25 Jan 2021

"Cuisine in Vietnam" is a term used to describe the way of processing raw ingredients, how to season spices or the daily food processing habits of Vietnamese people. Although there are slight differences in each region (north - central - south), they still imply the general significance and the unique colors of Vietnamese culture.

Table Contents
  • I - Philosophical meanings
  • 1 - The 5 elements of cuisine in Vietnam 
  • 2 - The balance of Yin and Yang principle
  • II - The diversity of cuisine in Vietnam
  • III - Vietnamese people’s eating habits
  • VI - Famous Vietnamese artisans and chefs
Cuisine in Vietnam title
Source: Natalia Mok

If Chinese cuisine focuses on nutritions and cookings; Japanese cuisine focuses on the delicate display and visual experience of diners, Vietnam tends to gravitate towards developing the sense of taste and flavor. But it does not mean that Vietnamese cuisine history lacks sophisticated dishes with eye-catching appearance.

Family Vietnamese cuisine culture

Vietnamese family meal (Source: Internet)

I - Philosophical meanings

Not only food or processing raw materials in order to meet daily nutritional needs, Vietnamese food is the result of the Feng Shui philosophy researching processes corresponding to the human body. 

1 - The 5 elements of cuisine in Vietnam 

Accordingly, everything in nature is composed of 05 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 with small intestine; Earth to the abdomen; Metal corresponds to the large intestine and Water responds to the bladder - urinary. Similarly, the five elements correspond to the five flavors that a human can taste as Sour (Wood); Bitter (Fire); Sweet (Earth); Spicy (Metal); Salty (Water).

Decorating Vietnamese cuisine dishes

Decorating Vietnamese food (Source: Chris Bui)

When it comes to cuisine, Vietnamese people always try to combine the five flavors, five colors and five senses in one dish. 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 of man: Sight - arrangement, color of food; Hearing - sound when chewing crunchy part; Taste- enjoy the five flavors; Smell - the aroma of food and spices accompany; Touch - with hand-eaten dishes like Banh Mi, Nem Lui, rolled dishes, …

2 - The balance of Yin and Yang principle

In order to promote and maintain good development, everything must ensure the harmony of Yin and Yang, food 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 also good for the digestive system and health in general.
Many Vietnamese dishes have impressed the international customers with attractive, unforgettable flavors such as: Banh mi, Pho noodle soup, Quang noodles, Bun cha, Hue beef noodle, Hanoi fried fish, Vietnamese pancakes or spring rolls, .. There are also many dishes that international friends know by how strange or creepy they are, such as: Duong Dua, Balut, Silkworm, blood pudding, rat meat, dog meat, Mam Tom (shrimp paste), ... Vietnamese food is extremely rich and diverse. There are also many differences among regions. That is why there are many dishes even Vietnamese people have not had the opportunity to enjoy. 

II - The diversity of cuisine in Vietnam

The variety or difference in food processing habits is due to the different influences of the regional climate, living habits and cultural practices. The cuisine of each region has its own distinctive characteristics.
Northern cuisine: In favor of the dishes with saltiness, exquisite presentation and unique processing method. Hanoi food and cuisine is considered as a hub of northern cuisine. 
Central Cuisine: Favoring spicy, cool dishes with lots of water ; sophisticated processing and beautifully presented. In particular, the most outstanding and recognized by international friends are Hue royal dishes. The  outstanding central food hubs are Hue cuisine, Hoi An cuisine
Southern Cuisine: Meanwhile, the dishes in the South or the Southwest favor sweetness, simple processing but perfectly complex flavors. Ho Chi Minh food and Mekong river delta food are the best things to fill your stomach.
Ethnic food: In addition, 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: Thit Trau Gac Bep (Smoke Buffalo Meat), Cao Lau, Thang Co (stewed horse meat & offal). Sapa food is highly recommended. 

Ethic cuisine in Vietnam

Smoke Buffalo Meat in the Northwest region (Source: Internet)

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 and noodle with fried tofu & shrimp paste in the North; Quang noodle and Bun Bo Hue (Hue beef noodle) in Central; and Hu Tieu and Vermicelli with marinated char-grilled pork in the South.

III - Vietnamese people’s eating habits

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 the 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 them with chopsticks.
Also, 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 respectively; 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 street food dish has a different layout.

Chung cake in Vietnam cuisine

Chung cake (Source: Tran ngocc)

Vietnam cuisine’s uniqueness is especially present on each holiday, the dishes in the meals of Vietnamese people in each region will also have some differences. For example, on Lunar New Year, besides the side dishes, each ethnic group will have different indispensable dishes such as Thang Co (stewed horse meat & offal), bamboo rice, local cakes and desserts,...

VI - Famous Vietnamese artisans and chefs

Special Vietnam culinary

Vietnamese specialties (Source: Kenh14)

In fact, many Vietnamese people have made their own names at many international culinary arenas because of the dishes heavily influenced by Vietnamese signature identity. Among them, there are some famous chefs 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 Vietnam culinary to get closer to international friends and contribute to helping it be more recognized in the global arenas. 

Vietnam cuisine on Masterchef

Image of Christine Ha in the competition Masterchef (Source: Goldenspoonawards)

Nowadays , it is not difficult for people who are far away from home to enjoy the taste of their homeland’s food 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.
It is the distinct lifestyle and specific climate that cuisine in Vietnam has such a diverse development base. In particular, each region has dishes.

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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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