Crunchy, creamy, nutty: Vietnamese foods for peanut lovers

By Phuc Trinh   May 7, 2023 | 02:00 am PT
Peanuts are popular in Vietnamese cuisine, used as a main ingredient, a garnish, and in sauces. Let's explore the variety of peanutty foods that you can find in Vietnam.

Roasted garlic chili peanuts

Roasted garlic chili peanuts is a savory snack that you can find available almost everywhere in southern Vietnam, from supermarkets to local markets selling handmade variations. These roasted garlic chili peanuts are made with toasted peanuts that have been covered with garlic, chili, and a mix of salt, sugar and fish sauce.

Dau phong toi ot has a balance of sweet, salty and spicy flavors. Photo by VnExpress

Roasted garlic chili peanuts have a balance of sweet, salty and spicy flavors. Photo by VnExpress

The peanuts glazed with the sweet, salty, spicy, and garlicky coating are a common snack locals use to satisfy mid-afternoon cravings. Roasted garlic chili peanuts can also be used as a topping for salads or noodle dishes, adding crunchiness and savory pop to your favorite dish. I personally find these peanuts a terrific complement for a charcuterie board. The sweet and salty nuts also go great with your favorite beverages, whether cocktails or mocktails. But once you've begun eating them, it's difficult to stop.

Roasted garlic chili peanuts can also be part of a quick and simple meal that you can make at home. Just roast the peanuts in a skillet or oven for about 15 minutes over medium heat. Sauté the chili and garlic for two to three minutes until fragrant, then set aside. Boil sugar and water together with fish sauce until they form a thick caramel sauce with a light golden brown hue. Finally, add the peanuts, chile, and garlic to the glaze and stir for about five minutes. Serve with rice and your favorite side dishes and soup.

Peanut sauce

Peanut sauce is one of the most popular at Saigon restaurants. The sauce is made from a simple combination of peanut butter, hoisin, vinegar, and water. It is known for its tangy flavor, and its thick and creamy texture. This umami-flavored dipping sauce is an easy way to bring some of your favorite Vietnamese dishes to life.

Sot dau phong is often served with spring rolls. Photo by VnExpress

Peanut sauce is often served with spring rolls. Photo by VnExpress

This peanut sauce is incredibly versatile, and is often served with a variety of street food in the south, including goi cuon (fresh spring rolls), banh xeo (sizzling Vietnamese crepes) and bo la lot (grilled beef in betel leaves).You can even use it as a salad dressing at home. If you’re a veggie food lover and are looking for a vegan-friendly sauce that can still provide a thick and creamy texture, you should definitely give this peanut version a try.

Iced tamarind juice with roasted peanut

While most people know of tamarind in Vietnamese cuisine as the main ingredient to make sour soup, or canh chua, this fruit is also a key condiment for a beverage called da me dau phong. This drink is very popular in southern Vietnam, especially Saigon. Nothing can beat the heat of a summer day more than a sweet and sour beverage.

Da me dau phong is a simple Vietnamese beverage that can be made at home. Photo by VnExpress

Iced tamarind juice with roasted peanut is a simple Vietnamese beverage that can be made at home. Photo by VnExpress

The drink is made up of a sweet pineapple and sour tamarind combination, ice, and a generous amount of toasted peanuts. To get the most out of the drink, take a sip of the juice and then a spoonful of peanuts. The crunchy nut topping combined with the sweet and sour flavor will have you coming back for more.

You can make your own tamarind paste using tamarind pulp, water, and sugar to make this easy drink at home. Add all of these ingredients to a skillet and stir well over medium high heat for 10 minutes, until thickened. When you want a refreshing drink, fill a glass with ice and add a couple spoonfuls of tamarind paste, then mix thoroughly. There you have it, a sweet and tangy juice that may become your new favorite.

Banana-coconut popsicles with peanuts

Banana ice cream is filled with lots of peanuts and shredded coconut flakes. Photo by VnExpress

Banana ice cream is filled with lots of peanuts and shredded coconut flakes. Photo by VnExpress

Kem chuoi dau phong is a popular street meal that has been enjoyed by generations of Saigonese. It's a dessert made primarily of creamy and aromatic coconut ice cream (made only with coconut milk, no dairy) over bananas and topped with peanuts. It's a simple and delicious snack made with just a few inexpensive ingredients: ripe bananas, coconut cream, shredded coconut flakes, and roasted peanuts. The ingredients are wrapped around a stick, frozen, and then eaten like a popsicle.

