Here, Eat This: A Beginner's Guide to Vietnamese Cuisine
Cơm thịt nướng / chargrilled pork and rice
Photo by Michael Shum Com tam at Thuan Kieu Com Tam.
Pronounced: gum tit noon
Com dia refers to a rice plate, while anything after "com" on a menu refers to the type of meat and other toppings that come with the rice. Again, thit nuong is common. But other favorites include ga nuong and bo nuong (chargrilled chicken and beef, respectively) as well as the fancier ga ro ti: a tiny, roasted Cornish game hen. All rice plates also come with nuoc cham to perk up the rice and a bowl of broth laced with garlic and/or scallions to sip between bites of the sticky rice and cleanse the throat.
Bò lúc lắc / grilled beef with garlic, onion and bell peppers
Pronounced: buh luke lock
Think of bo luc lac as Vietnamese fajitas. Here in Houston, the marinated beef with grilled peppers and onions is even served on a sizzling comal. Also called "shaking beef," bo luc lac -- typically cuts of beef filet or tenderloin -- has an instantly recognizable flavor profile of garlic and jalapeños. Served on a bed of lettuce, it's a nearly perfect Paleo meal if you're into that thing.
Bánh bột chiên / rice flour cake omelet
Photo by Michael Shum Banh bot chien.
Pronounced: bahn bot chen
Often served as a morning snack or appetizer, ban bot chien is essentially a small omelet containing rectangles of tender rice flour cake, topped with scallions and garlic. As simple as that sounds, presentation can vary widely from restaurant to restaurant and may include turnips and onions among other ingredients. Top it with nuoc mam for an addictive sweet-and-savory treat.
Bánh mì bò kho / beef stew with carrots
Photo by Troy Fields Banh mi bo kho at Cafe TH.
Pronounced: bahn mee buh koh
If someone brought you a bowl of banh mi bo kho and you didn't know its origins, you may have a hard time guessing it's Vietnamese. This hearty winter stew of beef, carrots and onions in a black pepper-spiced broth could be equally at home on a French or American table, save for the hints of lemongrass and fish sauce in the background. It's served with a crusty hunk of French baguette (the banh mi part) for sopping up the broth when you've finished all the meat and veg.