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Vietnamese cuisine

I am a total foodie 🙂 I love food, I love cooking and experimenting with new recipes. While I hold no official degree in the given field, I have been an cooking instructor and introduced different cuisines to children and adults alike.

One of my favorite national cuisines is Vietnamese. The Vietnamese kitchen is light, full of colors and flavors. Like most Asian philosophies, Vietnamese food is underpinned by the Xu Wing and Mahābhūta principles that emphasise the importance of the balance between the five elements for health and well-being. Due to that, there are five fundamental “tastes” in each Vietnamese meal – spicy, sour, sweet, bitter and salty. Each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavor which reflects on one or more of these elements.

Traditional Vietnamese kitchen has found a good balance between vegetables, meat and spices. Most meats are only briefly cooked. Vegetables are eaten either fresh or if they are cooked, they are boiled or only briefly stir-fried. For seasoning, things such as fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, bean sauce and fresh herbs like lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime, and Thai basil leaves are used. These ingredients, combined together, are what makes Vietnamese cuisine unique and delicious.

Rice

Rice plays a big part in Vietnamies culture and economy. Vietnam is the third-largest rice exporter in the world (after Thailand and the US)(2). Over 15 million smallholder farmers derive their livelihoods from rice (1).  Rice is everywhere and in everything. Rice appears in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. It is grown all over the country, most bountifully so in the Mekong Delta down south, which can grow enough rice to feed all 87+ million people of Vietnam, with plenty left over.

Historic influences

Throughout history Vietnamese kitchen has been influenced by the neighbouring countries Cambodia, Malaysia and China but also by French. Due to influences from French colonization, when the French introduced onions, cauliflower, lettuce, potatoes, tarragon, carrot, artichoke, asparagus, coffee and baguettes, which usually differ from the French counterpart in that the baguette is normally made entirely of rice flour. The French also introduced the use of dairy products in Vietnamese-French fusion dishes. So finding creme brulee in the Vietnamese menu is not uncommon at all.

Regional differences

Vietnam is divided into three main regions: north, south and central. Every region has its own individual characteristics(3).

In northern Vietnam, where the climate tends to be cooler, food tends to be less spicy and black pepper is favoured over chillies. Many notable dishes of northern Vietnam are crab-centered. One of this region’s most famous dishes is bún chả(4).

In southern Vietnam, the food is much sweeter and somewhat spicier than in the north. The sweetness in the dishes comes from added sugar and coconut milk. Thanks to the warmer climate the southerners also grow, use more herbs and a larger variety of vegetables in their dishes which makes their food more flavourful and vibrant. Also, because of the vast shorelines, much of the food includes seafood.  

Central Vietnamese dishes are noticeably spicier than the other two regions. Chili peppers and shrimp sauces are among the frequently used ingredients.

Central region’s cuisine is also notable for meals consisting of many complex dishes that are served in small portions. Some of the regions signature dishes are bún bò Huế(5) and bánh khoái(6).

Vietnamese cuisine provides a plethora of delicious dishes and offers a valuable insight into the country’s culture.

My top 3 favorite Vietnamese dishes

1) Vietnamese Spring Rolls

2)  Vietnamese Noodle Soup- Pho

Photo by T – N G U Y E N 🍁 on Pexels.com

3) Lime and lemongrass creme brulee

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