Viet Glossary

Bạn Nói Tiếng Việt Được Không?

Want to learn more about Vietnamese food and what we do here at Saigon Siblings? This is our Vietnamese food glossary with a handy audio playback feature to help you with pronunciation. Use it to dive deeper into our cuisine and culture, hone your tonal language skills, and order like a pro next time you are in one of our restaurants. Chúc vui vẻ! (That means “have fun!”)

This glossary was compiled with much help from honorary sibling Andrea Nguyen. Check out Andrea’s fantastic and informative website Viet World Kitchen if you want to learn even more.

To eat

What we love to see our guests do at our restaurants. We exist to feed people who hunger for excellent Vietnamese food and hospitality.

North, northern

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is located in the northern part of the country. For northern dishes, try the Hanoi-style pho, bún chả grilled pork with rice vermicelli, and Bánh Cuốn Hà Nội steamed rice noodle sheets.

An ingredient or dish featuring a flour, starch, or legume

The world of bánh is a carb lover’s dream. For example, bánh mì is bread and also the quintessential Viet baguette sandwich. Bánh phở are the flat rice noodles in pho noodle soup. Bánh nậm is a tender rice and pork dumpling steamed in banana leaf.

Bánh Cuốn
Fresh rice noodle rolls

A favorite for breakfast and lunch, these are made to order at Ba Bar from a fermented rice batter that’s steamed into gossamer thin rice noodle sheets. The sheets may be gently gathered up and served as is—a true expression of the bánh cuốn maker’s craft. Or, the sheets may be filled with a savory meat or vegetarian mixture, then rolled up and cut into bite-size pieces. Either way, bánh cuốn is enjoyed with fun garnishes like cinnamon sausage, fried shallots, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and nước chấm sauce. When you’re at Ba Bar, check out the bánh cuốn station to see how we prepare this classic.


One of our favorite refreshers and perfect pairings with Vietnamese food. It’s the everyday bubbly. Quench your thirst with Saigon Siblings Lagered Ale.


Cows were traditionally precious work animals in Vietnam, and when beef was used for cooking, it was done with great resourcefulness and care. Our seven-course beef dinner speaks to those notions, as do dishes like beef phở, beef in wild betel leaf, lemongrass beef, and shaking beef.

Round rice noodles

Their size varies, from slender vermicelli (think Bún Bowls) to thick spaghetti-size noodles (imagine slurping on Bún Bò Huế). These slinky noodles are eaten at room temperature or in hot broth.


Among the first dishes at Monsoon was catfish in claypot, a classic comfort food. The recipe came from Eric and Sophie’s mom. It’s still on the menu today, along with other favorites, such as Bún Chả Cá Lã Vọng, a Hanoi-style grilled fish and rice vermicelli favorite.


A French priest introduced Arabica beans to Vietnam in the late 1850s and things haven’t been the same since. Most Viet people enjoy their inky, bittersweet coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Have the coffee hot as cà phê sữa nóng or with ice as cà phê sữa đá. For a tropical treat, try Eric’s childhood favorite: Coconut Coffee Float.

Chả Lụa
The go-to deli meat

Wrapped in banana leaf, this fine, silky sausage is the Vietnamese version of Italian mortadella or American bologna. We make ours to serve with freshly-made bánh cuốn steamed rice sheets, slide into Bánh mì sandwiches, and garnish many other street foods.

Chả Giò
Imperial Rolls

These iconic Vietnamese fried rice paper rolls are crispy-chewy and fragrant. They’re cut into short piece for you to make lettuce wraps.


Look for this term on our menus to identify meatless dishes. Many are vegan, too.

Congee, Rice Porridge

Most Vietnamese people enjoy the healthy, soothing rice soup for breakfast and lunch. You can vary the toppings. Don’t forget to enjoy Cháo with fried Chinese donuts!

Sweet dessert soup, pudding, or drink

Whether made at home or by street food vendors, these delicate treats are full of textures, flavors, and colors. Our special Lunar New Year menu often includes chè trôi nước, sticky rice dumplings in ginger syrup.

