The fragrant, light food of Vietnam is often referred to as the nouvelle cuisine of Asian cooking. Dishes use very little added fat and are accompanied by lettuce leaves, slivers of pickled vegetables and fresh herbs such as mint and Asian basil.
On every Table: The indispensable condiment is nuoc cham, a spiced and sweetened fish sauce. It might have a pronounced salty flavor, depending on how "fishy" the restaurant makes it.
Dive in: Pho is a steaming beef-broth-and-noodle soup to which you add your own seasonings, like fresh lime, jalapeños, bean sprouts, and red chilies. Eat the floating ingredients with chopsticks and use a spoon for the broth. Don't worry if you can't finish every drop—all that liquid is there to keep everything else warm.
Best bites: Fried spring rolls called cha gio, stuffed with a pork mixture, and summer rolls called goi cuon, a steamed version, stuffed with shrimp and rice vermicelli.
Game plan: Nem nuong are grilled spiced pork meatballs that come with moist, thin rice-paper wrappers. Place one delicate paper round on your palm, positioning a small piece of meat and a bit of salad in the center. Fold the edges over the filling and roll up the wrapper, then dip it in peanut or red chili sauce.