Experiences - Asia

Eat Like A Local: Beginner’s Guide To The Vietnamese Meal

From essential dishes to dining etiquette, we unravel the complexities of the traditional Vietnamese meal.

Sharing is caring

In a Vietnamese meal, there is always something to share or be used collectively such as a small bowl of sauce or a platter of vegetable. This adds a sense of sociability and interaction to every meal.

Don’t just dig in

As a sign of respect, young people must always invite the elders to eat first. Or, if you are dining at a friend’s place, the hosts will invite their guests to take food first at the beginning of a meal.

Strike a balance

Like many Asian cuisines, the principle of yin and yang is applied to create a balanced meal that is beneficial for the body. While contrasting textures and flavours are important, the principal primarily concerns the “heating” and “cooling” properties of ingredients. Certain dishes are served in their respective seasons to provide contrasts in temperature and spiciness of the food and environment. Some examples are:
 Duck meat, considered “cool”, is served during the hot summer with ginger fish sauce, which is “warm”. Conversely, chicken, which is “warm”, and pork, which is “hot”, are eaten in the winter.
 Seafood ranging from “cool” to “cold” are suitable to use with ginger (“warm”).
 Spicy foods (“hot”) are typically balanced with sourness, which is considered “cool”.

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The family table

Forget about a single plate of meat and three veg or an individual bowl of spaghetti bolognese. If you sit down to a traditional meal with a Vietnamese family, expect to see an array of dishes and bowls on your table. All dishes, apart from the individual bowls of rice, are communal and designed to be shared.

• Individual bowls of rice
• Meat, fish or seafood (grilled, boiled, steamed, stewed or stir-fried with vegetables)
• Stir-fried, raw, pickled or steamed vegetables
• Canh (a clear broth with vegetables and often meat or seafood) or other Vietnamese-style soup
• Seasoned fish sauce and/or soy sauce for dipping, to which garlic, chili, ginger or lime juice might be added

Stay tuned for more Vietnamese cooking inspiration!

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