Asian Traditional Food Diary: Vietnam

“Vietnam is naturally a beautiful place. It has always been”, Hoang says,” and the food is so delicious”. Like any other conservative Asian culture, the Vietnamese people’s values, traditions and food preferences have practically remained intact.

It is interesting to note that although Hanoi is the capital city of South Vietnam, not very many Vietnamese people stay, visit or shop there. They’d rather flock instead to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) located at the southern tip. This tiny port city today remains a favored destination among the Vietnamese. Apparently, people are attracted to go there for hefty trade and economic reasons – signs of Vietnam’s growing affluence.

Our friend, Le Nguyen Hoang, a 26-year-old MBA student from Phu Nhuan district says,

“Ho Chi Minh City has now become the business center of the country. It is where people can buy many nice things – imported clothes, food, appliances, cars and other things.”

However, it wasn’t long ago that the place had a completely different image.

Twenty-five years ago, when the last of the American troops withdrew from Vietnam, marking the end of the Vietnam War, Saigon and other key cities were totally devastated. Hoang was only two years old at that time – too young to remember anything but her parents, grandparents, as well as millions of Vietnamese people severely affected by that war, will always remember the events with profound sadness. They have forgiven but they have not forgotten. However, nature has a way of balancing things. Vietnam was able to pick up the pieces after the war. The thick forests and scenic countryside that were once savagely destroyed by bombs and destructive chemicals are slowly being restored to their former beauty. And now the country is back on its feet again.

“Vietnam is naturally a beautiful place. It has always been”, Hoang says,” and the food is so delicious”. Like any other conservative Asian culture, the Vietnamese people’s values, traditions and food preferences have practically remained intact. And even when there is- as they say, this “new gloss on an old clay jar” – meaning, newly-acquired affluence in an ancient culture, nothing much has changed. For example, the same healthy, traditional, vegetable -based food eaten by Hoang’s grandmother and great grandmother in the countryside of Dai Loc, central Vietnam, are still eaten today.

As far back as Hoang can remember breakfast was bought in shops. In Vietnam, there are shops selling food everywhere. In the mornings, housewives would rather buy than cook breakfast. Not only is this tradition convenient and quite cheap, there are so many varieties to choose from.

A traditional Vietnamese breakfast consists of noodles – various kinds of wheat or rice noodle preparations such as Phi, Mien, Bun and others. In Pho, the noodles are served in bowls and eaten with bean sprouts, green onions, pepper and chili sauce. Non-vegetarians serve slices of various meats together with the noodles, but vegetarians serve slices of fried tofu or yuba in place of meat and soy sauce in place of the usual fish sauce. In Mien, the noodles are always served with bamboo shoots.

Sometimes, a delicious breakfast item called Com Tam is served. It is a porridge-like dish made from broken rice. However Hoang insists, “I would not want to call it a porridge. The soup is too uniquely delicious for it to be called a porridge.”

In Mien, the noodles are always served with bamboo shoots.

What you have in your mind?