Cooked rice, or a meal

A common way to greet someone in Vietnamese is ask them if they’ve eaten rice yet. At Saigon Siblings restaurants, we chiefly serve jasmine rice and broken rice.

Cơm Phần
Viet-style multi-dish meals

Think of these as Vietnamese menus du jour. In Vietnam, people pop into little joints to order set meals of soup, a main dish, vegetable, and rice. It’s nourishing and popular with busy families and career professionals.


We love to showcase the Pacific Northwest’s bounty of Dungeness Crab in Monsoon's Famous Saigon Pepper Crab, crab fried rice, and other crabby delights at all locations. We love crab!

Ðặc Biệt
The special, the works

When you see these words attached to a menu item, it’s something extraordinary. Don’t pass it up.

Ðậm Ðà
Deep flavor, umami

Building layers of savory goodness is key to creating excellent Vietnamese flavors. Lots of techniques and ingredients such as shiitake mushroom, fish sauce, and soy sauce are involved.


Being from Saigon in the southern part of Vietnam, we’re crazy for coconut. It’s used in various dishes, but you may also have us cut open a young coconut for you to sip on, just like you would in the motherland.


Crunchy fried frog legs are a terrific drinking food. Try them with a cocktail or bia (we’re testing your Vietnamese now!).

Flan, Bánh Flan
Flan, creme caramel

Our version at Monsoon is delicately textured but boldly flavored. It’s perfect for ending a Vietnamese meal.


There are many chicken dishes on our menus, including rotisserie chicken (gà rô-ti), chicken pho (phở gà), drunken chicken (gà say rượu), and claypot chicken (gà kho tộ).


These are healthy, refreshing composed salads usually dressed with a tangy fish or soy sauce-based dressing. Try our signature banana blossom salad, Saigon chicken salad, and tofu salad but also look out for special new ones! In northern Vietnam, the term for such salads is nộm.

Hành Hương

In Vietnam, shallots are the go-to onion. At our restaurants we fry up a lot of shallots to finish dishes with a touch of rich crunchiness. It’s a lot of work but adds true Vietnamese soul to our food.

Hủ Tiếu
A signature southern Vietnamese noodle soup

This is the southern Vietnamese equivalent of northern pho. It’s a surf-and-turf bowl featuring pork and seafood and maybe chicken, too. Sometimes the broth is in the bowl, sometimes it’s on the side. Hủ Tiếu is Cambodian-Chinese in origin.

Húng, Húng Lủi

One of the most common herbs used in Vietnamese cuisine. It’s enjoyed raw and added to salads, lettuce wraps, and noodle dishes. Spearmint also goes by húng dũi.

Kinh Giới
Vietnamese balm, Vietnamese lemon mint

With hints of mint, basil, lemongrass, and lemon verbena, this is one of the most pleasant and unusual herbs. It’s fragile but we love to keep it on hand for salads, lettuce wraps, and cool noodle dishes.

A braised, simmered, or stewed dish

Any dish that includes the word “kho” is homey, comfort food. Dive into our catfish kho with caramel sauce, or bò kho beef stew with star anise and lemongrass.

Khoai Tây Chiên
French fries

The frites at Ba Bar are among the best in Seattle! Enjoy them as a bar snack (with a little gravy!) or with a steak.

Lá Lốt
Wild betel leaf

The heart-shape leaf reveals its incense-like fragrance when heated. At Monsoon, we wrap flank steak in the leaves then grill the morsels up. The perfume and taste are unforgettable.

Lúc Lắc

The rapid motion of the pan when we quickly sear beef tenderloin for our shaking beef, a fun celebration dish that you can order any time at Monsoon.

Mắm Tôm
Fermented shrimp sauce

Don’t be afraid of this purple paste. It’s used as a foundation for umami-funk. You wouldn’t know it but bún bò Huế, the spicy central-Vietnamese noodle soup, needs the condiment to be complete. It’s also used in northern Vietnamese cooking.

Mì Quảng
Quang-style noodles

This noodle specialty from Quảng Nam province in the south-central coast of Vietnam. It’s recognizable by its turmeric-stained rice noodles and intensely flavored, brothy sauce. Preparing the many components for a good bowl of mì quảng is labor intensive, but our chefs regularly do it at Ba Bar. Mì quảng is uncommon at Viet restaurants in America.

