Gateway to the culinary experience of Vietnamese
recipes and cooking.
cuisine, while distinctive, has elements in
common with both the Chinese and Thai cooking.
The use of chopsticks and soup bowls, and
ingredients such as soy sauce, bean curd, bean
sprouts and egg noodles are from China. From
Thailand come fishy and sour flavors, a number
of herbs and the use of sugar as a flavoring,
though Vietnamese food is usually sweeter and
not as hot as Thai food. Legacies of French
colonial times are to be found in the making of
sausages from meat and fish, and baguettes
which, with a spicy filling, have became a
favored lunchtime snack.
More than 1,200
Recipes & Cuisines
for its lively, fresh flavors and artfully composed meals,
Vietnamese food and cooking is the true 'light cuisine' of Asia.
Abundant fresh herbs and greens, delicate soups and stir-fries,
and well-seasoned grilled foods served on, or with, rice or
noodles are the mainstays of the Vietnamese delicacies. Even the
beloved sweets for snacks or desserts are often based on fresh
fruits served with sweetened rice or tapioca. Rarely does any
dish have added fats.
While the Vietnamese cuisine relies on
fresh vegetables, subtle seasonings and rice, Vietnamese cooking
also reflects its Chinese and French influences and it has numerous
regional difference; in the south, look for plentiful fresh seafood
and in the colder north, you'll find slightly heartier meals with
beef. In central Vietnam, around the ancient royal capital Hue, the
food may contain influences of the former court cooks.
But regardless of the region,
home-style Vietnamese cooking calls for an array of simple dishes
that make complementary partners at a family's communal meal.
Dinners customarily call for a soup, probably a platter of leafy
greens accompanied by rice papers and a dipping sauce, seafood or
grilled meats or poultry, a vegetable stir-fry, and rice or noodles
in some form - with hot tea as the preferred beverage. While such
meals may look complex to outsiders, most dishes come together
easily, and some call for advance preparation to avoid last-minute
conflicts. And, as in any type of cooking, planning ahead makes
putting together meals much easier.
Modern cooks with well-equipped
kitchens and handy appliances will find preparing a Vietnamese meal
both rewarding and relatively easy. And with the widespread
popularity of Asian recipes and foods, locating ingredients is not a challenge
as most supermarkets carry such basics as fresh ginger and spring
onions, lemongrass and chilies, even coconut milk and Asian noodles.
Foods Commonly Used *
The topical monsoon climate of most of
Vietnam, the land and the freshwater and inshore
fishing contribute to bring the Vietnamese staples
to the table: rice, nuoc mam, fish, fruits and
vegetables, pork and poultry. Rice is the most
important food, present at all main meals but close
in use and importance is the condiment added to most
dishes at all times: nuoc mam. This is made from
salt and fish well fermented. The first liquid
produced is the best quality nuom mam; the result of
pressing the remaining fish and salt (stronger
flavor and more pungent smell) is of lower quality.
Inland fishing is less costly than deep-sea, but
every type of fish and seafood is enjoyed in the
Vietnamese diet. Both wild and cultivated fruits are
abundant and consumption of vegetables has increased
since North Vietnam refugees brought market garden
culture to the southern "rice bowl". Both meat and
fats come from hogs, although some chicken, beef,
small animals and reptiles are also eaten. Almost as
widely used as nuoc mam is the spicy hot condiment
nuoc cham, each cook preparing it in her own special
way with chili peppers, garlic and onions, vinegar
and a sprinkle of citrus juice to heighten the tang.
The northerners prefer
long grain rice, the southerners round grain rice.
Both areas also enjoy "hot-pot cookery" where a
bubbling pot of broth centered on the table receives
tidbits of foods held by chopsticks for
quick-cooking. At meals, diners assemble their own
tidbits of meats, fish, fruits and vegetables and
then wrap them in packets of edible rice paper,
various green leaves, noodle dough, all to be
sauce-dipped before devouring. Although many
similarities have been noted between the two groups,
northerners and southerners insist not only upon
their rice preference, but that southerners enjoy
more spiciness, the use of more fresh fruits and raw
vegetables, simpler dishes and a lot of coconut.
They will tell you this is because of their more
tropical climate. However, while northerners
consider the southern food something less than
subtle, the southerners may counter that they think
the northerners' food is too flat.
Hue Stuffed Pancake Recipe - Serves 4
Oil (for frying)
Green onions (scallions), chopped
Combine rice flour, coconut milk, 3 eggs
and salt to make a pancake batter.
Heat a little in an 8 in nonstick frying
pan, add enough batter to coat the bottom. Make pancakes in the usual manner until
all batter is used. Blend ginger, garlic, soy and white
sauces. Add crabmeat, mushrooms, green onions
(scallions) and bean sprouts. Season to taste. Place 1 tablespoon of the mixture on each
pancake. Tuck in ends and roll like a burrito, so mixture doesn't
escape. Carefully roll each pancake in seasoned
flour then in remaining beaten egg. Deep fry until golden. Serve on lettuce leaves, sprinkled with
chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, accompanied by nuoc cham sauce with
finely sliced, seeded red chili pepper. As a variation, use thinly rolled puff
pastry or dough instead of pancakes. Pancakes can also be filled and served
without deep frying.