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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.
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.
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
On the other
hand, there is also a strong Buddhist influence
in Vietnam which means that vegetarian food is
also widely available.
just a few examples of the fantastic dishes you
can expect to find in Vietnam.
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.
Deep fried spring roll( in the
/nem ran (north)
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
A steamed " ravioli" style
dumpling ( although somewhat
larger), stuffed with minced
pork or prawns, black mushrooms
and bean sprouts.
GOI NGO SEN
A delicious salad made with
lotus stems, shrimps, and
Cubes of fish cooked on the
table in butter, you add all
ingredients, veggies, noodles
and corianders etc... this is
authentic northern dish
A combination of soup with
meatballs and spring rolls,
another typical Hanoi food
of the legacies left over from the
French colonial period include crispy
baguettes, pate, hard boiled quails
eggs, crème caramel, and banana flambé.
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
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
Let 's eat cake
you ever wondered what 's inside those small , green parcels you see in
markets throughout the country? Let's
delve a little further into the mysterious world of banh !
is a word for which there is no satisfactory English equivalent. Pancakes
can be called banh, as can crepes. Sandwiches and any baked goods are
called banh. And sweets and savouries wrapped in leaves to be steamed or
grilled are called banh. They only constant is that banh are small
culinary bundles or other constuctions, often eaten with the hands. But
call it what you will, banh is quintessential steet food.
The oldest form of banh, indeed what is arguably
the world's oldest form of cooking other than simply exposing meat to
fire, are those wrapped in leaves. On street corners of every city and
town, you will see them.
wrapped in green leaves and tied with complex knots that would make a
sailor proud, they fill baskets with their abundance, they sit neatly
stacked on counter tops or they hang in clusters from eves, cross beams,or
they hide within? Why ask? Go on, buy a few.
fat culinder whose weight tells you how much of your appetite it will
satisfy. Select a few small ones, little culinary jewels, square, round or
triangular-you name it, they've got it .
Take them to a shady corner and sit quietly with
them for a moment. Run your
fingers over the inteicate lacings that bind them together. Bring them to
your nose for a clue to what might rest within. Strip the lacings off, and
unfold them, layer by layer.
Russian doll or a dancer with seven veils, it slowly reveals itself, Is it
a sweet rice cake? Perhaps a morsel of spiced ham? It could be minced
pork, or a peece of sweet potato, a savoury rice cake, itself a wrapping
for shrimp or mung beans. It could be any tasty thing in the world.
region in Vietnam has its own banh just as each region of France has its
own wine. And the various ethnic groups prepare different types of banh
with local ingredients. Peoole from the Tay ethnic minority wrap yams in
banana to wrap banh ngo non, or young corn cake.Sweet potatoes and cassava
are other common ingredients in the highlands.
banh are popular and enduring because they are well- suited to local
materials and conditions. Leaves povide a container in which foods are
cooked ,and also help to preserve the food and keep it from getting dirty
or moldy. And it is so compact and portable that if you have banh, you've
always got a movable feast. And no worries about disposing of a plastic
common ingredient in banh is rice, both sticky and fluffy. A popular type
is,''square cake'' known in the north s banh chung .
Chung 's a
savoury, sticky rice cake filled with mung bean paste and minced pork,
wrapped in banana leaves, or the leaves of rushes, and steamed.
these can be found any day of the year, they are also important as
festival fare. Legend has it that this recipe dates back to the time of
the Hung kings, the original founders of Viet nam .Its shape , in keeping
with Chinese depictions of Heaven and Earth, is said to repesent Earth..
central and southern parts of the country, this cake is called Banh u
.The interior recipe is the same, but the package is intricately folded
into a little pyramid.You can often see these placed on family altars,
especially in farm villages, where they honour ''the soul of the rice''.
called banh tay, is said to have been first prepared by votaries of the
Hung temple,near Hanoi.This is sometimes called the birthplace of the
Vietnamese people, and its banh is meant to symbolise the
continuity of the race, its deterimnation to''go forth and multiply.''
gio, a well
known treat in the north is made from rice flour and pork wrapped in
banana leaves.These round shaped things are about the size of a hamburger.
In Hue a similar recipe is used, but the banh is rolled unto long, thin
cylinders and are wrapped in dzong leaves.These are known as banh la or
banh nam, depending on the thickness of the cylinders.
you can also find Banh it.
They are little balls of sticky rice flour stuffed with shrimp and pork.
