Vietnamese dishes are balanced in terms of the ratio of pungency and spice, sourness and sweetness, vegetables and meat. Vietnamese cuisine has absorbed the traditions of China, France, Thailand, while creating a unique and distinctive cuisine.
History of Vietnamese cuisine
Until 938, Vietnam was ruled by China. During this period, the Vietnamese learned to use chopsticks, to brown pork, beef and vegetables. Noodles and tofu were added to the diet.
Vegetarianism, which is so popular now in Vietnam, came with the advent of Buddhism.
The tradition of cooking beef originated here in the 10th century. thanks to the arrival of Mongolian shepherds to the country. The influence of Cambodians on Vietnamese cuisine was expressed in the widespread distribution of Indian spices and herbs. Since that time, lemongrass, mint, basil, and chili have been added to food.
In the XIX century. the colonial stage began under French rule. During this time, the Vietnamese diet was enriched with asparagus, avocado, legumes, tomatoes and wine. The French brought crispy baguette, strong coffee with milk and sorbet to Vietnamese cuisine.
Characteristics of the national cuisine of Vietnam
Cooking is based on a harmonious combination of textures and colors, a balance of “5 tastes” – bitter, salty, sweet, sour and spicy, expressed, according to Buddhist philosophy, in the energies of “Yin-Yang”. Cold female Yin is responsible for sour, sweet, pungent tastes, and hot male Yang is responsible for salty and bitter.
Vietnamese prepare meals with fresh ingredients just before serving. There is no tradition to procure them for future use. Food is not spicy, chili sauce is always served separately.
National Vietnamese cuisine has over 500 traditional treats. The recipe for any of them may differ depending on the region of preparation.
Features of Vietnamese cuisine
Cooking has its own differences in the regions of the republic, which is due to the climate and culinary traditions of neighboring countries.
In the north, they prefer simple food consisting of meat and seafood. Soups based on rich broth are especially popular. Hanoi, the center of the northern region, is considered the birthplace of the famous Vietnamese pho.
Here, the cuisine is more multifaceted and aesthetic: the royal family previously lived in Hue, which has left an imprint on modern cooking and food design. Unlike the northern region, spices and seasonings are used in large quantities here.
In the south, food consists mainly of vegetables and herbs. Fish and seafood are cooked more often than in other regions of Vietnam. The influence of Thai cuisine is manifested in a penchant for sweet and sour dishes. Thanks to French cuisine, baguettes and croissants, cheese and all kinds of pates are popular here.
Useful and dangerous properties
The food consumed in Vietnam is virtually gluten-free, which is important for people with celiac disease.
The Vietnamese diet consists of rice, fish and seafood, fresh vegetables. These are foods rich in vitamins E and A, zinc, copper, potassium. They help the human body fight free radicals, skin aging and help to strengthen the immune system.
In Vietnam, it is recommended to drink only bottled water, as the local tap water contains a large amount of harmful bacteria.
Heat-treated foods are safe for the body: at high temperatures, harmful microorganisms die, so the risk of poisoning is excluded.
Main products and ingredients
Vietnamese cuisine is represented by various types of rice. They put it almost everywhere, serve it as a side dish, make noodles, dough, tortillas, sweets from it. Delicious rolls are rolled from crispy rice paper.
The Vietnamese serve fish nyok-mam as a sauce for most dishes. It resembles soy, but has a sweetish flavor. In addition to fish, shrimp paste, soy, sesame, garlic or peanut marinade, chili are popular.
Lime juice is added to many soups. Meat dishes are prepared from chicken, pork, beef. From the exotic you can try crocodile, ostrich, shark, turtle, snake heart and blood, fried scorpions. But more often residents eat fish and seafood.
Popular spices include herbs, vegetables, and roots: lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, basil, mint, lime and Thai chili.
The most popular Vietnamese dishes
Most of the treats can be tasted at street vendors, and street food is represented by a wide range of snacks.
Banh bao banh vac – shrimp dumplings
Small white dumplings made from rice flour. For the preparation of the latter, high quality rice is used, which is peeled and evaporated in several stages. Chopped shrimps, seasoned with onions and peppers are used as a filling.
When served, the plate is decorated like a blooming rose, hence the name of the dish – “White Rose”.
Pho soup – noodle soup
Soup with rice noodles cooked in broth from meat or seafood. Thinly sliced slices of beef, pork or chicken are added to it. Pho is decorated with sprouts of soybeans, basil, lime. Chili is served separately, with which guests season the finished dish to their taste.
There are vegetarian options for pho. The broth for the base is made vegetable, chunks of tofu are added to it.
Vietnamese eat this soup most often for breakfast. Tourists can try it at any time of the day. Both spoons and sticks can serve as appliances.
