confused, I was rendered assistance by the waiters! :)

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  7. Yum, I would be happy giving any of these dishes a try! I always love to taste new things.

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    1. Hey there! I love travel because I always have the opportunity to try out new things - be it sightsee to learn new cultures or savour exotic cuisines. It's all about the experience! :)

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  8. I love Pho, but ALL of these dishes look amazing! I have heard good things about Vietnamese coffee, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’m excited to do so!

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    1. When I was in Vietnam I loved Pho! Don't know why but it's something different to any other soup I've ever tried. I usually didn't eat it with beef though, but it was equally good!

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    2. Hi guys! The Vietnamese really do wonders with their soup - must have boiled them for hours to pack so much flavour into it. And there isn't any MSG, since we don't get thirsty afterwards!

      I'll be introducing a special type of coffee which originated from Hanoi and permeated the entire world - keep a lookout for that :) I'm sure you'll love it!

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  9. Oh my goodness these all sound absolutely delicious, it is great to know what each of the dishes includes. I would love to try them all I think.

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    1. Hey Sarah, the best thing is they taste as good as, if not better than, they look! You can feel the effort these vendors put into their food. Absolutely splendid! :) Do visit Vietnam, your stomach will love you for it!

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  10. These look so amazing! I love Pho and really any other noodle soup! I can't wait to try some of these out!

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    1. Hi there! Pho is really a whole new level of noodle soup, something I still really crave for when I'm back home here in Singapore. They really make silky rice noodles and aromatic broths - I wonder how they do it! :)

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  11. I am not familiar with Vietnamese food at all. So I find this post extremely helpful in learning about what dishes I would like!

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    1. Hi Jessica, I totally understand what you mean. Having the names of the dish in Vietnamese does not help at all, since we're almost illiterate in the country. I researched very extensively to choose the types of food which I thought I would like (based on how they look and what ingredients they use).

      Hope this post has helped you get a better understanding of Vietnamese cuisine! :)

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  12. I would love to try any of these. The herbal chicken soup looks delicious!

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    1. Hi Terri, they are really generous with their portion of herbs they place into the soup. It reflects very obviously in the herbal taste of the soup. Bravo :)

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  13. not sure what any of this taste like as it is all new to me but it all looks oh so good thanks for sharing

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    1. Hi Angie, it's a whole new realm of food to most of us too. The Vietnamese cuisine is absolutely scrumptious - you need to try it soon! :)

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  14. Everything looks so delicious, especially the soups and that beer. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hey Georgia, thanks for the comment! :) Yes, the soups are really delicious - they must have put in lots of effort into boiling the broth for the pho and bun.

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  15. All this looks very tasty! I have not tried most before.

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    1. I've never heard or tried any of these local delicacies before visiting Hanoi, but now I'm really craving for more even when I'm back home in Singapore :)

      Hope you visit Vietnam soon and get to try these authentic dishes!

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  16. All of the dishes look delicious! I am now so curious about the taste and would want to try any! I want the Banh Mi most!

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    1. Hi Hannah, thank you for your comment! They all taste as good as they look, if not better :)

      Banh mi is not your ordinary baguette. The vendors make them super crispy - do try them out with Vietnamese pâté! :)

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  17. One of my favorite things about traveling are the variety of dishes. I've never tried Vietnamese dishes, but these these look interesting. I'd definitely like to try the soups.

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    1. Hi Dana! Travelling certainly exposes us to myriad cuisines and new local fare. Their soups totally take it to the next level - they have mastered the art of soup-making to complement their silky rice noodles in both their pho and bun! :)

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  18. All these dishes look delicious. The Vietnamese Bun Thang vermicelli bowl sounds like something I would love try to. Chicken and rice are one of my favorite meals.

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    1. Hi Cynthia, they all taste excellent! The bun thang was great with a lovely broth and silky rice noodles. You will love it :)

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  19. I live near the largest Vietnamese population outside of Viet Nam, so I've been lucky to try a lot of yummy foods. But I'm sure nothing compares to being in Hanoi.

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    1. Hey Melanie, you're really lucky to have the opportunity to try out some of their delicacies at home! You should most definitely visit Hanoi one day and try the authentic dishes which are sure to blow your mind :)

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  20. I've never been to Vietnam or tried Pho before. We do have a restaurant close to me that I believe would maybe serve some of these. Everything looks good, especially the dessert!

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    1. Hi Hollie, I've never tried pho before heading to Hanoi, and sure was I in for a pleasant surprise!

      Head on down to the restaurant and tell us how it tastes! Hope you'll be able to visit Hanoi one day to taste the real deal too :)

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  21. I have had Pho out here and I love it. But I bet it's so much better out there in Vietnam. I have been overseas and I always like the food better there than the Americanized versions we have here.

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    1. Hi David, certainly tasting the dishes in the country which they originate from gives us a more authentic culinary experience - they really make excellent food in Hanoi! Their soups are heavenly ☆

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  22. The Pho bo at Hanoi Imperial Hotel looks so good! I miss Vietnam! I need to visit soon!

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    1. Hi Emmanuel, looks like you enjoyed your trip to Vietnam as much as I did! The pho bo at my hotel was splendid and I was pleasantly surprised, as I was always under the impression that hotel breakfasts are never fantastic :)

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  23. These dishes look absolutely delicious. I have had Pho in a local restaurant and I love it

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    1. Hi Lavanda, great to hear that you enjoy eating pho!

