Cuisine of Vietnam – Global Influence Keeping It All Local
The quest for experiencing local and authentic cuisine of Vietnam took me to various markets, family kitchens, restaurants, coffee-houses and sidewalk vendors, where each different landscape provided the one aspect that is an essential part of traditional Vietnamese cooking, i.e. that impeccable balance of sweet and sour.
Cuisine of Vietnam – Yin and Yang
The cuisine of Vietnam is all about balancing different flavors in one complete dish using the local ingredients and herbs that are available according to the season.
As is the case with other Southeast Asian cuisines, preparation of food includes elements that complement the different flavors present in a dish of any particular region.
However, the two dominant themes that the avid traveler will find in Vietnamese cuisine is the staple of the country, rice and the all power-full fish sauce.
Incorporation of Rice and Fish-Sauce
Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice in the world, and therefore has an abundance of the staple to support the primary diet of its citizens.
You will find at least a few rice dishes that are specialties of a particular region, in the traditional way it is made as well as in the form of rice noodles, porridge, sticky rice with fruit, rice paper rolls, fried rice, puffed rice snacks and of course the famous rice wine.
I have had rice in all of the forms that it can possibly be made into for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert!
Of course fish sauce is also a very important element in Vietnamese cooking, and is an ingredient that makes a regular meat and vegetables broth, a dish fit to be eaten by a king (or you).
Influence in local cuisine
In regards to what they eat and how they cook, the cuisine of Vietnam has been largely influenced by their neighbors and the effects of colonization.
Beef was first introduced into the Vietnamese diet and cuisine with the arrival of Mongol invaders, who feasted primarily on meat. Common beef dishes are pho bo, which is a noodle soup with beef and can be found in every region of the country each dish different yet the same.
Cooking techniques such as stir and deep frying, and the use of chopsticks for eating were adopted from the Chinese who ruled over Vietnam for a thousand years. Stir fried vegetables and meat; along with noodle based soups are dishes are a product of the influence, which can be found mainly in the north.
For the south of Vietnam, neighboring countries particularly Cambodia and Thailand introduced flat Cambodian egg noodles, various spices, and coconut milk which are ingredients more commonly used in that region due to its ability to locally grow them.
The dish that is accredited to French influence is the banh mi, which is a crusty, French baguette filled with meat paste and a combination of grilled pork fillings, fish patties, and sardines with cilantro, daikon and pickled carrots.
Chased down with a glass of lime soda or rice wine, any meal will leave your mouth watering just by a thought of a next excursion.
And that is what always was amazing for me, personally. One may think that such a small country would have very local and traditional foods. While this is true and every home town has a staple food, the cuisine of Vietnam is rich and diverse in what someone may eat. I was shocked when my friends told me that they were eating a traditional Vietnam breakfast in the morning and a French dinner. Yet, all the meals are considered Vietnamese.
Oh yeah, and when you’re out enjoying all the great food, check out these awesome places to visit, too!