Now that you’ve discovered the regional variations in the cuisine of Northern, Central and Southern Vietnam, it’s time to delve deeper into Vietnam’s vibrant food scene. Once a Chinese province called Nam Viet, Vietnam has long been influenced by its proximity to China, especially in the northern regions that share a border with the country. Thanks to more than 1000 years of contact with China, Vietnamese cuisine shares many characteristics with its Chinese counterpart.
One of the most recognisable Chinese influences in Vietnamese cooking is the use of the wok, which is used for stir-fries and deep-fried dishes. Without the wok, we’d be missing out on Vietnamese specialties such as salt and pepper squid and banh xeo crepes.
Along with the wok, the Vietnamese have the Chinese to thank for chopsticks, which are used not only for eating in Vietnam, but also food preparation, such as tenderizing meats, tossing salads together, turning ingredients while frying, and stirring batters. Not bad for a couple of sticks of bamboo.
The Vietnamese pantry also benefited from this close contact with China, with the introduction of ingredients such as tofu, soy sauce and noodles. It’s interesting to note that soy sauce is rarely used in the southern parts of Vietnam, where fish sauce is favoured. And can you imagine Vietnamese cuisine without noodles? Where would we be without pho or vermicelli salads?
Perhaps the best way to gauge the Chinese influence on Vietnamese cuisine is to look at the breadth of dishes that have a Chinese stamp. From wontons (hoanh thanh) to char siu pork, salt and pepper squid, and braised pork with eggs, Chinese cuisine has left and indelible – and delicious – mark on the food of Vietnam.
For more on this colourful cuisine, check back to learn about the French influence on Vietnamese food, from crunchy baguettes to heart-starting coffee.
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