Tasty morsels,they are served plain or
wrapped in banana leaves. A
variation is sometimes called black banh it .These are sweet rice balls
filled with a paste of sweetened mung beans.
patrol the streets for treats, keep an eye out for banh
tro or banh gio. These sweet banh incorporate the pits of xoan (
japanese lily) fruit. These pits are first burned and the ashs are mixed
with water and lime. Rice is then soaked in thes mixture and will thecken.
After cooking, enjoy thim with a sweet syrup such as molasses or caramel
sauce. These are believed to be good for digestion.
banh wrapped in lovely green leaves are good for your tummy, good for the
planet and good for your budget. But get your leafy banh while you can.
some of the larger cities, you can see the beginnings of a disturbing
trend: more and more sellers are replacing the ancient leaf wrappings with
plastic or paper bags. Certain "philistines" in Hanoi have also
been spotted selling banh com in blue boxes instead of wrapped in fresh
banana leaves. Be watchful of these ''innovations.'' Accept no
substitutes.Go for the green!!.
plays an important role in Vietamese cuisine,where practically every dish has
its own sauce-most of them based on fish sauce.The other great stand by is soy
sauce,which is believed to be very good for the health,especially for people who
are overweight.The Vietnamese believe that the right sauce can transfom the
humblest mealthere are few things tastier,they say ,than boiled spinach dipped
in soy or fish sauce./.
Com - Green
face farmers are the only ones who truly understand when it is exactly the right
time to gather young grains of rice to make com.The young sticky rice grains are
harvested,roasted,and graund down to become com.The granins are heated in a
frying pan and slowly stirred.They are then pounded with mortar and pestle until
the husk is removed.Next,the rice is removed and winnowed.To make perfect
com,the whole process is repeated seven times.
is an autumn specialty in the north of Vietnam.It should be chewed slowly so
that one can feel the stickiness of the young rice at the same as time enjoying
its sweet,fragrant taste.
people often eat com with babana .Green rice flake cake is made by mixing com
with sugar and putting green bean and coconut inside.You can easily buy com,packed
in lotus leaves from com ven-dors around city streets.
a long timedau Mo ( tofu produced in Mo village, Hanoi) has been one of the most
popular traditional dishes for Vietnamese, rich or poor, as well as for
vegetarians. As with most things of
value,art and history play a part in its preparation.
make the best dau Mo, the tofu maker has to buy the main ingredient,
soybean,from Phu Tho province,about 50km from Hnoi.There are many kinds of
soybeans but the experienced dau Mo maker will know how tochoose the best.They
must be round, red in colour, and of just the right size.
soybeans are firstly cleaned by boileng in water for half an hour, They are then
ground carefully into a flour which is then put into a large pot of water and
boiled again. During the boiling, the fire must be dept strong and
steady,otherwise the soybean will foam and create a film.The next stage is to
filter the starch and solid residue from the water,These are mixed together and
dissolved in boiled yeast water ( also made from tofu ) , This becomes a
precipitate which will later be cut into small shapes.All parts of the process
must be done while the tofu is still very hot
Mo may come in different shapes
depending on its maker,but its quality is what sets it apart from other tofu.A
typical dau mo is in the shape of a rectangle about two inches long and one inch
wide.Where to buy: Mo Market,4km south of Hoan Kiem lake, or at several other
markets in Hanoi
to choose: The best dau Mo has a light yellow colour and is soft to the touch.
It is better bought in the mrning and kept in water in
fighting cocks in red sauce
( Ga choi ham
tuong do )
the name conjures up images of tough old birds, this dish is actually made with
young chickens of the same breed as those
used in cock fights. These chickens have long legs, small bodies and lean meat.
The bones are removed and the meat is stewed in a sauce of tomatoes and chilies.
While some people find the meat rather tough, it has an excellent flavor. Try this special
dish which is more expensive than regular chicken at the Ga Choi Restaurant 29
Nghi Tam Street in Hanoi's Tay Ho District.
dragon eye pudding
a round fruit similar to lychees, are popularly known as''dragon eyes''.
According to principles of Eastern
medicine, these fruit have tonic properties; they are said to promote
relaxation and good sleep.
