Vietnamese cuisine

Vietnamese cuisine is a part of Vietnamese culture. Fish sauce, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are the base of recipes. Vietnamese recipes contain a diverse range of herbs, including lemongrass, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander and Thai basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking style focuses on the freshness of the ingredients and the great combination of the dishes. Fish, chicken, pork, beef, and various kinds of seafood are widely used in Vietnamese cuisine. The Vietnamese have a lot of vegetarian food due to the tradition influenced by Buddhist values.
While sharing some key features, Vietnamese culinary tradition differs from region to region. In Northern Vietnam, a colder climate limits the diversity and availability of spices. As a result, the foods here are often less spicy than in other regions. Black pepper is used in place of chillies as the most popular ingredient to produce spice flavour. In general, Northern Vietnamese cuisine is not bold in any specific flavour - sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, or sour, but mix them subtly to make the taste. Meats such as pork, beef, and chicken were relatively limited in the past. Freshwater fish, crustaceans, and molluscs - such as prawns, shrimps, crabs, oysters and mussels - are widely used. Fish sauce, soy sauce, prawn sauce, and lime are used for seasoning. Northern Vietnam produces many signature dishes of Vietnam, such as phở, bún riêu, bánh cuốn, which were carried to Central and Southern Vietnam through the road of Vietnamese migration.
The variety of spices produced by central Vietnam's mountainous terrain makes this region's cuisine notable for its spicy food, which sets it apart from the two other regions of Vietnam where foods are mostly non-spicy. Once the capital of the last dynasty of Vietnam, Hue's culinary tradition features delicately decorative and colourful food, reflecting the influence of ancient Vietnamese royal cuisine. The region's cuisine is also notable for its sophisticated meals constituted by many complex dishes served at small portions. Chilli peppers and shrimp sauces are among the frequently used ingredients. Some signature specialities of this region are bún bò Huế and bánh xèo.


vietnam cuisine

The warm weather and fertile soil of Southern Vietnam create an ideal condition for growing a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, and livestock. As a result, foods in southern Vietnam are often vibrant and flavorful with liberal uses of garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs. Sugar is added to food more than in the other regions. The preference for sweetness in Southern Vietnam can also be seen through the widespread use of coconut milk in Southern Vietnamese cuisine. Vast shorelines make seafood a natural staple for people in this region. As distinct as Vietnamese cuisine is, it has been influenced by several sources from China, India, France Thailand or Cambodia… through contacts time by time.
A typical meal for the average Vietnamese family would normally include:
- Individual bowls of rice
- Fish/seafood, meat (grilled, boiled, steamed, stewed or stir-fried with vegetables)
- Stir-fried, raw, or steamed vegetables
- Canh (broth with vegetables, meat or seafood can also be added) or other Vietnamese-style soup
- Prepared fish sauce and/or soy sauce for dipping, to which garlic, pepper, chilli, ginger or lime juice are sometimes added depended on individual taste
- Small dish of relishes, such as salted eggplant, pickled white cabbage, pickled papaya, pickled garlic or pickled bean sprouts


All dishes apart from the individual bowls of rice are communal and to be shared.
A feast is a significant event for families or villages, usually 6 or 10 people for each table. The feast is prepared for weddings, funerals or festivals. In a feast, ordinary foods are not served but boiled rice is still used.
A basic feast consists of ten dishes: five dishes in bowls: cellophane noodles; bamboo shoot; meatball; bird or chicken stew dishes and five dishes in plates: Vietnamese sausage; boiled chicken or duck; salad and a stir-frying dish.
The principle of yin and yang is applied in selecting the ingredients of a dish and the dishes of a meal, in matching dishes with seasonal or climatic conditions, with the prevalent environment and with the current physical well-being of the diners.
Some examples are:
Duck meat is considered "cool" so is served in summer, which is hot, and with ginger fish sauce, which is "warm." On the other hand, chicken, which is "warm," and pork, which is "hot," is used in cold winters.
Seafood ranging from "cool" to "cold" is suitable to use with ginger ("warm").
Spicy, which is extremely yang, must be harmonized by sour, which is extremely yin.
Also, many Vietnamese dishes include five elements: spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (Earth), corresponding to five organs: gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach and urinary bladder. Vietnamese dishes also include five types of nutrients: powder, water or liquid, mineral elements, protein and fat. Vietnamese cooks try to have five colours: white (metal), green (wood), yellow (Earth), red (fire) and black (water) in their dishes.


