Meals and Alternates

Meals and Alternates

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 flavor.

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.

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