To prepare this sweet pudding, the flesh of longans is dried, packed with sweet
lotus seeds and boiled in sugar water. In the past, this dessert was considered
a special treat, usually reserved for aristocratic families. Today, che
long nhan is sold at sidewalk che
bia hoi could well be Vietam's last bastion of mateship between the boys
.This is the place where they serve up fresh draught beer at ridiculously cheap
prices and encourage all sorts of male chauvinistic behaviour. Women are not
banned, but the atmoshere is not conducive to anyone who does not like the smell
of stale beer and tobacco flavoured with the stench of flatulence. A jug will
set you back about VND 5,000 and will get you well on the way to oblivion.
foreigners who work with Vietnamese will have spent many a happy afternoon if
not entire day or week talking work strategies over the bia hoi . It can take
unwary new arrivals some time to get used to it. Before then, they will often
find themselves falling asleep in unusual places. When they become accustomed to
it they just do what everyone else does, and fall asleep on
or under heir
food in such places can be okay, but sometimes it can be pretty nasty. This must
be a well known fact because it has been countered by local ingenuity in the
form of roaming vendors who wander from venue to venue selling foodstuffs that
go well with beer. Some packets of peanuts are even promoted with the slogan ''bia hoi supplement''
hoi are usually staffed by women dressed in uniforms depicting a brand of beer
which they attempt to promote, but have great difficulty persuading customers
away from the real bia hoi.
bia hoi does have some rules regarding social etiquette. To my understanding,
you must never fill your own glass; to refuse ice in your glass is an insult to
the establishment's hygiene-and don't tease the beer girls too much or your ice
will be an insult to the establishment' hygiene.
they yell"tram phan tram
"(100 per cent ) you must empty the contents
of your glass into your stomach in one go. You can never refuse a tram phan, and
being a foreigner means everyone will want at least one tram phan tram with you.
Tram phan trams get you drunk pretty quickly, so you should never go to bia hois
that can hold more than 20 people without health insurance.
first you should resist all the vendors' wares, but after a few tram phan trams,
you will end up buying everything that people try to sell you. It is not poor
form to be topless in a bia hoi ( unless, of course, you're a woman ), it is not
poor form to rub beer and ice into your belly in a bia hoi; it is poor form,
however, to mistake the kitchen drain for a toilet.
rolls are one of Vietnam's best-known
national dishes, and are a favourite of both locals and foreigners. Known as nem
in the north and cha gio
in the south of the country, they can have a variety of fillings-miced pork,
crab or prawn meat, beaten egg, finely chopped onion, garlic, shallots,
mushrooms and bean sprouts all wrapped in rice paper. They can be eaten either
fresh or fried. They often also contain bun
( vermicelli rice noodles) and are usually served with a big bowl of fresh herbs
mint, basil, fennel, coriander, balm and marjoram and a dipping sauce made from
fish sauce, fresh lime juice, sugar, chopped red chilli and garlic mixed with
sliced carots and green papaya.
nothing if not colorful in a
colorful city. It's Che Saigon, likened by some to drinking jam or wading
through porridge. But each to their own taste and one thing's for sure- it's
popularity is as high as the temperatures that Che Saigon is designed to cool.
It's something of a unique southern drink:
you want and when you want it. In the months when the mercury won't give you
much change of 36 sweltering degrees then it's the perfect foil. You don't just
order it you build it. It can be a mix of sugar cane, of coconut, some beans and
why not a dash of Indian taro?
a drink that cuts through any age barriers and has long been a childhood treat
on excursions to Nguyen Binh Khiem or Ky Dong.
colorful stalls that dispense it are as popular as any bia hoi else where but,
and given the non-alcoholic nature of che, less boisterous perhaps.
Then, with the
thirst almost quenched, there's only one thing to do- order perhaps another ''mot
beef and pork sift noodle soup
Hue lacks the abundant produce of the south, its cuisine is nevertheless highly
regarded for sophisticated cooking techniques and creative
presentation . Among
thousands of Hue specialties, and hundreds
of Vietnamese noodle soups , don't miss trying a bowl of Bun
Bo Hue ( beef and pork soft noodle soup).
a quick glance, Bun Bo Hue appears some what
frugal, but to cook it requires a lot of skill and fiddling around. Pho
Broth plays an important role. To make the broth, boil up ox tail, beef and pork
shanks in water, then skim
off the surface
fat, producing a clear
liquid. Add sliced lemongrass, dried onion, fish and shrimp sauce and salt to
taste. Meanwhile, legs of pork should be shaved, boiled and chopped into even
slices with equal bone, meat and skin; lean beef should be thoroughly boiled,
cut into thin slices and quickly
fried up with spices.
serve, bring the broth quickly to
the boil and drain the soft noodles. Pour the noodles into a bowl, top with
slices of beef, pork meat and onions, and then pour the hot broth over the top.
Finally, add lemon juice, fresh chilli
, or powdered red pepper and your bowl of Bun
Bo Hue is now ready to
enjoy. If you only try this dish once, you'll perhaps understand why it's been
so famous and popular in Hue down the centuries, amongst both rich and poor.
