Vietnamese Cuisine Food for the Senses

About Vietnam

Vietnam is located along the Eastern coast of the Indochina Peninsula
  • The climate is really humid in the tropical wet season, and really hot in the dry season, so food tends to be light instead of rich and heavy
  • Land is flat near at the coastline and river deltas, and really hilly and mountainous inland. Because of this, seafood, crops that can grow in flooded waters (rice, bean sprouts, water spinach), and root vegetables and spices are mainly used.
  • The population isn't very diverse, and as such, the foods aren't very complex (variation comes from what foods are available locally). Vietnamese food values simplicity.

Cultural Factors

  • Balance between taste, fragrance, and color in dishes is important due to the importance of the Yin-Yang complex in their culture
  • Once that balance is achieved, the reluctance to mess it up keeps dishes simple; Vietnam has also been very poor for most of its history, so up until recently, the majority of the people couldn't afford to make food complex
  • Food is also dependent on the five "elements"
Vietnamese food is characteristically simple, and focuses on the five senses and such.
  • Salt is considered as a connection between the realm of the living and the dead, dishes is given as an offering to their gods, and a large number of Vietnamese proverbs are based around food and eating
  • Food is very important, and is a crucial in celebrations like birthdays, funerals, engagement and wedding parties, and the Lunar Festival
  • Food across all regions focuses on freshness of the food, the presence of herbs and vegetables, and a harmony of textures; in the cold mountains, people prefer having less spicy food to importing spices from the tropical conditions of the rest of the country
  • The Imperial family had a team of 50 chefs who were tasked to invent delicious dishes that represented the country; cheaper versions of these dishes were spread to the common people
  • Vietnam was controlled by the French for over 60 years, so French foods and mannerisms have been ingrained in Vietnamese culture

Carbohydrates

Rice and rice noodles are staples because of how easy it is to grow in the flooded farmland. Rice is very versatile, and it shows in its usage in porridge, spring roll shells and other fried things, and rice wraps.

Chao

Vietnamese rice porridge that is used to calm the stomach. It is sometimes served with slices of meat and herbs.

Fat

Fat is refering to margarine or animal fats, and it's crucial to making sure the simple foods are still flavorful.

Banh Mi

A sub made in a baguette. The key components are bread, margarine, and pâté, but street vendors can add other toppings depending on a customer's preferences.

Protein

Tofu, duck, chicken, and even dog are popular sources of protein, and beef and pork are considered higher quality meat. These are often roasted, skewered, and put in wraps.

Banh uot thit nuong

Marinated grilled pork in a blend of sugar, salt, chili, lemongrass and fish sauce. It's served with rice wraps to make it easier to eat.

Minerals

This refers to spices and vegetables that are raw, pickled, or steamed. Lemongrass, bean sprouts, water spinach, and morning glory are popular, and different spices and curries are used such as coriander, green onions, dill, and mint.

Nom hoa chuoi

Banana flower salad mixed with green papaya, carrots, and cilantro. It includes chicken and peanuts for protein, and salty fish sauce dressing.

Water

This refers to the abundance of clear soups and seafoods (primarily fish, crab, and shrimp). These are often what people eat for lunch on the go.

Bun cha

Marinated pork belly in a large bowl of a fish sauce-heavy broth. It's includes a large amount of herbs and rice noodles.

Dessert

  • Ca phe trung: Vietnamese egg coffee; it's very sweet and is sold commonly at street vendors
  • Bánh phu thê: A traditional dessert used in wedding ceremonies; it's rice with mung beans wrapped in a box made of pandan leaves

Traditional Practices

  • Cooking techniques include various versions of frying, roasting, and boiling (soups are very important); French techniques like sautéing and blanching are also used
  • Since they balance all senses, including touch, non-soup foods are made to be eaten with chopsticks, eaten in wraps, or eaten with their hands so that touch can be a component

Credits:

Created with images by goosmurf - "Ngoc Son Temple"

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