In the past few years Vietnamese food has become more and more popular around the world. Food lovers may have tried the two best known Vietnamese dishes – spring rolls and bread rolls. Rice, noodles, fresh vegetable and herbs all play big roles in Vietnamese food, making it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world.
In Vietnam you’ll discover one unmistakable fact: Vietnamese people love noodles. They eat them every day, sometimes for every meal. Vietnamese noodles are made from a few basic ingredients, the most common being rice, wheat and mung beans, but a whole sub-cuisine is built on these basics.
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What’s in Vietnamese Food
In the northern part of the country, thanks to the influence of neighbouring China, people tend to use more soy sauce than other parts, where fish sauce is more usual. Other common ingredients in Vietnamese cooking include black pepper (mainly in the north), hot chili, coconut milk, limes, lemon grass, tamarind and cane sugar, supplemented by asparagus and potatoes, courtesy of the French influence. Methods of cooking vary from simmering or boiling to frying or grilling.
Stir-frying using a wok and chopsticks is common. Many European influences can be found in Vietnamese dishes, including sauces, meats, cold roast pork, patés and baguettes (French rolls). At the other end of the scale, in some parts of the country there is still plenty of demand for exotic meats such as dog, turtle and snake.
What to Order
Banh Mi Thit
The Vietnamese equivalent of a “submarine” – a Vietnamese baguette stuffed with any of a wide variety of fillings including ham, cheese, canned sardines, Vietnamese bologna and pickled carrot.
Beef-and-vegetable stew, usually accompanied by baguettes.
For dessert, try Che, a pudding made from sticky rice and beans.
Vietnamese Pork Meatball and Noodle Salad.
Nem Nuong Xa
Grilled meat on lemongrass skewers.
The famous Vietnamese “summer rolls”: shrimp or pork (sometimes both) with herbs, rolled up in rice paper and served cold with a peanut dipping sauce.
Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà).The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with Vietnamese basil, mint leaves, lime, and bean sprouts that are added to the soup by the person who is dining.
Eating Vietnamese Style
As in many countries in Asian, people tend to eat “family style”, sharing dishes. Each gets a plate or bowl with rice, then shares with everyone else the bowls of food set in the middle of table.
If you are eating with a Vietnamese family expect to see little in the way of meat unless the family is quite wealthy.
Noodles (of course) and vegetables are the standard diet in most households. A typical Vietnamese meal will include rice, a meat or seafood dish, a vegetable dish, soup and fish sauce for dipping.
Drinking Vietnamese Style
Green tea is the most common drink, and is offered as a courtesy to guests or visitors. The two most popular local beers are Saigon Export and Saigon Lager, but imported beers are available, at roughly double the price. Vietnam produces several varieties of rice wine - known as Ruou. However, bottles of Ruou commonly contain a pickled snake, the inclusion of which is thought to impart health-giving elements.
There are also numerous varieties of locally distilled spirits, which do not include the reptilian element - even if they may taste as if they do. Fruit wines, such as apricot, orange or lemon, are also common, and Soft drinks are processed from the many varieties of tropical fruits. Bottled drinking water should be checked to ensure that the cap or seal is original and intact.