What Makes Vietnamese Cuisine So Popular?

| September 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Vietnam cusineVietnam features more than 2,000 miles of coastline. Throughout its history, fishing and farming have been the primary means of subsistence for much of Vietnam’s population. During its early years under Chinese rule, many of the culinary traditions and spices used by Chinese chefs became part of the Vietnamese style of cooking. Traders, militia members and colonists from France during the latter half of the 19th century also had a significant impact on the cooking methods and spices used in Vietnamese cuisine. The availability of fresh fish and seafood has been a constant factor in the evolution of this ancient culinary style.

Light and Fresh Spices

The flavor profiles most associated with Vietnamese cuisine feature combinations of contrasting elements. Sweet items are often paired with salty ingredients to create a savory combination; in a like manner, hot and spicy elements may be integrated into rice and vegetables to create an appealing contrast. Some of the most commonly used spices in Vietnamese cuisine include the following:

• Mint
• Garlic
• Lemongrass
• Cilantro
• Ginger
• Star anise

These spices are often combined with fish or chicken to create unique and delicious sauces. Fish sauce is by far the most often used condiment and culinary ingredient in Vietnamese savory dishes and can be combined with a wide range of fruits, vegetables and meats to enhance the flavor and to provide the characteristic scent and taste associated with Vietnamese culinary traditions.

French Influences Persist

One of the most delightful surprises in Vietnamese cuisine is the banh mi, a classic sandwich that incorporates fish, pork and vegetable fillings inside a traditional French baguette. Banh mi sandwiches are served throughout Vietnam on street carts and in smaller restaurants and represent a staple in the casual dining environment of the country. The meat broths used to create pho are also a legacy of the French occupation of Vietnam. Before then, most broths were constructed of fish and chicken rather than beef and pork.

Geographical Divisions

The culinary styles practiced in northern Vietnam owe much to China. Stir fried rice, vegetables and meats are much more common in this region of the country and are often paired with sauces similar to those used in traditional Chinese cooking. Fish and chicken are popular ingredients throughout the country. In the southern regions, however, these elements are typically combined with coconut, lemongrass and other spices popular in Thai and Cambodian cuisines. The ready availability of cane sugar in the south of Vietnam may also account for the sweeter and lighter taste of dishes associated with this area of the country.

The ready availability of fresh vegetables, fruits and rice ensures that these ingredients appear frequently in the classic dishes of the Vietnamese culinary tradition. Dietary experts also extol the health benefits of this light, low-calorie cuisine in preventing obesity and reducing the risk of various maladies. Incorporating Vietnamese dishes into everyday meal planning can provide a delicious alternative to the same old routine and can expand culinary horizons for the entire family.

Category: Food Products, Health News

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