Pronounced: goy coo-un
You know spring rolls: Those soft, bouncy, wiggly rice paper wraps filled with crunchy vegetables, vermicelli noodles and sauteed shrimp or pork. These are typically served with peanut sauce, and one of the most commonly encountered appetizers on any Vietnamese menu -- as well as one of the most accessible.
Pho/ Noodle Soup
Pronounced: fuh (with a slight upward inflection at the end)
Among all the Vietnamese dishes that came to the attention of the people in the western hemisphere, nothing else has received such tremendous acceptance as pho. Pho is considered as the national dish of Vietnam, and it has captured the fascination of so many people in the west because of its deceptive simplicity and its complex flavors. Pho is the perfect comfort food - warm, hearty and deliciously refreshing. In Vietnam it's the common people's food. It's street food.
Pho can also be seen as a mirror that reflects Vietnamese heritage and way of life. A dish that is steeped in tradition, pho is closely tied to Vietnam that the history of pho can read as a parallel to the history of its country of origin itself in the last hundred years. With the migration of Vietnamese across the globe after the Fall of Saigon in 1975, the national dish of Vietnam came to grace the tables of people of different heritages, thus leading to the colorful evolution of pho throughout the years.
The same rice vermicelli noodles found in pho are served cool atop a bed of greens (typically shredded lettuce and cucumber) to make sort of a rice noodle salad. Bun is usually topped with hot meat (chargrilled pork is a popular choice) for a nice contrast in textures and temperatures, then tossed with fish sauce and whatever else you decide to jazz it up with. As with pho, hoisin sauce and Sriracha are popular additions.
Com / Rice Plates
Cơm đĩa refers to a rice plate, while anything after "cơm" 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). All rice plates also come with a dipping sauce to perk up the rice and laced with garlic and/or scallions to sip between bites of the sticky rice .