In Vietnam cattle and buffalo are considered animals of
burden rather than food sources. Hogs are the principal source of meat
and fat for cooking. Chickens are ducks are seen everywhere but their
meat is generally lean and tough, and the production of eggs is not
high. Some beef is used in various dishes, especially in the larger
towns and cities where tastes are more cosmopolitan and income higher;
again the beef is lean and requires moist cooking or marinating to
tenderize before grilling.
Fish is the most important protein in the Vietnamese
diet. Since inland fishing is less costly, the majority of fish eaten is
taken from inland water sources. Deep-sea fisheries are increasing. Fish
may be steamed with vegetables and seasoning, poached, made into minced
fish cakes, or barbecued over coals.
Both meats and fish are used in small quantities, cooked
with great care to gain maximum flavor from minimal amounts, and served
attractively. Many soups are prepared by the basic Chinese method of
browning a few meat strips in a small amount of fat with some seasoning,
then adding water to form the basic soup broth. Both meat and fish based
soups may be prepared in the same way. The practice of thinly slicing or
shredding meats or fish or seafood, or cooking them together with
quantities of minced, sliced, or slivered vegetables also extends their
Oriental medicine ascribes great value to eggs,
especially incubated eggs, and the Vietnamese are very fond of these
although the high price and scarcity makes them only a small portion of
the diet. Eggs may also be pickled, boiled in tea (to color), and served
in slices or wedges as a garnish to other dishes or appetizers. Tiny
pancakes, made basically with eggs, and the shredded egg pancake used as
a soup garnish, are used according to income.
Soybean are used in the Chinese way and in as many forms.
Sprouted greens of many types of beans, as well as seasoned mashed
beans, used in condiments and for fillings, and the popular soybean
curd, served in many ways in soups and with vegetables (usually
stir-fried), add to the protein consumption.