Mì Vịt Tiềm
Duck and ramen noodle soup

We make this Chinese-Vietnamese favorite with duck confit and use the carcass to build the heady, rich broth. This is fabulous on cold days in Seattle.

South, southern

Saigon is located in the southern part of Vietnam, where people love to live large and celebrate their region’s agricultural bounty with crazy delicious foods that excite the senses. Saigon-style bánh cuốn steamed rice noodle rolls and bún rice vermicelli bowls are just a couple of southern-style Viet dishes we offer.


One of the most popular herbs in Vietnamese cooking. It’s not just a garnish but also a seasoning. Ngò gai refers to culantro/thorny cilantro. Ngò om is rice paddy herb which is used for a classic tangy Mekong Delta seafood soup.

Nước Mắm
Fish sauce

Nước mắm is king in the Vietnamese kitchen for adding umami depth to many savory dishes. To dial in our flavors, we exclusively use artisanal fish sauce from renowned Phu Quoc island in Vietnam.


Vietnamese food is not scorchingly hot with chile heat but it does rely on fresh and dried chiles for zap and zip. Don’t be afraid to add a little (or ask for extra!) to lend excitement to your food.

Vietnam’s national food

For Vietnam’s signature noodle soup, we simmer our broths for many hours, use quality ingredients, and employ time-honored techniques. The result are comforting bowls of beef, chicken, and vegan phở. Come to Ba Bar or Monsoon for your phở fix.

Cassia, cinnamon

Vietnam grows amazing cinnamon and we use it in noodle soup broths and a special cinnamon-scented charcuterie called chả quế, which we serve with steamed rice noodle sheets called bánh cuốn.

Rau Quế
Thai basil, cinnamon basil

A favorite for Saigon-style phở, this fragrant herb may also be called húng quế (cinnamon mint).

Rau Răm
Vietnamese coriander, hot mint

The little spear-shaped leaves of this herb leaves a slightly spicy note in the back of your throat that’s very exciting. Its big flavor means it will stand up to heat to finish a dish, and be enjoyed raw, too.

Rau Thơm
Fresh herbs

We make a fresh herb mixture to finish a number of dishes. That way, you get to experience their lively flavors and textures.


One of the essential aromatics in the Vietnamese kitchen, lemongrass may be used in savories, sweets, and teas.

Tía Tô
Red perilla, purple perilla

A cousin of Japanese shiso, the Vietnamese variety has a bold mint-basil flavor. The serrated leaves are garnet on one side and green on the other. It’s terrific raw but may be added at the end of cooking, too.


Vietnam’s lengthy coastline means there’s a lot of seafood. But to ensure a supply for the future, we use only sustainable shrimp in our cooking.

Center, middle

Hue is the landmark city in Vietnam’s central region, where foods can be earthy and gutsy (think Bún Bò Huế, a spicy brow wiper) but also delicate and labor-intensive like Bánh Nậm steamed rice dumplings, which evoke the imperial court culture that was there long ago.


Used by Vietnamese speakers, Việt describes anything Vietnamese (like Thai for Thailand). The term also signals national pride and independence. For all those reasons, we like to use Viet and Vietnamese interchangeably.


We butcher whole ducks and resourcefully make use of the entire bird. We confit, roast, and simmer the various parts to make noodle soup, Peking duck, and broths.


The Banh family is Vietnamese-Chinese, which is why we love to impart a lot of wok-hei essence in our dishes.

Xì Dầu
Soy sauce

This condiment is second to fish sauce in the Vietnamese kitchen. It’s also known as nước tương and is particularly key in vegetarian cooking.

Xíu Mại

An East-West hybrid of pork meatballs in tomato sauce. We flavor ours with lemongrass and serve it with baguette for sopping up all the goodness.

Sticky rice

Sweet and chewy sticky rice dishes can be found on Monsoon’s dim sum brunch menu (try the lotus leaf sticky rice!) and during our Tết Lunar New Year celebrations.

Ý Kiến

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