Best Vietnamese Dishes & Food in Vietnam for Kids and Picky Eaters

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From Vietnamese street food to Vietnamese fruit, there is plenty of excellent food in Vietnam for kids and picky eaters. Here are the best Vietnamese dishes for everyone you’re traveling with. Read on for what to eat in Vietnam, including Vietnamese side dishes, Vietnamese desserts, and a Vietnamese food list with pictures.

cover Best Vietnamese dishes food in Vietnam for kids and picky eaters

The Best Vietnamese Dishes

If you’re planning any travel in Southeast Asia, we highly recommend spending time in Vietnam. It’s one of our favorite countries to explore. And we love, love LOVE eating in Vietnam.

For me, some of my top foods to try in Vietnam are tough for kids and picky eaters. For example, when we’re Vietnam, I’m eating snails, crickets, and loads of seafood coated in the fishiest of sauces. Maybe even a little cobra on rice. But there is a wide variety of Vietnamese food to choose from, and yes, some of the best Vietnamese dishes and Vietnamese side dishes are easy for kids and other picky eaters to love. If you ask me what my favorite food in Vietnam is, you might get a different list than what you see here. That said, many of my favorites are here, and I love everything on the Vietnamese food list I present you here, as do both my kids. Yours will too — especially the Vietnamese desserts and abundant fruit in Vietnam. Dig in!

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Vietnamese Food for Everyone

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters fire shrimp

When it comes to food in Vietnam for kids, there are lots of choices. In fact, I’d say that there is more kid-friendly food in Vietnam than in most Southeast Asian countries. Why? Well unlike much of what you eat in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, chili peppers aren’t cooked into Vietnamese food — at least not as often. Sure, some of the best Vietnamese cuisines can be spicy, and peppers are part of the Vietnamese diet. However, they are often served on the side, or as a condiment for you to add at your own discretion.

Less Chili, but Beware of Nuoc Mam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters nuoc mam

Compared to Thai food and other food in Southeast Asia, there are fewer chili peppers cooked into Vietnamese cuisine. That said, there is another Vietnamese condiment that you should be aware of. It’s called nuoc mam (nước mắm), and it’s made from fermented fish.

The flavor? Very, very, well….fishy.

Our family loves the sauce in certain dishes, but we’re already fans of fishy food. After all the years living in Japan, eating Japanese food and consuming so much from Japanese fish markets, we all love fishy stuff. Indeed, even when we lived in Valencia, Spain, we have a bottle of nuoc mam in our fridge (we have to go to Valencia’s small Chinatown to buy it).

So nuoc mam is an acquired taste. It’s in many of the best Vietnamese dishes, but not everything. It’s not cooked into most of the food in Vietnam for kids that I list out below. However, it will likely be in a bowl or bottle on the table and be included in many dipping sauces used in Vietnamese side dishes and more.

Best Vietnamese Dishes for the Pickiest of Eaters

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters Hoi An kids

Don’t want to explore Vietnamese cuisine during your trip? That’s a shame really, but don’t worry: there’s plenty of Western food. There’s also fast food and dishes that resemble something your picky eaters will be familiar with. For the less adventurous, look for things like steamed buns (Bánh bao), fried rice (Cơm chiên), and fried chicken (Gà Nướng). Another is Vietnamese curry (Cà Ri), which is usually mild, but ask first.

If your kids like shrimp, then they’ll be in heaven in Vietnam. There is plenty of shrimp and other seafood and shellfish around. Lots of the best Vietnamese dishes are shrimp-based.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can read about eating crickets and cobra in a different post. For everyone else, start with the list below.

Pho (Phở) – Top Vietnamese Dishes

Pho in HCMC: Vietnam with Kids — An Epic Education Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters nuoc mam

Let’s start with the most popular Vietnamese food for kids…and adults too. Pho is a noodle soup with many varieties, and if you live in a large or mid-sized city anywhere in the Western world, then there’s probably a pho restaurant near you right now. Go try it before you leave on your trip!

Pho usually uses rice noodles and a clear broth. There are versions with beef, chicken and more. Make sure to experiment with the condiments and raw veggies that are served on the side. Or not. Depending on how particular your finicky eater is.

Banh Mi (Bánh mì– Classic Vietnamese Street Food

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters banh mi

Another very popular street food in Vietnam for kids, banh mi is the Vietnamese sandwich. We have French colonialism to thank for the ubiquity of fresh baguettes in the country.

What’s in a banh mi sandwich? There are many varieties, but the most common Vietnamese street food versions have any number of pork fillings (sausage, pork belly, pâté, or all three). You’ll also usually find mayonnaise and pickled veggies such as carrots, cucumber, and radish. If you want any specific ingredient left out, make that clear as soon as you order.

We have a particular fondness for the Vietnam street food version that throws a fried egg on top.

This is one of the most popular Vietnamese street food stand in the country. You’ll find banh mi stands in most towns and cities. Some banh mi stands use less kid-friendly ingredients such as sardines and chilis, but most are safe. If in doubt, buy one sandwich to start and try it before buying for everyone.

