Have you ever had a chance to gorge on a Vietnamese dish? If not, Buffyfish suggests you do because although simple, it is abundant in taste and variety. Vietnamese food can be included in the list of the most healthy and delicious cuisines in the world. Making its mark around the globe, the cuisine is well known by most of the people in the world. It is a mix of rice, noodle, fish sauce, meat and vegetable. Some better known dishes include spring rolls and bread rolls, banh mi thit– a Vietnamese stuffed baguette, bo kho– beef and vegetable soup, goi cuon– summer rolls made of rice paper rolled with shrimp or pork and che– pudding made from sticky rice and beans. Vietnam is home to a variety of plants owing to the tropical climate and the long coast. Fruits and vegetables are produced and consumed on a large scale by the people and yes, you’d certainly be surprised at the quantity consumed! Street food in Vietnam is common and Hanoi is a paradise for street food lovers, so get going now for an awesome gastronomy treat.
Geography Influences Vietnamese Food Habits
Every aspect of every country is hugely defined by its geographical location. Thus the geography of Vietnam has played a vital role in the present cuisine of the country. Rice, the staple food is produced throughout especially in Red River delta in the north as also Mekong River delta in the south which is bountiful. Vietnam is the second largest rice exporter after Thailand. The sea coast and the inland waterways provide fish thus, making rice and fish the mainstay of Vietnamese people. However, there are a few variations with cuisines in different regions. The Chinese influence like stir fires, noodles and the use of chopsticks in the north and the Cambodian and French influences in the south are amply evident. Winter months witness families cooking vegetables and meat in seasoned broth while a fish dish- cha ca, cooked in the same way is common too. The charcoal brazier boils the broth sits on the table, keeping the family warm. The southern climate is rather conducive and so there is an availability of variety of fruits and vegetables. This region experiences a widespread use of sugar and sugarcane as compared to the north. Cha tom is a popular dish in the south- shrimp wrapped in sugarcane.
Historical Insight into Vietnamese Food Habits
Of course, not only the geography that plays a role in the development of various aspects but a bigger role is the history. Invasions and rulers from outside brought with them their own delicacies that soon became part of the Vietnamese food culture. The Mongolians who invaded in the 10th century introduced beef to the country while the Chinese who ruled for almost 1000 years introduced various cooking techniques like stir and deep frying, use of soy sauce and use of chopsticks. The south that has Laos, Cambodia and Thailand as neighbours was influenced by their use of certain ingredients like flat Cambodian style egg noodles, spices, coconut milk and chilli. 16th century traders introduced potatoes, snow peas and tomatoes. With French colonization came the baguette, patés, and coffee with cream, butter, cakes, custard and milk. During the period of war, American military introduced ice cream to the country and contracted with two dairies to build ice cream factories. Some common ingredients used by the Vietnamese are black pepper- largely in the north, hot chilli, limes, lemon grass, tamarind accompanied by asparagus and potatoes. Methods of cooking vary from boiling to frying or grilling.
Food and Drink Preferences
Although the staple diet includes rice and its variety, noodles, meat and vegetables with fish or soy sauce, some parts of the country experiences a high demand for exotic meats such as dog, turtle and snake. Green tea is a common drink throughout the country. Although imported beers are available the most popular local beers are Saigon Export and Saigon lager. Ruou- rice wine is widely produced by the people, however the bottles of this wine contain a pickled snake which is considered to be good for health. Ruop Nep cam, a popular rice wine is extremely popular beverage in the mountains. You will also find a variety of fruit wines like apricot, orange or lemon whilst soft drinks are processed from an assortment of tropical fruits.
Celebration and Ceremonial Cuisine and Delicacies
Heavy Chinese influence includes the introduction of Buddhism which has led to widespread practice of the religion and a large population being Buddhists. The most profound influence is the sophisticated style of vegetarian cooking, particularly in Hue. Most people refrain from eating meat, seafood and eggs during the first and middle days of each lunar month. The street vendors too serve vegetarian dishes on these days.
While on your trip to Vietnam you must try the Vietnamese delicacies that are replete with taste and are healthy. Some common words that might help you decode the menu-
pho (fol) = soup
bo (ball) = beef
ga (gaw) = chicken
gao (gow) = uncooked rice
com (gum) = cooked rice
nuoc mam (nook mum) = fish sauce
bun (poom) = noodles
cuon (coom) = salad or lettuce