Ga - Soul Kitchen.
the centuries, Hanoians have considered Pho
(rice noodle soup) their soul food, some even addicted to it. Pho can be enjoyed
at any time as breakfast, lunch, and dinner; even in the wee small hours of the
morning. It's cheap, filling, delicious suitable for both hot and cold climates.
find Pho everywhere in Vietnam,
but the finest is said to be in Hanoi. For some, a bowl of Pho
can be a fond reminder of Hanoi, as well as its cuisine. The comforting,
whosesome aromas wafting from a large pot of simmering broth can win over
anyone, even the most fastidious. There are several kinds of Pho
to choose from, including seven varieties on beef . However, don't miss Pho
Ga . Different from the somewhat heavy and greasier beef noodle soup,
Pho Ga is more refined and
delicately subtle; in fact it's renowned for its aromatic and mouth watering
meat broth. This is made from pork and chicken shinbones, ginger and onion,
dried star anise, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. The shinbones are simmered
until the water reaches boiling point, a large spoon is then used to skim off
fat brought to the surface, until the broth is clear. After adding all the flavourings,
the broth is simmered once more and then strained through a sieve. Cold slivers
of tender chicken meat and soft rice noodles are then served up with the sweet
consommé. Accompanying this are piles of fresh coriander, mint and lemon leaves
and beansprouts, along with fresh limes and chilisauce.
around only VND5,000 ,you can expenrience Pho
in many local street stalls. In Hanoi, the best are located in Le Van Huu str.,
- Pho Mai Anh ( chicken pho ), Yet Kieu and Bat Dan and Hang Muoi streets ( beef
pho); whilst in Ho Chi Minh City try Pasteur Street.
lemon juice, sliced chilli or a spoonful of chilli sauce, Pho ga will be even
tastier. Dough sticks ( Quay ) made of flour, deep fried in oil and
served with pho, is very popular in Hanoi.
Banh cuon Vietnamese steamed rolled rice pancake.
cuon is one of the most popular traditional dishes in Vietnam, but nowhere,
so the reputation goes, is it as delicious as in Hanoi. The uniqueness of this
dish is the very thin pancakes made of the finest rice-flour; to make this,
fragrant frce is soaked overnight bejore being round into a milky, floury paste.
Adding a little bit of edible alabaster into the flour contributes to the
pancakes soft, smooth and velvety consisteney. Banh cuon can be served hot or cold, but it's best eaten hot.
yet another interesting dining experience, leisurely eating Banh
cuon streetside, whilst watching women actually make the pancakes
before your very eyes. The milky paste is repeatedly scooped out of a tureen
spread onto a large, cloth covered, boiler pot for a rapid cook and then peeled
off with giant bamboo chopsticks. The steaming, thin rice paper is then placed
on a flat dish, rolled with minced pork, fried onion and wood ear mushrooms,
then cut into pieces for serving. Adding a pinch of fried onions, salted ,
shredded shrimp and coriander onto the rolls completes the delicious dish. Banh
cuon however should always be
accompanied by a tasty dipping
sauce. This sweet - and –sour concoction consists of reputable fish sauce,
vinegar or lemon juice, sugar, pepper and sliced red chilis,seasoned with a bit
of belostlmatid essence. So now you're ready to get stuck in: at only VND 5,000
for a plate of pancakes, you can afford to feast till your hearts content
Vietnamese often make two kinds of cakes: Banh
Troi and Banh
Chay on the third day of the third month of the Lunar year (
April).This is known as the ''cold food festival''. In Vitnam, most people
may have forgotten its origins, but it's still considered an impor tant
occasion for ancestral offerings. The cakes are popular desserts in both
rural and urban areas.
Cold food festival evolved from a Chinese tale. The hero, Gioi
Tu Thoi, did his King a great service, so it goes, but
unfortunately the good deed somehow offended him. Later however, the King
changed his mind, and offered Gioi
Tu Thoi a reward but he decided instead to hide in the forest.
The King ordered the forest to be set alight forcing him out, but MrThoi
refused to budge and was burnt alive, along with his poor mum. Ever since
then, the festival each year honours his memory and people abstain from
lighting a fire on the anniversary of his death .
cakes'' are small white balls made of brown sugar, wrapped in glutinous
rice flour. The name floating
cakes came about from the way it's actually cooked. To make the
cakes properly, there's a bit of boiling involved, after which the balls
are skimmed off, poured into a bowl of cold water to cool down, placed on
dishes and sprinkled with sesame seeds.'' Lean cakes'' ( Banh Chay ) are
also made of glutinous flour, however they resemble boiled dumplings and
are filled with mung bean paste, sprinkled with sesame seeds and sereved
in bowls with syrup flavoured with grapefruit blossom. Both can be found
everywhere on Cold Food festival day, so keep an eye out for them.