Herbs and spices are very important in Vietnamese cooking. Coriander leaves/Cilantro and green onion leaf can be used in almost all dishes. A basic technique of stir-frying vegetables is frying garlic or shallot with oil before putting the vegetable into the pan.
In Northern Vietnam, all dishes with fish must be garnished with dill. In Central Vietnam, the mixture of ground lemongrass and chilli are frequently used in dishes with beef. In Southern Vietnam, coconut water is used in most stew dishes. The pair of cilantro and rice paddy herb is indispensable in all kinds of sour soups in Southern Vietnam. Spearmint is often used with strongly fishy fishes. Perilla is usually used with crab dishes.
Cooking and eating play an extremely important role in Vietnamese culture. People were taught about these from their childhood. For example: “Ăn coi nồi, ngồi coi hướng” - Checking the status of the rice pot when eating, watch where/what direction you are sitting.

Popular Vietnamese dishes:
Bun cha (rice noodle with BBQ pork)
A simple and popular dish, basically a combination vermicelli plate. Grilled pork (often ground) and vermicelli noodles are served over a bed of greens (salad and sliced cucumber), herbs and bean sprouts. Often includes a few chopped-up egg rolls, spring onions, and shrimp. Served with roasted peanuts on top and a small bowl of 'nuoc cham'.


Mi Quang (Quang Nam noodle)
A popular and extremely complicated noodle dish, originating from Quang Nam. Mi Quang varies in its preparation but features sharply contrasting flavours and textures in a shallow bowl of broth, noodles, herbs, vegetables, and roasted rice chips.

Banh cuon (steam rice paper roll)

Steamed rice paper roll, stuffed with minced pork and wood ear mushroom, 'banh cuon' is much thinner and more delicate than the rice noodle used in the dim sum.

Bun bo Hue (Hue spicy beef noodle)
Spicy beef noodle soup originated from the royal city of Hue in Central Vietnam. Beef bones, fermented shrimp paste, lemongrass, and dried chillies give the broth its distinctive flavours. Often served with mint leaves, bean sprouts, and lime wedges. Blood cakes and pig's feet are also common ingredients at some restaurants in the United States and possibly elsewhere.


Pho (Noodle)

A noodle soup with a rich, clear broth made from a long boiling of meat and spices. There are many varieties of pho made with different meats (most commonly beef or chicken) along with beef meatballs. Pho is typically served in bowls with spring onion, slices of semi-cooked beef (to be cooked by the boiling hot broth), and broth. In the South, vegetables and various herbs are also added.

Hot pot
Spicy Vietnamese sour soup, with many vegetables, meats or seafood, as well as some spicy herbs.

Canh chua (sour soup)
Vietnamese sour soup - typically include fish, pineapples, tomatoes, herbs, bean sprouts, tamarind, and various kinds of vegetables.

Com ga (Vietnamese mint chicken rice)
A dish of rice cooked in chicken stock and topped with chicken that has been fried then shredded and flavoured with mint and other herbs. The rice has a unique texture and taste that the fried mint garnish enhances. Served with a special herb sauce on the side.

banh goi

Com tam (steamed broken rice)
In general, grilled pork (either ribs or shredded) plus bì (thinly shredded pork mixed with cooked and thinly shredded pork skin plus fried ground rice) over com tam ("broken rice" in Vietnamese) and sweet and sour fish sauce. Other types of meat, prepared in various ways, may be served with broken rice. One can have barbecued beef, pork, or chicken served with broken rice. The rice and meat are served with various greens and pickled vegetables, along with a prawn paste cake, steamed egg and grilled prawns.

Banh chung (sticky rice cake)
Sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with mung bean paste, lean pork and black pepper, traditionally eaten during the Lunar New Year. Banh chung is popular in the North, while its cousin version Banh tet is more popular in the South. Banh tet has the same content, except cylindrical and lean pork is substituted with fatty pork.