Banh Xeo & Banh Khot (Bánh xèo / Bánh khọt) – Classic Vietnamese Street Food

Banh Xeo Sizzling cakes in HCMC — Vietnam with Kids Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters

This is one of our personal favorite kid-friendly Vietnamese foods and easily one of the best Vietnamese dishes, period. Banh Xeo is often called a “Vietnamese crepe,” but the crunchy, chewy texture of the rice flour shell reminds my kids of something between an omelet and a taco.

Inside you’ll find fatty pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and green onion. Served alongside is a basket of greens to wrap each bite in. One of those greens is often a mustard leaf, which can have a very slight kick to it. Think extremely watered-down horseradish or wasabi. So avoid if your picky eaters don’t like spice.

Some of the greens are aromatic herbs, while others are neutral like lettuce. They’re there for the crunch and possibly so your hands don’t get greasy. Side condiments can get fishy or spicy, but they’re optional.

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters Banh Khot

Banh Khot is the bite-sized version of Banh Xeo. These are an excellent Vietnamese side dish, but amay be enough to satisfy the appetites of smaller kids. Keep in mind that banh xeo are often large and very filling.

Banh Beo (Bánh bèo– Best Vietnamese Dishes in Hue

bánh bèo: Vietnam with Kids — An Epic Education Banh Xeo Sizzling cakes in HCMC — Vietnam with Kids Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters

These little single-serving rice cakes that are scooped out of their cute little dishes. Toppings are usually shrimp and crunchy, crouton-like bread for an excellent final texture. They look like a Vietnamese side dish, but the rice cake fills you up fast.

This is one of the best Vietnamese dishes that’s almost exclusive to the center of the country. Look for it in cities like Hue. Especially Hue.

Nem Lui (Nem lụi– Best Vietnamese Side Dishes

Ne Lui: Vietnam with Kids — An Epic Education

Another of the best Vietnamese side dishes is best ordered in Hue. Nem Lui is usually ground pork that’s smeared over a stalk of lemongrass and then cooked over charcoal. It’s exquisite, and light on the spices. You can add them later, eat it wrapped in rice paper, or on its own.

Cha Gio & Nem Ran (Chả giò / Nem rán– Best Vietnamese Side Dishes

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters cha gio

Spring rolls like these are excellent Vietnamese food for kids. That is, of course, if you love deep fried things with pork in them. Warm and savory on the inside, crispy on the outside, they are considered Vietnamese side dishes, but my kids have made a meal out of them.

Goi Cuon (Gỏi cuốn– Best Vietnamese Side Dishes

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters vietnam summer roll & fire

Out of all the best Vietnamese cuisine mentioned here, these are the Vietnamese food most associated with the country. They’re also an excellent Vietnamese side dish for picky eaters because the ingredients aren’t that exotic and people are more familiar with them: shrimp, salad veggies, noodles and green onion.

However, I should mention that goi cuon are sometimes referred to as “spring rolls,” and sometimes as “summer rolls.” What’s the distinction? Spring rolls are often fried, while, summer rolls are always served with uncooked ingredients. The shrimp is cooked, but many of the veggies inside (carrot, daikon, etc.) are probably raw.

Bun cha (Bún chả– Best Vietnamese Dishes

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters Bun cha

This marinated pork is grilled over charcoal and served with rice vermicelli noodles. Usually very tender and juicy, this is one of the best Vietnamese dishes to share. My kids and I could eat this a few times a week and never complain.

Banh goi (Bánh gối– Best Vietnamese Side Dishes

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters banh goi

This is the Vietnamese version of a samosa or empanada. Banh goi are deep-fried pockets with sausage, mushrooms and other ingredients. I’ve had them only twice. Once they were terrible (cold, stale, I was a fool to order them). The other time they were one of the best Vietnamese side dishes I’ve ever eaten. Probably because they just came out of the fryer.

Vietnamese Desserts: Desserts in Vietnam

We haven’t tried all of the Vietnamese desserts on offer, but the country definitely has a sweet tooth. Here are a few Vietnamese desserts that we’d recommend.

Chuoi Chien (Chuối chiên) –  Our Favorite Dessert in Vietnam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters banana fritter

If you’ve been to Malaysia or Indonesia, then you may be familiar with pisang goreng: otherwise known as the fried banana. Chuoi Chien are the Vietnamese version. They’re delicious, and probably out favorite dessert in Vietnam.

When we took a cooking class near Ho Chi Minh City, we made these Vietnamese desserts using bananas and sesame that we wrapped in rice paper and deep fried. Served with a side of coconut ice cream (see above). Amazing.

Banh Kep La Dua (Bánh Kẹp Lá Dứa) – Common Desserts in Vietnam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters Banh Kep La Dua

Yes, these waffles are supposed to be green. They’re addictive too. There’s coconut milk in the batter, so they’re naturally sweet. That doesn’t stop some vendors from adding more sticky sweetness on top. One of the most common Vietnamese desserts at markets.

