Although being affected by many cultures in the region such as Mongol, China, India and western countries like France, Vietnam food culture has its own custom and feature in cuisine. Being an agricultural country, Vietnam cuisine is mainly based on rice and tropical seasoned ingredients, thus, customs in food culture of Vietnam is different from other cultures all over the world. Vietnam food customs varies from ways of cooking, eating habits to etiquette. Each custom is different region by region, but still has something in common to distinguish from others. For example, the essential ingredient in every meal of Vietnamese people is fish sauce. In addition, food of Vietnamese people is highly appreciated with freshness, and less fat. Moreover, in cooking technique, Vietnamese people prefer boiling, steaming or briefly stir-frying food. By these ways, ingredients remain freshness and nutrition.
Despite the fact that Vietnam was dominated for thousands of years by Chinese and other powers, the country has its own unique characteristics in traditional cuisine from the cooking methods to decorations. Vietnamese cuisine is various and distinctive. Vietnamese people are in favor of cooking food by boiling, steaming, barbecuing and briefly stir-frying, etc. over a fire. These ways of cooking will make food healthier, less fat and high in carbohydrate. Vietnamese people have many creative and sophisticated ways of cooking. During the cooking process, Vietnamese people often add some kinds of fresh herbs and flavors to make food more attractive and delicious such as onion, garlic, ginger, etc.
To fried dishes, the meats are often fried deeply to have a crispy outer coating. This way of cooking needs high temperatures, but remains its nutrition. Stir-fry is another cooking method that uses a little oil and processes briefly. This method is widely used for cooking vegetables or mushroom. Sometimes, vegetables will be combined with other ingredients like meats, but essential ingredients are usually garlic and fish sauce.
In the method of steaming, Vietnamese people prefer steaming food in steamer-woven bamboo or trays made of metal with two part stacked one atop of the other. Sticky rice and seafood are two mostly dishes cooked by this way, which remains nutrition and no oil. Boiling method is seen as one of the best ways to keep food nutritious and healthy. Fresh wrap is a very simple method to create a fresh Vietnamese food. This way will remain all the fresh of vegetables and herbs without the intervention of fire. All ingredients will be broiled and wrapped in the rice paper and serve with dipping sauces. Stewing is a popular cooking methods used in Vietnamese food culture. Cooks often mix meat with seasonal herbs and condiments, and then cook this mixture by an earth-ware pot for a long time until the meat become tender in texture.
A Vietnamese meal is the combination of many dishes which are laid on the tray at once. All family members will share daily meals together. There is no course in typical Vietnamese meals. Each member will have a bowl of rice, but eating other dishes, soup and fish sauce together. Vietnamese people use chopsticks and ceramic spoons in their meals. Chopsticks are used to transfer pieces of meat, fish or whatever from the communal dish to a small bowl of fish sauce and then to your bowl. It is definitely acceptable to bring the bowl almost to your lips and use chopsticks to scoop rice into your mouth. This way might prevent food from dropping in laps; otherwise, spoons are also used widely for solid food. There are three main meals in a day of Vietnamese people: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is thought to be an important meal and rarely “skipped” by Vietnamese people, though it is a light meal, and so is lunch. Dinner is seen as the most important meal in a day. It is the time for all family member gather and share everything together during eating time. After dinner, there is a small “dessert” with seasonal fruit.
Vietnamese people often eat soup – Pho for breakfast. This type of soup is served in a big bowl which contains noodle, meat combined with green onion, chili peppers, and lime slice. In addition, this bowl of soup has fish sauce and chili-garlic sauce added to make this dish more delicious and attractive.
Another kind of soup is a smaller one than the former. This type of soup does not include noodle. It is served in a small bowl, which is called “súp” in Vietnamese. Crab and Asparagus Soup, Mang Tay Soup, White Mushroom Soup are famous soups in Vietnamese cuisine. “Canh” is another kind of soups in Vietnam. This soup often appears in daily meals of Vietnamese people. After boiling vegetables, cooks keep the water which is known as “soup”. A special soup for snacks is “chè” (sweet soups) which is favorite soup of Vietnamese people. There are some famous sweet soups, namely, black bean, green bean soups with sugar, coconut milk, etc.