The cuisine of Vietnam is a rich tapestry representing various ethnic communities, neighboring cultures and regional offerings. Dishes are infused with flavorful spices, sauces and fresh herbs. Notably unique about Vietnamese cuisine is that it seeks a balance of taste by combining sweet, savory, sour and bitter flavors into many dishes. The result is subtle and complex at the same time. Showcasing traditional local ingredients with a dose of French influence, this is truly a "fusion" cuisine. If you do not live in a major metropolitan area where one or more Vietnamese restaurants thrive, you will be amply rewarded when you visit the home country and taste one or more of the following dishes.
Pho This is the famous Vietnamese noodle soup in a beef broth that includes a meat protein - usually pork or beef. The broth can also be made from chicken bones. The broth contains a variety of herbs and spices and the sweetness level varies from north to south regions. It is served with a side of veggie garnishes and sauces. You will discover that this is a common street vendor item. It is pronounced FAH.
This is another common street vendor staple named after the former capital city. The chili seasoning makes for a spicy soup that is eaten at all times of the day and evening. Rice noodles and lemongrass are added to a basic beef broth which may contain beef shank, pigs blood, and a fermented shrimp sauce. It is served with a veggie garnish and a lime wedge.
The picture seen here represents a modern vegetarian version using a veggie broth and a plant-based meat substitute.
The filling for this dish may be cooked pork, shrimp, rice noodle, chives and cilantro. The dish is served with a dipping sauce made from a garlic-vinegar or fish sauce base.
A meatless version can be made by using tofu, bean thread noodle, jicama, yam, carrots, butterleaf lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, and roasted rice powder as the filling.
Ga Xao Sa Ot Lemongrass Chicken with Chilies
Here is a stir-fried dish made with diced chicken breasts, lemongrass, chili powder, ginger, garlic, onions, lemon juice, and various other ingredients per recipe, basil and cilantro leaves for garnish. May be served as an appetizer with salad or as a main dish with steamed rice.
Banh Xeo Sizzling Savory Crepes
Roughly translated as "sizzling cake," this omelette-looking dish actually contains no eggs. The yellow tint is from turmeric powder. Expect a rice flour batter that is pan sauteed then filled with veggies, minced meat and/or shrimp, and folded over.
Banh Mi Pork Sandwich
Here is a popular pork sandwich served on a baguette, a nod to the former colonial era when the French occupied Indochina. The sandwich contains slices of grilled pork, pate, veggie garnish, herbs and mayonnaise. A vegetarian version can be made using tofu or seitan as the meat substitute. This is another example of an inexpensive and nutritious street food.
Banh Gio Tapioca Pyramid Dumplings
This is a popular snack food that is often eaten for breakfast but can be enjoyed at any time of the day. A spoonful of ground sauteed pork or chicken mixed with mushrooms, onions, and fish sauce is placed inside a thick triangle of flour-tapioca dough. Each piece is then wrapped up in a banana leaf, steamed, and cooled before serving.
The Vietnamese roast the Robusta beans for their coffee which makes the beverage darker and more bitter than the typical Western coffees which are made from Aribica beans. To offset the bitter taste, the Vietnamese use lots of condensed milk and sweeteners in their iced coffee drinks. Different blends will produce different tastes such as chocolate, vanilla, or smoky. In Hanoi iced coffee is ordered by code: black (đen đa ) or brown (nau đa).
Banh Bo Hap Steamed Rice Cakes
This is a simple chewy sponge cake dessert made with rice flour, tapioca starch, sugars, coconut milk, yeast, and water. Food coloring is added to create visual appeal.
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