Banh Phen La (Bánh phèn la) – Common Desserts in Vietnam

pancake snacks — Vietnam with kids: An Epic Education Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters banh phen la

Another Vietnamese snack or dessert, these small pancakes are enjoyed as a sandwich with fillings spread between them. Fillings included a variety of jams and chocolate (sôcôla).

Hat de (Hạt dẻ) – Vietnamese Snacks

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters chestnuts

Like chestnuts? You’ll find them Vietnam. You’ll see them roasting in markets and street stalls. Chances are that you’ll smell them before you see them. Excellent Vietnamese snacks.

Che (Chè) – Traditional Desserts in Vietnam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters che dessert

For many Westerners new to the Asia, this will likely be the oddest looking of all the desserts in Vietnam. So many colors. So many textures. And each place makes their own version. Is this Vietnamese dessert a drink or a soup? Neither really captures it, but it is a very popular Vietnamese snack for kids. The ingredients vary, but it often includes things like pudding, coconut milk, ice cream, and a variety of fruits, nuts, seeds, and/or sweet beans.

Fruit in Vietnam – Vietnamese Fruit

We love the fruit of Southeast Asia, and if you like what’s on offer in places like Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Malaysia then you’ll love Vietnamese fruit as well. Here are a few types of fruit in Vietnam we especially enjoyed.

Mangosteen (Quả măng cụt) – Fruit in Vietnam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters mangosteen

This is my son’s favorite fruit in Vietnam, Malaysia, and anywhere we can find them in season. He ate mangosteens all the time when we lived in Penang and sought them out all over Malaysia and Thailand. The hard outer shell doesn’t look appetizing, but inside, you’ll find delicate white flesh. It has a similar texture to a peach, but flavors akin to strawberry and banana.

TIP: Be careful of the pulpy red outer layer, as it can stain clothes (and walls, and furniture, etc) easily, and hard to get off. Once it’s stained, it ain’t coming off. That’s why you may see signs that say “No Mangosteens” in hotels. They ruin bedsheets.

Lychee & Rambutan (Vải thiều / Chôm chôm) – Fruit in Vietnam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters banh goi

These plump little darlings are an excellent fruit in Vietnam to try. Lychee and Rambutan have similar flavors. I preferred lychee, but the kids wanted rambutans.

Why? I think because they look more like something out of a Dr. Seuss book than a food. There’s a version that seems like a hybrid between the two as well — like furry lychee (see image above). The best rambutans we’ve ever had were in Krabi, Thailand, but we’ll eat them anywhere. Excellent Vietnamese fruit.

Mango (Trái xoài) – Fruit in Vietnam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters mango

You can find delicious mangos all over Southeast Asia, but some of the best ones we’ve ever had were from a Vietnamese fruit stand. We absolutely loved them in juices mixed with condensed milk. Try that in Ho Chi Minh City if you can.

Custard Apple (Mãng cầu) – Fruit in Vietnam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters custard apple

Also called a sugar-apple, a sweetsop and occasionally a “buddha-head,” these are one of my favorite fruits in Vietnam, but I eat them wherever I can find them. I first discovered them in Taiwan, but we found lots of these in the Mekong Delta area. The fruit is somewhere between a banana and a pear and it is soft and creamy. There are several versions of this fruit. Our favorite had a thin skin and thicker flesh. All are worth trying, however.

Pineapple (Dứa) – Fruit in Vietnam

Must-try Food in Vietnam for kids: Vietnamese Food for Picky Eaters vietnam pineapple

The best pineapple I’ve ever eaten was in Taiwan. The second best? Vietnam. Surprisingly, some of the smaller pineapples were the most delicious.

What Are Your Favorite Vietnamese Dishes?

This list of food, desserts, and fruit in Vietnam is far from complete. Is there a kid-friendly Vietnamese food missing from this list? What do you consider a must-try Vietnamese food for picky eaters? These are the food we know, but we want to eat more and more! Whether it’s Vietnamese side dishes, Vietnamese desserts, fruit in Vietnam or other must-try Vietnamese dishes, let us know! Talk to us about Vietnamese food for kids in the comments below, or contact me directly!

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Comments

  1. Bobby Saint says:

    Wow! The Banh Mi looks really delicious. I like the fact that some of the ingredients included in the sandwich are pickled veggies such as carrots, cucumber, and radish. This should be a good alternative to hamburgers for kids. I would definitely consider dining at a Vietnamese restaurant if ever we get the opportunity. Thanks.

  2. Amanda Drew says:

    I’m a picky eater, but I want to try and expand my horizons and try new foods. I’ve decided to try Vietnamese foods for now. That goi cuon looks good, how it has normal ingredients and the shrimp will be cooked. I’ll have to find someone who can deliver some Vietnamese food so that I can try it.

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