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Vietnamese Influences

Vietnamese 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.

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 Recipes & Cuisines


Famous 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.


* Recipe For The Month *

Hue Stuffed Pancake Recipe - Serves 4

5 tablespoon


55 g


Pancake batter

85 g



125 ml


Pancake Filling

7.5 g

1 clove

15 ml

125 ml

145 g

85 g

30 g

30 g



Oil (for frying)


Seasoned flour



Rice flour


Eggs, beaten

Coconut milk



Ginger, chopped

Garlic, chopped

Soy sauce

White sauce


Mushrooms, chopped

Green onions (scallions), chopped

Bean sprouts



Method :

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.


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