Goi cuon – rolls in rice paper
A light and fresh steamed snack. Rolls can be served raw. They are rolls of dipped rice paper stuffed with shrimp, vegetables, fresh herbs. They are served by street vendors or in small cafes such sauces as fish, chili, in which ready-made rolls are dipped.
Nem ran – fried rolls with filling
The main differences from the previous type of rolls are the fried crispy crust and the smaller size. The filling is vegetables with rice, beef, chicken, fresh herbs. Nem ran goes well with local beer or serves as a starter for a main course.
Nem ran – rolls with filling.
Bun thit nuong – roast pork
Cold rice noodles with spiced fried pork. The ready-made treat is served with nok-mam, garnished with shrimps, pickled carrots, pork sausage and garlic or peanuts.
The dish is popular in all regions except Hanoi: cao lau is preferred there.
Cao lau – pork with thick noodles
The basis of the dish is vermicelli prepared according to a special recipe from water, rice flour and ash. The noodles are thick and dark in color. Pork is grilled with beans, mint, anise.
The most delicious variants of this dish can be tasted in the central part of Vietnam.
Xoi ga – Chicken with sticky rice
Popular Vietnamese lunch. Glutinous rice has a sweetish flavor and firm texture. The chicken is cut into thin strips and seasoned with sesame seeds, onions and herbs.
Banh cuon – meatloaf
Pieces of chicken or pork, chopped shrimps, mushrooms, Vietnamese ham are placed in steamed rice paper. To enhance the taste, banh cuon is served with a marinade, in which it is customary to dip the finished roll.
Traditional meat rolls in a rice cake.
Bun bo nam bo – beef with rice noodles
Beef is added to noodles in thin, almost transparent pieces. Peanuts and chopped herbs, as well as various sauces give the dish a special aroma and pleasant aftertaste.
Lau – hot pot – hot pot
This is not just a dish, it is a whole ritual. Guests prepare it themselves from pre-washed and chopped ingredients. These can be vegetables, seafood, roots, pieces of beef. A burner with ready-made broth is placed on the table, and the products are added in the desired sequence and quantity.
Lau is often served with family gala dinners as entertainment and a treat at the same time.
Banh mi – stuffed baguette
Grilled crispy loaf sandwich with traditional Vietnamese fillings. A large number of fresh herbs and vegetables are put in it, for example, various types of salad, cucumbers, carrots, radishes. Mixing sauces: soy, chili, shrimp paste gives an unusual taste.
Banh xeo – spring rolls
A hearty crunchy appetizer whose name means “sizzling pancake”. Prepare banh xeo from rice flour with turmeric in a lot of oil. Vegetables, chicken or seafood are used for the filling. Additionally, the prepared pancake can be wrapped in lettuce leaves.
Banh xeo crunchy pancakes.
Banh beo chen – water cake
Traditional street food. It is made from 2 types of flour: rice and tapioca. Dried shrimps, onions, pork are used for the filling.
Banh bao – steamed bun
Vietnamese steamed yeast dough pie. The most popular filling is seasoned pork, but hard-boiled egg, tofu, and shredded chicken can be added. Sometimes there are sweet fillings. The bun is round in shape. Most often, you can try banh bao at street vendors.
Banh chung – roll in banana leaves
Roll stuffed with fatty pork, beans, salt and pepper. Sometimes green onions are added to it. The filling is wrapped in banana leaves, which are soaked in salted water or steamed for softness.
For cooking, beans and rice are soaked for 2 to 12 hours, which gives the food a special softness.
Banh chung is a traditional Vietnamese New Year dish, but tourists can try it at any time.
Xoi xeo – sweet (sticky) rice
Glutinous rice is larger, light and round, has a sweetish taste, retains its elasticity during cooking and does not boil down into porridge. It is used as a side dish or as a base for desserts.
Xoi xeo – large sweet rice.
Ca phe trung – egg coffee
It is prepared by mixing several varieties of coffee: mocha, robusta, arabica. The drink has a strong, rich taste without sourness. Pour a beaten egg on top. They can be served hot or cold. It is recommended to eat egg coffee with a dessert spoon.
Tender meat, reminiscent of chicken, but with a slight hint of algae and river water. In Vietnam, they cook not only frog legs, but the whole carcass. It is grilled, stewed, baked in the oven, or cooked with rice porridge.
The dish is based on vegetable or beef broth, abundantly seasoned with spices, to which chopped pieces of turtle meat are added. When serving, put the noodles in a deep plate, which are poured over with soup. Guests choose additives on their own: soy or fish marinade, lime juice, chili.
This delicacy is distinguished by its specific taste and original presentation. The crocodile is roasted whole on a spit and cut off right in front of the visitors. Steaks are prepared from the back, and tails and paws are used in soups and other combined dishes.