      They really do magic with their aromatic broth and silky rice noodles - you should definitely visit Hanoi one day and try an authentic serving of this excellent dish!

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  24. My daughter's favorite meal to eat is pho. Her dream is to visit Vietnam and have authentic pho.

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    1. Hey Kelly, I'm sure she'll enjoy a steamy bowl of pho with a flavourful broth and smooth rice noodles.

      I really enjoyed every serving of pho I had in Hanoi, especially the one in my hotel! :)

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  25. How ever would I be able to choose where to eat at first with all of these delicious looking options?! I really enjoy eating local food when I'm traveling!

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    1. Hey Sahara! Yes, I know right! I had so little time to try so many different flavours and local delicacies. I'm still yearning for more now that I'm back home :)

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  26. Well..the presentation of all these dishes looks wonderful. But being a vegetarian, alas, I can't have these. Do you know if there are some signature veg options present in Vietnam? Anything that you tried?

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    1. Hi Neha, most definitely. Even though most local dishes contain meat, I'm sure you'll enjoy some of their vege dishes, like green papaya salad, banh cuon (steamed rice noodles) and spring rolls.

      Do give them a shot when you're in Hanoi and let me know how you find them! :)

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  27. Looks really good. I would definitely try these places.

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    1. Hi Julie, they are highly recommended! Do visit these places to savour local dishes when you visit Hanoi :)

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  28. Food is definitely an integral part of travel and Hanoi seems to offera mind-boggling array of dishes. Though we would not be able to enjoy all the dishes, we are sure we will get adequate vegetarian variants that will still have the typical flavours and aromas of the region.

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    1. Hi Sandy, most definitely! Vietnam does have some excellent vegetarian-friendly dishes which I'm sure you'll enjoy as well. Their green papaya salad, banh cuon (steamed rice noodles) and spring rolls are sure to satiate your appetite during your trip to Hanoi :)

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  29. Ugh! I should not have read this while I was hungry! This made me starving! I LOOOVE Banh Mi and Pho bo! Great article on this! I now have other Vietnamese dishes I need to try!

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    1. Great to hear that! I really enjoyed local fare during my trip to Hanoi. You should definitely try the other dishes too, they really taste fantastic! :)

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  30. All Vietnamese dishes looks delicious and unique too. I could have tried them if, I get vegetarian versions of them. But I would surely recommend these dishes to my friends who like Vietnamese cuisine.

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    1. Thanks Yukti! Vietnam has vegetarian-friendly delicacies which may interest you. Here's a couple of dishes that will get you going: green papaya salad, banh cuon (steamed rice noodles) and spring rolls! :) They taste absolutely amazing!

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  31. Hanoi looks like a foodie’s paradise. I have an adventurous palate and I love sampling local cuisine when I am traveling. But I am a vegetarian and despite the vegan movement across the globe, I have been told it is not easy to find vegetarian main dishes in South East Asia. Do you think it is true?

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    1. Plus one on that Abhinav! I too face a lot of problems when travelling east. I gather that this post has shown the dishes that vietnamese have, but being vegetarian I am not able to appreicate or salivate over it except for the veggies in the frame :-). I usually go to a super market and buy breads, jams and look out for the margerita pizza when east!

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    2. Hi guys! I think the difficult part about travelling in Southeast Asia is not so much the lack of vegan-friendly options but rather the comparatively higher difficulty in communicating with the shop owners to understand what vegetarian dishes they can offer (since English is not commonly used in the northern regions of the peninsula).

      Well, Vietnam will certainly be able to satiate your appetite with their local delicacies like banh cuon (steamed rice noodles), spring rolls and green papaya salad. Every stall will offer you an extremely generous serving of vegetables and herbs to go with anything you buy, so I'm sure you'll enjoy feasting here too! :)

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  32. I love authentic foods, and these all sound SO amazing. Hopefully I can go someday!! <3

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    1. Hey Jennifer, great to hear that you're interested to try out Vietnamese cuisine. They make really good food - be it their aromatic broths or silky noodles. Do give these dishes a shot when you're in the area! :)

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  33. This brought back some great memories of my trip to Hanoi and your food recommendations are great.

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    1. Hi Kelly, I'm sure you had a great time in Hanoi! The food they whip up there is amazing, I really enjoyed every single meal I had when I was there! :)

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  34. Replies
    1. Hey Tahnee, the baguette is really crispy and has a wide variety of ingredients to go with. The chicken liver pâté is amazing, do try it when you're in Hanoi! :)

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  35. I tend to consider food as a way for experiencing a place to its fullest. I enjoy trying unfamiliar flavors and ingredients and after your post, am keen to visit Hanoi. Some of it looks a bit similar to Laotian food, which I absolutely adore.

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    1. Hi Denny, great to hear that you're into experimenting with local fare when travelling to foreign lands. I always believe that that's a great way of learning about new cultures!

      Since Laos and Vietnam are neighbours, I would not be surprised that they have mutually influenced each other's cuisines and cultures. I saw shops selling pho when I was in Vientiane, so it would not be a shock for me :)

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  36. OMG....pho is my favorite food of all time. Now I have to try it!

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  37. These foods are looking so delicious and tasty

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