Discover Vietnamese Cuisine
Traditional Vietnamese Cooking
Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of dairy and oil, complementary textures, and reliance on herbs and vegetables. With the balance between fresh herbs and meats and a selective use of spices to reach a fine taste, Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.
Vietnamese cuisine encompasses the foods and beverages of Vietnam, and features a combination of five fundamental tastes (Vietnamese: ngũ vị) in the overall meal. Each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavour which reflects one or more of these elements. Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrim paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, and fruits and vegetables.
Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird's eye chili, lime, and Thai basil leaves.
The principle of yin and yang is applied in composing a meal in a way that provides a balance that is beneficial for the body. While contrasting texture and flavours are important, the principal primarily concerns the "heating" and "cooling" properties of ingredients. Certain dishes are served in their respective seasons to provide contrasts in temperature and spiciness of the food and environment. Some examples are:
- Duck meat, considered "cool", is served during the hot summer with ginger fish sauce, which is "warm". Conversely, chicken, which is "warm", and pork, which is "hot", are eaten in the winter.
- Seafoods ranging from "cool" to "cold" are suitable to use with ginger ("warm").
- Spicy foods ("hot") are typically balanced with sourness, which is considered "cool".
- Balut (hột vịt lộn), meaning "upside-down egg" ("cold"), must be combined with Vietnamese mint (rau răm) ("hot").
Vietnam Street Food
Vietnam is well known for its street food. According to Forbes.com, Ho Chi Minh city, the biggest city in Vietnam, is one of the best 10 places to have street food.
Known for its balance of five elements, many Vietnamese dishes include five fundamental taste senses (ngũ vị): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (Earth), corresponding to five organs (ngũ tạng): gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder.
Vietnamese dishes also include five types of nutrients (ngũ chất): powder, water or liquid, mineral elements, protein and fat. Vietnamese cooks try to have five colours (ngũ sắc): white (metal), green (wood), yellow (Earth), red (fire) and black (water) in their dishes.
Dishes in Vietnam appeal to gastronomes' via five senses (năm giác quan): food arrangement attracts eyes, sounds come from crisp ingredients, five spices are detected on the tongue, aromatic ingredients coming mainly from herbs stimulate the nose, and some meals, especially finger food, can be perceived by touching. Whether complex or simple, Vietnamese dishes also offer satisfying mouthfeel during the dining enjoyment.
Cooking and eating play an extremely important role in Vietnamese culture. The word ăn (eat) is included in a great number of proverbs and has a large range of semantic extensions.
The mainstream culinary traditions in all three regions of Vietnam share some fundamental features:
- Freshness of food: Most meats are only briefly cooked. Vegetables are eaten fresh; if they are cooked, they are boiled or only briefly stir-fried.
- Presence of herbs and vegetables: Herbs and vegetables are essential to many Vietnamese dishes and are often abundantly used.
- Variety and harmony of textures: Crisp with soft, watery with crunchy, delicate with rough.
- Broths or soup-based dishes are common in all three regions.
- Presentation: The condiments accompanying Vietnamese meals are usually colorful and arranged in eye-pleasing manners.
The abundance of spices produced by central Vietnam’s mountainous terrain makes this region’s cuisine notable for its spicy food, which sets it apart from the two other regions of Vietnam where foods are mostly not spicy. Once the capital of the last dynasty of Vietnam, Huế's culinary tradition features highly decorative and colorful food, reflecting the influence of ancient Vietnamese royal cuisine. The region’s cuisine is also notable for its sophisticated meals consisting of many complex dishes served in small portions. Chili peppers and shrimp sauces are among the frequently used ingredients. Some Vietnamese signature dishes produced in central Vietnam are bún bò Huế and bánh khoái.
The warm weather and fertile soil of southern Vietnam create an ideal condition for growing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and livestock. As a result, foods in southern Vietnam are often vibrant and flavorful, with liberal uses of garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs. Sugar is added to food more than in the other regions. The preference for sweetness in southern Vietnam can also be seen through the widespread use of coconut milk in southern Vietnamese cuisine. Vast shorelines make seafood a natural staple for people in this region
Outside of Vietnam, Vietnamese cuisine is widely available in countries such as Australia, the United States, Canada, and France. Vietnamese cuisine is also popular in Japan, Korea, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Poland, and Russia, and in areas with dense Asian populations.
Television shows featuring Vietnamese food have increased in popularity. Luke Nguyen from Australia currently features a television show, Luke Nguyen's Vietnam, dedicated on showcasing and instructing how to cook Vietnamese dishes.