Fried crocodile is one of the exotic dishes of Vietnam.
Heart, meat and blood of a cobra
Cooking a snake in Vietnam is a whole ritual. A live snake is brought to the visitors and its head is cut off. Blood is decanted into a separate glass and mixed with vodka.
The still beating heart is offered to be swallowed, without cutting, raw. Wash down exotic treats with snake blood. The remaining parts of the cobra are taken to the kitchen for cooking, for example, soup or rings in batter.
Other Vietnamese food
Here you can find various variations of salads:
- Light summer goi buoi. Pomelo, shrimp, carrots, slices of toasted pork and dried cuttlefish cut into small pieces are mixed. The dish is seasoned with coconut pulp, white sesame, spices, herbs and sweet and sour sauce. It is served in a “bowl” of pomelo, garnished with fried onions.
- Goicathu – Fresh Mackerel Fillet Salad. The fishy taste is emphasized by ginger, roasted peanuts, lemon juice, hot peppers, cane sugar and garlic.
- Spicy, exquisite goingosen. Young lotus shoots are a special ingredient. Tomatoes, walnuts and seafood shade the unusual product. Salad is seasoned with sweet and sour sauce and lemon juice. Chopped peanuts, mint and cilantro branches are used for decoration.
Traditional desserts are also worth trying:
- Sinh tố is a treat similar to smoothies and pudding at the same time. It is made from fruit pulp with the addition of ice, yoghurt, condensed milk.
- For sweets, you can serve coconut soup with sweet potatoes, tapioca and taro leaves. It has a unique spicy flavor due to the mixing of natural ingredients.
- The Vietnamese national dessert, banh com, are rectangular cakes of sweet rice and beans wrapped in banana leaves. Sprinkle them with coconut for flavor.
- Fans of exotic dishes will love the scorpion snack. When heat treated, the poison goes away, and such a treat is safe. It is difficult to get enough of them: there is very little meat in the finished scorpion, mainly in the claws and under the shell.
- Balut. Another unusual Vietnamese treat is a boiled duck egg with an embryo formed inside.
Homemade Vietnamese Recipes
The classic Vietnamese soup recipe is shown below.
Cooking requires 2 groups of ingredients.
- beef on the bone – 700 g;
- onions – 1-2 pcs.;
- ginger root – 2 cm;
- cloves – 3 pcs.;
- coriander seeds – 1 tsp;
- star anise – 1/2 stars;
- cinnamon – 1 stick;
- water – about 2 liters;
- salt and sugar to taste;
- green onions (white part) – 1 bunch.
Ingredients for pho bo:
- beef tenderloin – 200 g;
- ginger root – 1 cm;
- salt and pepper – optional;
- rice noodles – 300 g;
- onions – 1 pc.;
- green onions (stems) – 1 bunch;
- hot pepper – 1 pc.;
- lime – 1 pc.;
- parsley or cilantro – 1 bunch.
- Broth is cooked from beef bones. Spices are added at their discretion, traditionally they use ginger, cinnamon, cloves, saffron.
- Boil noodles separately or simply scald with boiling water. It is important not to digest it.
- Put the finished noodles in a bowl, add beef cut into almost transparent slices and pour all this with boiling broth.
- Ready soup at your discretion is seasoned with herbs: cilantro, basil, bean sprouts.
Traditionally, Vietnamese pho is served with lime or lemongrass, scalding hot.
Vietnamese Pho soup.
Cơm gà (rice with chicken)
- pre-cooked and cooled basmati or jasmine rice – 4 cups;
- chicken breast – 1 pc.;
- carrots – 2 pcs.;
- frozen green peas – 1 cup;
- green onions – 3-4 feathers;
- egg – 1-2 pcs.;
- soy sauce – 1/4 cup;
- rice or wine vinegar – 1 tbsp. l .;
- sugar (preferably brown) – 2 tsp. without a slide;
- vegetable oil;
- flour or starch – 1 tbsp. l.
- In a frying pan with heated oil, fry the chicken, cut into small cubes until golden brown.
- In the oil left over from the chicken, fry the carrot circles until soft.
- Prepare the marinade in a separate deep bowl: mix finely chopped garlic and soy sauce.
- Put the finished rice in a deep frying pan, mixing with the marinade.
- Add green peas, carrots and chicken. Fry for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Make a depression inside the rice and pour the beaten egg into it. Spread out so that the egg flakes.
- Add green onions at the very end. Before serving, check if the dish is salty enough thanks to the soy sauce.
- Serve hot, in portions, on flat large plates.
Vietnamese cuisine is both simple and unusual. Fresh ingredients make hearty treats with a spicy taste and delicate aroma.