Ho Chi Minh city in the south is the most
cosmopolitan of all Vietnamese cities and the home of incredible
tropical seafood and specialties from the Mekong River delta. With its
hot, humid climate and fertile
lands, this region also produces a great variety of vegetables, fruits
and meats. The French influence is
particularly strong here. The small island of Phu Quoc off the
Vietnam/Cambodia border, is reputed to
produce the best fish sauce ( nuoc mam ) in Vietnam.
In Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, which is in the north close to the
Chinese border, the food is less
spicy, and the Chinese influence particularly strong, with stir fried
dishes and clay pot cooking. The
climate is milder here than in the south, and the Red River delta with
the Gulf of Tongking produces a
wealth of fish and shellfish, as well as vegetables and other foods.
'Hue' (pronounced 'huay'), home to the
Vietnamese royalty. This quaint city nestled between Saigon and Hanoi is
filled with culture and history that can be seen in the elaborate
preparation of the dishes. 'Cungdinh' is the Vietnamese word for palace.
Vietnames royalty enjoys their food in prettily displayed platters.
While this could be seen as a regular theme in most Vietnamese dishes,
one dish called 'Ban Hua Thap Cam', is the epitome of the royalty's
preferred dining experience. Each little treasure is accompanied by a
different sauce. The royal feast started with 'Cha Cha La Vong' (Fried
Fish Fillet with Dill). The fish fillets have been marinated with fresh
herbs and fermented rice before being fried to a golden perfection. To
eat this jewel of the ocean, first pile the succulent fish onto a piece
of black sesame crackers and drizzle some aromatic chili shrimp sauce.
A Vietnamese meal is not complete if there
is no rice. Seafood is one of the main themes in Vietnamese cuisine and
this could be seen in most dishes, even in the sauces. 'Bun Hen' is a
traditional 'Hue' meal, with a bowl of rice topped with baby clams, star
fruit, fragrant herbs and ground peanuts. Pour the clear seafood soup
and chili if you are up for a spicy treat, and then tuck into spoonfuls
of this home-style dish. 'Com Trai Dua' is not the coconut rice
Malaysians are familiar with. Instead, it is fried rice grilled in a
fresh coconut. The aromatic lemongrass and
kunyit rice (turmeric rice) has been stir fried with huge
prawns and squids before it is stuffed to the brim of a fresh coconut
and then grilled. This ensures that the rice is infused with the
sweetness of the coconut flesh.
Vietnamese ingredients are sold in most
Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai food shops, and are increasingly available
Vietnamese Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam) - As fundamental to Vietnamese
cooking as soy sauce is to Chinese and Japanese cuisines, this pungent
liquid condiment, translucent brown in color, is made from salted,
fermented anchovies. It produces a magical effect on food, infusing
whatever it is added to with a subtle, rich and elusive flavor.
Fresh Lemongrass (XA) - One of the
most popular herbs in Vietnamese cuisine - and one that gives Vietnamese
food its unique character. The grey-green, spear like plant resembles an
elongated spring onion stalk with long, fibrous leaves. The lower part
of the stem has a white, slightly bulbous, meaty base. It gives a
marvelous lemony flavor to soups, stews and stir-fries.
Glutinous or Sweet Rice (Gao Nep) -
Also known as sticky rice, this differs from regular, translucent,
long-grain rice in that it has creamy white, sturdy kernels. It also has
a higher starch content, so it needs to be washed, soaked overnight,
then steamed. Cooked, it forms a sticky mass, and has a slightly sweet
aftertaste. In Vietnam, sticky rice is a common breakfast item, and is
popular during holidays.
Dried Rice Papers (Banh Trang)
More Vietnamese Recipes