Stamped with both Asian and western influences, Vietnamese cuisine is balanced, healthy and light. Not too spicy like Thai food or greasy like Chinese food, Vietnamese food appeals to local and international tastes alike.
Vietnamese cooking features a wide use of herbs, vegetables and "nuoc mam" or fermented fish sauce which gives special aroma and flavors to the food. Specifically, there are three main cooking styles: the North, the Central and the South. Northern cuisine is characterized as saltier than the others, while the central food is spicier. Southern people prefer sweet dishes, with an abundant use of coconut milk.
Eating plays a huge role in Vietnamese society and its etiquette is of no less important. Unlike, westerner practice: each person ordering his or her own plate of food, dining in Vietnam is a communal affair. All the dishes are put on table and shared by a group of people. Sharing dishes not only ensures that everyone gets to enjoy all of them but also to create a sociable and warm atmosphere. More than a formal etiquette, it is custom of collective spirit which is also seen in informal situations. Vietnamese like to dinner out but not in luxurious restaurants, rather, thousands of street stalls are much more preferred. Even a simple stop there can turn into an elaborate meal. Furthermore dinning out is not only a chance to enjoy various dishes but also to get together even for merely gossip about daily lives. In the hustle and bustle of modern lifestyle, Vietnamese still keep this habit as an effective way to maintain close social relations
Vietnamese street food
These street specialities represent a culture. When people taste them, their eyes twinkle and their faces beam with joys. By them, people from all walks of life are brought together, and by them the people are bound to their motherland.
Banh xeo (Vietnamese Crepe)
Banh xeo is Vietnamese Crepe, taking its origin from Southern Vietnam. It is filled with bean sprouts, shrimp and pork. The dough is made from rice flour flavored and colored with turmeric oil. Banh xeo is served with dipping sauce and a variety of herbs.
Che or sweet soup is a typical Vietnamese dessert. There are many kinds of che, each coming with a special flavor and ingredients, mainly cassava jelly, coconut milk and fruit. Popular recipes are: longan, pomelo, corn, green bean, black bean and lotus seed sweet soup.
Papaya salad is a very popular street food in Vietnam. It consists mainly shredded green papaya, carrot, beef and shrimp. Nom is eaten cold with herbs, peanuts and sweet - sour sauce.
A pan filled with broth is heated by a charcoal stove (today we use ethyl alcohol or an electric stove) to boil the broth slowly throughout the meal. The stove is placed in the middle of the table, and all around are plates of noodles, tofu, slices of liver, heart, kidneys, goat meat, onions and vegetables. Beef, chicken and seafood hot pot are also popular choice.
The national dish, Pho is the soul of Vietnam, and to many people pho is life. This dish takes its origin from the north, migrated to the south and spread across the world. Pho is a bowl of rice noodle topped with beef and herbs, served hot. Other variants include chicken Pho, sauté Pho, rolled Pho, etc.
For 4 people:
• 400 g of beef (lean and tender)
• 1 lime
• 1 piece of ginger 3 cm
• 1 small bunch of fresh coriander
• 1 small bunch of scallion or green onion
• 400 g rice noodles
• 1 liter beef bone stew broth
• 3 star anise seeds
• 4 teaspoons nuoc mam (fish sauce)
Preparation time (not including 2 -3 hour preparation time for the broth): 10 minutes, Cooking time: 15 minutes
1. Finely chop the coriander. Peel and mince the ginger. Cut the lemon and scallion into quarters.
2. Bring the broth to a boil. Add the anise seeds and ginger. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
3. Cut the beef into thin pieces. Soak the rice noodle in boiling (or hot) water for 2 minutes. Prepare 4 large bowls. Pour into each 1 teaspoon nuoc mam.
4. Divide noodle into 4 bowls, top with beef, scallion and and then pour the hot broth. Serve immediately. Add chili and lime to taste as preferred.