Once you have stock your kitchen with the essentials to make Vietnamese food, you should consider taking the pantry to the next level. These are items you may not need every time you make Vietnamese food, but they will come up often enough to consider having them in the pantry. Most of these items should be available at your local Asian markets or on Amazon.
1. Shrimp Paste / Mắm Ruốc Mắm Tôm – This is a pungent fermented shrimp paste made of small shrimps that are dried and fermented with salt and sugar. This is a base for many of the dishes from central Vietnam, especially from Hue.
2. Starches (Potato Starch | Corn Starch | Tapioca Starch) – The different type of starches can be used as thickening agents as well as combined with rice flour for flour based dishes.
3. Tamarind block – The sweet and sour pulp are pressed together into blocks and sold in many supermarkets including Jet.com. They are the basis of sweet and sour dishes, especially canh chua in Vietnam.
4. Coconut cream /Coconut milk / Coconut juice – These are essentials for curry based dishes and many deserts.
5. White Vinegar – This is used for all the pickling recipes and to get rid of any fishy smell in seafood.
6. Dried shiitake mushrooms – You can’t always get fresh shiitake mushrooms so this is a quick substitute.
7. Earworm mushrooms or Fungus – This is used in many of the dumpling and egg roll fillings.
8. Dried bamboo shoots or can bamboo shoots– This is a common ingredient in vegetable dishes and also in a variety of soups.
9. Peeled split mung bean – This is often used in rice based dishes or as part of a desert.
10. Gelatin/ Agar Agar – This is used to solidify liquid in many deserts.
11. Banh Xeo mix – This is a premix flour for Vietnamese crepes.
12. Phở Spice packet – This is just a packet filled with Phở seasoning (star anise, cinnamon, peppercorn, cloves, fennel, and coriander). You can buy all the ingredients separately but I find it more convenient just to have a few packets around.
12. Pandan extract syrup – This is the “vanilla” like fragrance and flavoring.
13. Vanilla sugar – This is a substitute for real vanilla extract that is often used in Vietnam.
14. Rice paper – Wrapper to make rolls and wraps with many type of dishes.
15. Dried Noodles – I always have a variety of noodles in the pantry depending on what dish i am making that day.
- Flat rice noodles (Bánh Phở)
- Rice vermicelli noodles (Bún)
- Egg noodles (Mì)
- Glass noodles (Miến)
- Tapioca and rice noodles (Bánh Canh) – Vietnam’s version of Udon noodles.
16. Steamer – Asian steamers are wider and shallower than the western version. This is one of the most common cookware for Vietnamese food.