Looking for a quick lunch of soup, salad or a sandwich? , Perhaps an exquisite vegetarian meal? , Or is tonight time for multiple dishes, contrasting flavors, varied textures and exotic ingredients? , Or perhaps something healthy and “lite? ” Guess what: it’s a good time to think Vietnamese. While Vietnamese food has long been appreciated in France, the former colonial power, U. S. residents are only beginning to discover its many fine features. Vietnamese chefs like to refer to their cooking as “the nouvelle cuisine of Asia.
” And indeed, with the heavy reliance on rice, wheat and legumes, abundance of fresh herbs and vegetables, minimal use of oil, and treatment of meat as a condiment rather than a main course, Vietnamese food has to be among the healthiest on the planet. Cuisine in this country differs strikingly between the north, south and central regions, but two key features stand out. First, rice plays an essential role in the nation’s diet as it does throughout Southeast Asia.
But this is also a noodle-crazy population, regularly downing them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in homes, restaurants and at roadside stands. Noodles are eaten wet and dry, in soup or beside soup, and are made in different shapes and thicknesses of wheat, rice and mung beans. Secondly, no meal is complete without fresh vegetables and herbs. A key portion of every meal, north, south and central, is a platter containing cucumbers, bean threads, slices of hot pepper, and sprigs of basil, coriander, mint and a number of related herbs found principally in Southeast Asian markets.
Vietnamese cuisine can be basically divided into three categories, each pertaining to a specific region. With North Vietnam being the cradle of Vietnamese civilization, many of Vietnam’s most famous dishes have their birthplace in the North. The North’s cuisine is more traditional and stricter in choosing spiciness and ingredients. The South’s cuisine has been influenced by the cuisines of southern Chinese immigrants, and thus Southerners prefer sweet flavors in many dishes. The South’s cuisine is more exotic and liberal, using many herbs.
Central Vietnamese cooking is quite different from the cuisines of both the Northern and Southern regions in its use of many small side dishes, and also its distinct spiciness when compared to its counterparts. A former colony of China, Vietnamese adopted Confucianism, Buddhism, chopsticks and the wok. But in spite of centuries of domination, Vietnamese food retained its own character. Due to its proximity to the border, North Vietnam reflects more Chinese influence than central or south. Soy sauce rarely appears in Vietnamese dishes except in the north.
It is replaced by what is perhaps the most important ingredient in all of Vietnamese cuisine fish sauce or nuoc mam. Stir frying plays a relatively minor role in Vietnam and once again is seen more in the north than elsewhere. Frying in general is less important than simmering. Northern cuisine exhibits fewer herbs and vegetables than the other regions because its climate is less hospitable than that of the Mekong Delta. For heat, North Vietnamese cooks rely on black pepper rather than chilies. Residents also exhibit a particular fondness for beef, picked up from the Mongolians during their 13th century invasions.
The royal tradition in the central region goes back beyond the more recent Vietnamese monarchy to the ancient kingdom of Champa. The royal taste reveals itself in the preference for many small dishes placed on the table at once. The more lavish the spread, the wealthier the household. But even the poorer families are likely to have multiple dishes of simple vegetables. Servings are larger and fewer in the south; and hot chilies replace black pepper for heat. The profusion of fruit in the area means that sweet fruit occasionally makes its way into a dish of meat and vegetables.
Preparations are less complex than many of those in the center and the style of cooking often resembles that of neighboring Cambodia. This is the part of Vietnam responsible for curries. Once again history influences cuisine for ancient Angkor, centered in Cambodia, once ruled this portion of Vietnam. The geography of Vietnam plays an important role in the country’s cuisine. Rice, the mainstay of the Vietnamese diet, is grown throughout the country but particularly in the Red River delta in the north and Mekong River delta in the south.
In fact, the Vietnamese people say that their country resembles a bamboo pole with a basket of rice at each end. Although three-quarters of the land in Vietnam is hilly or mountainous, the long seacoast and many inland waterways provide fish and other aquatic species that are staples in the Vietnamese diet. Vietnamese cuisine varies somewhat by region, with Chinese influences such as stir fries, noodles, and use of chopsticks in the north, as well as Cambodian Khmer and French influences in the south. Neighbors have influenced the Vietnamese people in regards to what they eat and how they cook.
