Vietnamese food comes as a wonderful surprise and is definitely not to be missed! It has a very distinctive style, although it is also clearly influenced by Chinese and , to a lesser extent, French cuisine.
Meals will usually include rice or noodles as staples along with a vast array of vegetables, and meats like chicken, duck, beef and pork. Dishes feature a wonderful fusion of flavors and you will find that fish sauce is a condiment accompanying almost every meal. Anther unexpected delight is the availability of good quality seafood ( fish, calamari, prawns and crabs) which is caught along Vietnam’s extensive coastline.
Freshness is of paramount importance in Vietnamese cooking, so ingredients are bought fresh from local market on a daily basis.
The fact that many Vietnamese are completely omnivorous, has lead to some very exotic dishes – such as barbecued frog legs which can be found in food stalls in many local markets ( perhaps this is how the French come to introduce frog legs into their cuisine).
On the other hand, there is also a strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam which means that vegetarian food is also widely available.
Here are just a few examples of the fantastic dishes you can expect to find in Vietnam.
PHO: Noodle soup made with either chicken or beef. It is served with a plate of fresh green leaves (e.g., basil, bok choi), beans sprouts, and red chilies to add as you please.
CHA GIO: Deep fried spring roll( in the south) /nem ran (north)
GOI CUON: Fresh spring rolls made from raw vegetables and grill prawns, crab, pork, or chicken wrapped in rice paper. The ingredients are usually served separately, leaving you to assemble the rolls yourself!
BANH CUON: A steamed ” ravioli” style dumpling ( although somewhat larger), stuffed with minced pork or prawns, black mushrooms and bean sprouts.
CHA CA: Cubes of fish cooked on the table in butter, you add all ingredients, veggies, noodles and corianders etc… this is authentic northern dish
GOI NGO SEN: A delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps, and peanuts.
BUN CA: A combination of soup with meatballs and spring rolls, another typical Hanoi food
Some of the legacies left over from the French colonial period include crispy baguettes, pate, hard boiled quails eggs, crème caramel, and banana flambé.
On the subject of deserts, we should point out that they are not particularly common. However an amazing assortment of fresh tropical fruits is usually on offer, which will round off a meal perfectly.
Tea, similar to Chinese green tea, is one of the most common drinks in Vietnam. Coffee was introduced by the French and is very good. It is thick and strong and is served complete with drip filter, so you know it is fresh! If you ask for milk it will usually be sweet condensed milk. Home brewed rice wine is often offered to guests, but watch out – it is extremely alcoholic! Light larger style beer is more commonly available, Ba Ba Ba, Hanoi beer being the most well known local brands. Spirits, such as nep moi ( a type of Vodka) , are also produced locally but once again, be cautious as these are very strong.