This banana and coconut ice cream is a healthier version of regular ice cream. It’s sweet, fruity, salty and nutty, an absolute party of flavors. The smoothness of the banana and coconut milk goes perfectly with the crunchiness of the peanuts and coconut flakes. This delicious street food is vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and dairy free, making it perfect for anyone with particular dietary needs.

Peanut sticky rice

Peanut sticky rice is a traditional Vietnamese dish. This version of sticky rice is a common breakfast that can be found at most sticky rice vendors. A serving can be enjoyed with all kinds of toppings, and is often labeled "Vietnamese fast food" because it is prepared and served quickly and inexpensively. But it’s not nearly as unhealthy as actual fast food.

Pork is one of the many toppings that can go with xoi dau phong. Photo by VnExpress.

Pork sausage is one of the many toppings that can go with peanut sticky rice. Photo by VnExpress

A serving of peanut sticky rice offers a fantastic textural contrast of soft, sweet sticky rice and slightly salty, crispy peanuts. If you're searching for a flavorful treat, this may appear a little bit too ordinary. But don't forget that it's a popular meal because of the variety of extra toppings that can be added, such as braised pork belly, cha lua (pork roll), and pork floss.

Peanut rice paper candy

Keo cu do or peanut rice paper candy is a well-known snack that originated in Ha Tinh, a north-central province where these candied peanuts have been made for many generations. The candy is created with natural ingredients including peanuts, cane molasses, malt powder, sesame seeds, and ginger.

Cu do is believed to be the nickname of a peanut candy and green tea vendor who came up with the concept of using rice paper to separate pieces of peanut candy, instead of using wax paper to keep the sweets from sticking together. The crunchy rice cracker eventually enhanced the flavor of the treat.

Peanut rice paper candy pairs the best with green tea. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

Peanut rice paper candy pairs the best with green tea. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

Keo cu do has a sweet, buttery peanut flavor with the slightly spicy taste of fresh ginger also enhancing each bite. The stickiness of molasses is balanced by the crispy toasted rice papers. The hardness of this candy bar is also one of its features. It also takes a long time to chew. Locals in central Vietnam often stockpile the warming candy before the harsh cold winters. Because it’s so chewy and tough, no one can consume too much at once.

Rice flour cake

Rice flour cake is a famous northern cuisine and is one of the most rustic and simple Hanoian meals found in the capital today. The main ingredients are quite simple: non-glutinous rice flour or corn flour, and peanuts.

The rice is soaked for hours before being ground with water to form a mixture. To produce a glutinous texture, lime juice is added to the flour mixture. After that, the mixture is cooked and peanuts are added. This "rice flan" has a jelly-like texture and a mild taste when finished.

Banh duc lac is pure white and soft. Photo by VnExpress

Rice flour cake is pure and soft. Photo by VnExpress

Pieces of smooth, white rice cake with peanuts are frequently served with tuong ban, a fermented condiment made of soybeans. The sauce's sweet and aromatic flavor, along with the light flavor of the cake, makes it an excellent summer meal. Because of its inexpensive cost, this simple cake has been a favourite snack among Northern people for many years.

Vietnamese salad

Nom refers to all forms of traditional Vietnamese salad. In the north, the salad is known as nom, while in the south, it is known as goi. Fresh herbs and grated fruits and veggies – including green papaya, carrots, green mangos, cabbage, banana blossoms, and cucumber slices – are used to make Vietnamese salads. Salads are typically dressed with a sweet and sour sauce, with pork, prawns, or dried meat added for extra flavors.

Vietnamese salad is often topped with lots of peanuts. Photo by VnExpress

Vietnamese salad is often topped with lots of peanuts. Photo by VnExpress

Vietnamese salads are flavorful and refreshing, and can be enjoyed all year round. Among all the toppings, roasted ground peanuts are a must-have addition for every Vietnamese salad. Not only does it make the salad more visually attractive, but it also offers a nutty taste that is impossible to replace. A dish of nom cannot be complete without the addition of peanuts.

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