Xoi (steamed sticky rice)
Sticky rice with coconut milk cooked the same way normal steamed rice or steamed for a firmer texture and more flavorful taste. It comes in a great number of varieties.

Banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake)
A type of crepe made out of rice flour with turmeric, shrimps with shells on, slivers of fatty pork, sliced onions, and sometimes button mushrooms, fried in one or two teaspoons of oil, usually coconut oil, which is the most popular oil used in Vietnam. It is eaten with lettuce and various local herbs and dipped in light fish sauce or sweet fermented peanut butter sauce. Rice papers are sometimes used as wrappers to contain banh xeo and the accompanying vegetables.

banh xeo

Cha gio (Fried spring roll)
A kind of spring roll – deep-fried flour rolls filled with pork, yam, crab, shrimp, rice vermicelli, mushrooms and other ingredients. The spring roll goes by many names - as many people use (falsely) the word "spring roll" while referring to the fresh transparent rice paper rolls, where the rice paper is dipped into water to soften and then rolled up with various ingredients. Traditionally these rolls are made with a rice paper wrapper but in recent years Vietnamese chefs outside of Vietnam have changed the recipe to use a wheat-flour-based wrapper.

Goi cuon (Salad rolls)
Also known as Vietnamese fresh rolls. They are rice paper rolls that often include shrimp, herbs, pork, rice vermicelli and other ingredients wrapped up and dipped in nuoc cham or peanut sauce. Spring rolls almost constitute an entire category of Vietnamese foods, as there are numerous different kinds of spring rolls with different ingredients in them.

Banh my kep (Vietnamese sandwich)
Vietnamese baguette or French bread containing pâté, Vietnamese mayonnaise, different selections of Vietnamese cold cuts (of which there is a large variety, most commonly ham, head cheese, and Vietnamese bologna), pickled daikon, pickled carrot, and cucumber slices. The sandwich is often garnished with coriander leaves and black pepper. This food is common everywhere in Vietnam as a favourite of factory workers and students, for any meal of the day, commonly breakfast and lunch.

banh my kep

Goi du du  (green papaya salad)
Vietnamese papaya Salad typically with shredded papaya, herbs, various meats such as shrimp, slices of pork, liver, or meat jerky, herbs, and a more vinegar-based rendition of nuoc cham.

Exotic dishes
The use of ingredients that are typically uncommon or taboo in most countries is one of the quintessential attributes that make Vietnamese cuisine unique.
The cobra beating heart and dried bones, silkworms and bull penis are some examples of the dishes he sampled.
In some countries, unusual ingredients, most of the time, can be found only in exotic restaurants. What makes the use of these ingredients in Vietnam stand out is that ingredients that are deemed atypical in most countries can play a customary role in daily family dishes, from the poor's to the riches'.
Fertilized duck egg with a nearly developed embryo inside which is boiled and eaten in the shell can be found in any wet market. It is typically served with fresh herbs: rau răm or Vietnamese coriander, salt, and pepper. Paddy crab and paddy snail are the main ingredients in "bun rieu oc" - a popular noodle dish - and in some everyday soup dishes and braised food. Family meals with silkworms, banana flowers, fermented fish and shrimp are not rare sights. Seasonal favourites include ragworm, which is made into many dishes such as fried omelette, fermented sauce,…
Vietnamese cuisine is also notable for its wide range of meat choices. Exotic meat, such as dog meat, snake, soft-shell turtle, deer and domestic goat are widely sold in street-side restaurants and enjoyed with alcoholic beverages. A taboo in many Western countries, the consumption of dog meat is a common sight throughout the country. Paddy mouse meat - barbecued, braised, stir- or deep-fried - is a rarer dish that can be found in many Vietnamese rural areas or even high-end city restaurants.
Many of the traditional Northern Lunar New Year’s dishes involve the use of pig heads, tongues, throats and feet. Pig and cow tails as well as chicken heads, necks and feet are Vietnamese favourite beer dishes. Steamed pig brains can be found anywhere along a Vietnamese street.

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