The ultimate guide to eating this delectable condiment.
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 cooling.
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, chilli, ginger or lime juice might be added.
Stay tuned for more Vietnamese cooking inspiration!