Mam - a fishy tale
no exaggeration when they say that Lau Mam
is one of the most popular and favourite specialies of the south. To make Lau
Mam, you need pork shinbones, seafood, fresh fish , pork meat,
vegetables, but most importantly Mam.
Mam, But not fish sauce: many
people make the mistake of thinking Lau
Mam is cooked with that well-known smelly delicacy. Mam
is in fact the name of a special salted fish dish created by Khmer farmers in
southern Vietnam.There are various kinds of Mam:made
from a variety of fresh- water fishes, such as snakehead fish, anabas, etc,
they're still simply known as Mam.
Large, juicy fresh-water fishes are cleaned, salted and caramel. The
should have a
reddish-brown appearance, have an
oily texture, taste salty yet sweet and have a unique and unforgettable smell.
preparing Lau Mam is divided into
two parts: making the broth and preparing raw fish, meat and vegetables to dip
into the bubbling broth. Salted fish (Mam) and pork skin bones are first
simmered to creat a broth brimming with natural goodness, before taken out.
Sliced lemonrass, chili, pineappleand spices are then added to the remaining
broth .To serve, the broth is put in a
clay pot and placed on a small stove on the table .The sliced –up, raw food ,
presented on plates , is then communally dipped into the hot concoction for a
quick cook, befor devouring.The speccial fragrance, taste
and participation of this
spicy Lau Man dish should
hopefully give a memorable culinary esperience
of a visit " in down under"
in scope compared to the feast of Hue food, Hoi An cuisine centres around three
main dishes: White Rose, Won
Ton and Cao Lau . The
Chinese influence is unmistakable: White Rose,
consisting of rice dumplings steamed with pork and shrimp inside, is similar to
Chinese Dim Sum. At the Cua Dai Restaurant, at the Hoi An Beach Resort in Hoi
An, White Rose is served with a
delicious homemade squid fish sauce. The Won
Ton here is light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, accompanied
by a sweet and sour sauce that is a cross between a salsa and a chutney. The
Cao Lau, or noodles with pork slices, bean sprouts and herbs is
perhaps the most special, as only the water well in Hoi An creates these high
quality noodles. Here, the pork pieces are marinated and simmered during a
six-hour process. This is Hoi An cuisine at its finest; no surprise that
everyone come to Hoia love to sample these wonderful local specialties.
Phung a family tradition.
seductive qualities of this northern delicacy are reflected in the well known
folk song which associates it with
thoughts of home. A man named Bui Hoi first created nem phung
more then 100 years ago in the Dan Phoung commune in Ha Tay province just 30 km
from Hanoi. Today the fourth generation of his family still makes and sells it
on the same street in the same house.
main ingredient of nem phung is chao, parboiled pig's skin which is sliced into
very thin strips so that it is both crisp and tough with the translucent colour
of fat. For the chao in nem phung,
the skin is taken from the nape of the pig's neck giving it a taste all of its
own. The pork and the skin are then mixed with thinh, dried rice flour,
according to a very strict formula: seven parts of ordinary rice; two of
glutinous rice; and one part of soybean. This provides a pleasant odour which
gives nem chao its unique attractiveness. The smell is even better when slices
of lime leaves or belostomatid essence are added to the nem. Later the mixture
is tied up in a fig leaf, banh te, which
is carefully chosen so that it is both old enough and fresh.
planning a feast that includes market rather than trying to prepare it by hand
at home, since the process of making it is quite complicated. Bui Ngoc Thai, the
creator's great grandson; does it best of all and can tell if all the spices and
ingredients have been properly blended at a glance without even needing to taste
it. Every day his family makes 100 km grams of phung nem to sell from home to
locals and travellers alike.
You can sample the delicacy at almost any bia hoi establishment in town, but to
taste the real thing you should buy it at 25 Tay Son Street, Phung Town, Dan
Phuong Commune in Ha Tay province, or at 63 Hang Bun, Hanoi.
Banh Cuon - Rice Steamed Rolls
Banh Chung - Rice Cake
Bun - Vermicelli
Bun Bo Hue - Hue Style Noodle
Banh Tom - Shrimp Pan cake
Chao Tom - Grilled Shrimp Paste
Gio Lua - Lean Meat Pie
Hu Tieu My Tho - My Tho SeaFood
Pho - Beef Noodle
Tom Chua - Hue Sour Shrimp
(Banh Trang Trang Bang) - Special
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