Traditional Vietnamese food is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and heavy reliance on herbs. Vietnamese food is commonly ranked as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world.
Vietnamese food and cooking is the true ‘light cuisine’ of Asia. The home-style Vietnamese cooking calls for an array of simple dishes that make complementary partners at a family’s communal meal.The most common meats used in Vietnamese cuisine are fish, chicken, pork, beef, and various kinds of seafood. The Vietnamese also have a strong vegetarian tradition influenced by Buddhist values.
Abundant fresh herbs and greens, delicate soups and stir-fries, and well-seasoned grilled foods served on, or with, rice or noodles are the mainstays of the Vietnamese delicacies. Even the beloved sweets for snacks or desserts are often based on fresh fruits served with sweetened rice or tapioca. Rarely does any dish have added fats.
While the Vietnamese cuisine relies on fresh vegetables, subtle seasonings and rice, Vietnamese cooking also reflects its Chinese and French influences and it has numerous regional difference; in the south, look for plentiful fresh seafood and in the colder north, you’ll find slightly heartier meals with beef. In central Vietnam, around the ancient royal capital Hue, the food may contain influences of the former court cooks.
But regardless of the region, home-style Vietnamese cooking calls for an array of simple dishes that make complementary partners at a family’s communal meal. Dinners customarily call for a soup, probably a platter of leafy greens accompanied by rice papers and a dipping sauce, seafood or grilled meats or poultry, a vegetable stir-fry, and rice or noodles in some form – with hot tea as the preferred beverage. While such meals may look complex to outsiders, most dishes come together easily, and some call for advance preparation to avoid last-minute conflicts. And, as in any type of cooking, planning ahead makes putting together meals much easier.
Modern cooks with well-equipped kitchens and handy appliances will find preparing a Vietnamese meal both rewarding and relatively easy. And with the widespread popularity of Asian recipes and foods, locating ingredients is not a challenge as most supermarkets carry such basics as fresh ginger and spring onions, lemongrass and chilies, even coconut milk and Asian noodles.