An Introduction to Vietnamese Food
Vietnamese food is known for its distinct use of fresh, fragrant and aromatic flavours. There is a balance of sweet and sour, spicy and cooling, fresh and salty flavours (from the Vietnamese staple fermented fish sauce, or ‘nuoc mam’). This balance of ying and yang is typical with most Asian cuisines.
The food in the north of Vietnam is influenced by neighbouring China. Stir fries and noodle soups are common. Towards the south, food becomes sweeter, and mixes flavours from Cambodia and Thailand.The Mekong Delta in the south, aptly named the “the rice bowl” of Vietnam, is incredibly fertile, with a tropical climate, sustaining more rice paddies and coconut groves. In fact, Vietnam rice production is the second biggest rice exporter in the world (after Thailand). Rice is a central part of the Vietnamese diet, and steamed rice is part of almost every meal. It is also transformed into ingredients such as rice noodles, rice paper for spring rolls, rice vinegar, and rice wine.
Just as essential to Vietnamese cuisine, is pungent fish sauce, at the heart of Vietnamese cooking. Anchovies are fermented for about six months to make it, and it is used to season most dishes (just like salt is used in the West).
Vietnamese cuisine is fresh, healthy and light, characterised by Pho (pronounced fuh), an aromatic rice noodle soup, which is the national dish of Vietnam. It is consumed any time of day – breakfast, lunch or dinner, sold throughout the country, and is a big part of the street food culture. Combined with meat in a meat-y broth, aromatics and herbs such as lemongrass, ginger, mint, parsley and coriander are used with fresh, crunchy vegetables such as cucumber, bean sprouts, chilli and plenty of lime juice.
French colonisation of Vietnam, with missionaries first arriving in the 18th century, and formal colonisation lasting from the late 19th century until 1945, has influenced Vietnamese cuisine. The most obvious is Banh mi (along with Pho the most internationally popular Vietnamese dish), which uses crusty baguette, introduced by the French during Vietnam’s colonial period, as its foundation. Variations on the classic French crepe can also be found across Vietnam, made their own using spices such as tumeric.
Now let’s get down the part you are all hungrily awaiting… how does one make a delicious Vietnamese Pho dish? We’ve teamed up with Jen Reviews who is generously sharing her amazing ‘Easy-Peasy Pho Recipe’ Take it away Jen!
Easy-Peasy Vietnamese Pho Recipe
- 1 litre beef stock
- Flat rice noodles for 3 pax
- One large white onion
- 2 small old gingers
- One stick of cinnamon
- 3-4 star anise
- 1 tbsp of cloves
- 250 g of thinly sliced beef brisket / flank
- 3 tbsp of fish sauce
- 2 tbsp of yellow rock sugar
- Thai basil
- Raw bean sprouts
- Lime wedges
Halve the white onion and gingers. Place them on an ungreased tray in the topmost rack of the oven to broil at 220 degrees celsius for 15-20 minutes or until you see the outer layer beginning to turn charred and black.
Soak noodles in water for 20-30 minutes until soft and bendable. Boil for 10 minutes till it reaches your desired consistency.
Pour stock into a stockpot. Bring to a boil then simmer it for 40 minutes. Remove any scum that floats to the top.
Prepare thinly sliced beef slices
Add fish sauce, garnish and enjoy!