People from Mongolia who invaded Vietnam from the north in the tenth century brought beef with them. This is how beef became part of the Vietnamese diet. Common Vietnamese beef dishes are pho bo (Beef Noodle Soup) and bo bay mon (Beef Cooked Seven Ways). The Chinese who dominated Vietnam for 1,000 years taught the Vietnamese people cooking techniques such as stir frying and deep frying, as well as the use of chopsticks. In the south, neighboring Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand introduced such ingredients as flat, Cambodian style egg noodles, spices, chili, and coconut milk.
Beginning in the sixteenth century, explorers and traders introduced foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, and snow peas. When the French colonized Vietnam (1858–1954), they introduced foods such as baguettes (French bread), coffee with cream, milk, butter, custards, and cakes. In the 1960s and 1970s (Vietnam War era), the U. S. military introduced ice cream to Vietnam when it contracted with two U. S. dairies to build dozens of ice cream factories. Plain rice is at the center of the Vietnamese diet. Steamed rice is part of almost every meal.
The Vietnamese prefer long-grain white rice, as opposed to the short-grain rice more common in Chinese cooking. Rice is also transformed into other common ingredients such as rice wine, rice vinegar, rice noodles, and rice paper wrappers for spring rolls. Rice is also used to make noodles. There are four main types of rice noodles used in Vietnamese cooking. Banh pho are the wide white noodles used in the essential Vietnamese soup, pho. Bun noodles look like long white strings when cooked. Banh hoi are a thinner version of bun noodles. There are dried glasses, or cellophane, noodles made from mung bean starch.
Just as essential to Vietnamese cuisine as rice and noodles is nuoc mam, a salty fish sauce that is used in most Vietnamese recipes just as salt is used in most Western dishes. Nuoc mam is produced in factories along the coast of Vietnam. Anchovies and salt are layered in wooden barrels and then allowed to ferment for about six months. The light colored, first drained sauce is the most desirable. It is also the most expensive and reserved primarily for table use. Less expensive nuoc mam is used in cooking. The most popular condiment is nuoc cham (dipping sauce), which is as common in Vietnam as ketchup is in North America.
Saucers filled with nuoc cham are present at practically every meal, and diners dip everything from spring rolls to meatballs into it. Fish and other aquatic animals, such as squid and eel, are central to the Vietnamese diet. Beef, pork, and chicken are also important, but are consumed in smaller quantities. The unique flavorings in Vietnamese cooking are created with a variety of spices and seasonings, including mint leaves, parsley, coriander, lemon grass, shrimp, fish sauces (nuoc nam and nuoc cham), peanuts, star anise, coriander, black pepper, garlic, shallots, basil, rice vinegar, sugar, green onions, and lime juice.
To provide a contrast in texture and flavor to the spicy meat components of a meal, vegetables are often left raw and cut into small pieces usually at an angle, especially in the south. Cool, crunchy foods include cucumbers and bean sprouts. The typical Vietnamese meal includes meat and vegetables, either eaten with chopsticks and rice or rolled into rice paper or leaf lettuce and dipped into an accompanying sauce. Traditional preparation techniques are determined by eating habits, geography, and economics.
Tea is the most common beverage in Vietnam. It is common practice to prepare enough tea for the whole day first thing in the morning because traditional Vietnamese hospitality dictates that one must be able to serve tea immediately if unexpected visitors drop by. Tea is served before and after meals. Vietnamese prefer green unfermented tea. Coffee (whose ingredients are: ? cup sweetened condensed milk, 3 to 4 cups hot, strongly brewed French-roast coffee) is grown in Vietnam and is readily available in cities.
Served both hot and cold, caphe (coffee) is a well-known Vietnamese beverage consisting of coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Fresh coconut milk is another popular drink that is widely available from street vendors, who simply cut the top off a young coconut and then serve it with a straw. A particularly refreshing beverage on a hot day is lemon soda (whose ingredients are:2 cups sugar (to make 1 cup simple syrup),2 cups water . For soda: ? cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, Ice cubes or crushed ice and 6 cups sparkling water or club soda.Sample Essay of Custom-Writing