Aromas, Flavors & Characteristics Of Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnamese cuisine is a unique blend of flavors, influences, and techniques that has developed over thousands of years. It is known for its use of fresh herbs and vegetables, as well as its balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors.

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Cuisine in Vietnam
Source: Natalia Mok

         Over thousands of years, Vietnamese cuisine has evolved to be a unique blend of flavors, influences, and techniques. With a balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors, it is famous for the use of fresh herbs and vegetables. 
Popular dishes include Pho noodle soup, Banh Mi sandwiches, Spring Rolls, and many street foods like "Banh Xeo", "Banh Cuon" and "Bun Cha". Whether you're trying traditional street food or dining in a fancy restaurant, Viet cuisine is sure to delight your taste buds.

I - Vietnamese cuisine history

Family Vietnamese cuisine culture

Vietnamese family meal - Source: Internet

The history of Vietnamese cuisine is shaped by the country's geography, climate, and cultural influences. Vietnam's long coastline, rivers, and fertile deltas have provided an abundance of seafood, while its mountainous regions have given rise to a diverse array of agricultural products. Vietnamese cuisine has been influenced by the cuisines of China, which ruled Vietnam for over 1,000 years and introduced ingredients such as soy sauce and tofu, as well as techniques such as stir-frying and steaming. The French colonized Vietnam in the 19th century and introduced techniques such as baking and roasting, as well as ingredients such as butter, cheese, and wine. Vietnamese cuisine has also been shaped by its own unique cultural traditions, such as the use of herbs and greens, the emphasis on balance and harmony in flavors, and the use of nuoc mam (fish sauce), a fermented fish sauce, as a condiment. In recent years, Vietnamese food & cuisine has gained popularity globally, and many traditional dishes have been adapted for a global audience, while still maintaining its authenticity.

II - Characteristics of Vietnamese cuisine

The food or the processing of raw materials is merely to meet daily nutritional needs. Vietnamese cuisine is the result of the Feng Shui philosophy researching processes corresponding to the human body. 

1 - The 5 elements of the Vietnamese cuisine 

Decorating Vietnamese cuisine dishes

Decorating Vietnamese food - Source: Chris Bui

Accordingly, everything in nature is composed of 5 basic elements: Wood - Metal - Water - Earth - Fire. The human body, too, applies these five elements to the five organs: the Wood corresponds to the gallbladder, Fire to the small intestine, Earth to the abdomen, Metal corresponds to the large intestine and Water responds to the urinary bladder. Similarly, the five elements correspond to the five flavors that a human can taste, namely Sour (Wood); Bitter (Fire); Sweet (Earth); Spicy (Metal); Salty (Water).

When it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, the locals always try to combine all of these factors in one dish and the harmony of sour, spicy, salty, sweet, and bitter tastes creates a very unique flavor. At the same time, Vietnamese cuisine dishes can simultaneously arouse the five senses.

Discover the highlights of Hue cuisine 

2 - The balance of yin - yang in the Vietnamese cuisine 

In order to promote and maintain good development, everything must ensure the harmony of yin and yang, the cuisine of Vietnam is no exception. In the cuisine world, the yin, "cools" the body while yang "warms" the body, the “cool” food will be cooked with spices that are also “cool” and vice versa. This ensures that the food which is served not only provides adequate nutrition but is also good for the digestive system and health in general.

III - The diversity of Vietnamese cuisine

Ethic cuisine in Vietnam

Specialty in the Northwest of Vietnam - Source: Internet

The variety in food processing habits of the people in Vietnam is due to the different influences of regional climates, living habits, and cultural practices. As a result, Vietnamese cuisine is extremely diverse and has its own distinctive characteristics in each region. More specific:  
- Northern region cuisine: In favor of the dishes with saltiness, exquisite presentation, and unique processing method.
- Central region cuisine: Favoring spicy, cool, and watery dishes with sophisticated processing and beautifully presented. In particular, the most outstanding and recognized by international friends are the Hue royal dishes.
- Southern region cuisine: Meanwhile, the dishes in the South or the Southwest favor sweetness, simple processing but still fully seasoned.
- Ethnic minorities’ cuisine: In many rural areas where the ethnic minorities live, each ethnic group will have its own unique dishes which are very popular with customers such as Buffalo meat upstairs kitchen, Thang Co (stewed horse meat and organs),…
It is the distinct lifestyle and specific climate that Vietnamese cuisine culture has such a diverse development base. In particular, each region has dishes that are extremely popular with international friends such as Pho in the North; Hue style beef noodles in the Central, and Banh mi in the South,...

IV - Vietnamese cuisine - eating habits of Vietnamese people

Unlike Western countries where people use knives and forks to enjoy food, Vietnamese dishes are usually served with chopsticks, spoons, or bare hands depending on the certain type of dish. All savory dishes, soups, or stews are presented together in a small tray. During the meal, everyone will take cooked rice into the bowl to eat with. In some dishes, such as pho, vermicelli, etc., all ingredients will be put into a large bowl, carefully mixed and diners will enjoy it with chopsticks.

Chung cake in Vietnam cuisine

Traditional dish of Vietnamese cuisine - Source: Tran ngocc

The eating and drinking culture of Vietnamese people has changed a lot to suit the historical and development stages of the country. In feudal times, men ate in the upper tray while the women ate in the lower tray, elderly people would sit higher compared to children sitting on the ground. Now, the whole family of generations will gather around the tray and eat together. Moreover, depending on the food and how to enjoy it, each food dish has a different layout.

V - Vietnamese cuisine with famous chefs

Special Vietnam culinary

Vietnamese specialties - Source: Kenh14

In fact, many Vietnamese people have made their own names at many international culinary arenas thanks to the dishes imbued with Vietnamese signature identity. Among them, there are some famous chefs that can be mentioned such as artist Ton Nu Thi Ha; chef Luke Nguyen; chef Phan Ton Tinh Hai; chef Christine Ha; chef Duong Huy Khai,... They are the "wings" for Vietnamese culinary to get closer to international friends and contribute to helping Vietnamese cuisine be more recognized in the global scale.

Vietnam cuisine on Masterchef

Christine Ha in the Masterchef US - Source: Goldenspoonawards

Today, it is not difficult for people who are far away from home to enjoy the taste of their homeland because anywhere, any territory where Vietnamese people set foot, you can find restaurants serving food with signature colors of Vietnam. Moreover, these are all famous restaurants, which are very popular with customers and international friends as well, introducing the unique cuisine of Vietnam. 

That is an overview of cuisine in Vietnam. For an insightful view of Vietnam travel, you can discover more on the Vietnamtrips.

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Hi, I am Linh ! A young & passionate Vietnamese who love the wandering days in exploring new things and experiencing the different cultures. Welcome to my Vietnamese travel guides & sharings.

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