Travel with your Eyes and Mouth Wide Open

Tue, Oct 23, 2012

South East Asia, Travel News

Vietnam is a beautiful and fascinating country and an increasingly popular place to visit with tourists from all over the world.  From its culture and history to its scenery and notoriously welcoming people, there are lots of things you will fall in love with if you make the trip out to Vietnam, and not least among them is the cuisine.  Even if you can’t make it all the way to Vietnam to sample it, Vietnamese restaurants are growing in popularity and you may well be able to try some of this incredible food a little closer to home.

Whether you are visiting the country or just going out for dinner somewhere local, here are some of Vietnam’s most celebrated food experiences to look out for:

Noodle Based Soups

One of the most popular dishes both in normal Vietnamese life and in Vietnamese restaurants is a variation on a clear noodle soup.  The best known examples of this are banh canh and pho, both of which you can find not only in restaurants but even as ready meals in some supermarkets!  These, and other Vietnamese noodle soups such as bun bo hue are generally made of a broth with egg noodles to add bulk and carbohydrate, and in some cases meat or seafood.

Many Vietnamese people are vegetarian as part of their Buddhist religion, however you will see beef, duck, chicken, various fish and shellfish and even land snails (similar to the ones typical of French cuisine) used quite regularly for those who do eat meat, and these are common options in the noodle soup dishes.  Most dishes will be finished with spring onion, as you often see in Asian food, and other vegetables will be used depending on the dish you are eating.  These soups are surprisingly filling on account of the noodles, and can be a meal in themselves though if you choose to eat out in Vietnam you will find that they are often served as a course in a bigger meal.

Fermented Meat, Fish and Shellfish

If you are a fan of Thai food, you are probably already familiar with the fish sauce regularly used to flavour Thai dishes.  This sauce, made of fermented fish or shrimp, also features heavily in Vietnamese food, and is often used in place of salt as a salty flavour enhancer, which also adds a kick all of its own (and a unique aroma, somewhat like Parmesan cheese).  As well as the sauce, you can find dishes consisting of pieces of fermented fish, like catfish, and shrimp, and also fermented meat.  These are very sour and something of an acquired taste, and have a strong flavour and pungent smell that a lot of people really enjoy but isn’t for everyone!  Fermented fish can be eaten raw or cooked, and is served in a variety of different ways with different rice and vegetable accompaniments.  This varies regionally, but look out for dishes starring mam ca thu, which is fermented mackerel, and mam tom, which is made from prawns.

Seven Course Feasts

If you are especially hungry, or you simply want to try out as many Vietnamese specialities as you can in one go, then look out for feasts like bo 7 mon and ca 7 mon – these are seven course feasts, featuring seven beef and seven fish courses respectively, and are a great way to taste a lot of different things in one sitting.  While seven types of fish or beef dish may sound like a somewhat daunting prospect, the courses are drawn out over a long meal time, and are quite delicate – you may be served rice but you probably won’t want to load up on the bulkier food if you want to make it through your seven dishes!

Curries

Vietnamese curries are fairly similar to Thai curries in their general ingredients and flavour ranges, and you can expect to see similar red and green curries to those you would find in the Thai food spectrum, though naturally with some subtle regional differences in terms of the spices used and the vegetables included.  Beef and chicken curries are easy to find, and a good choice if you want something typically Vietnamese but not too experimental!

Deserts

Vietnamese deserts are typically fruit based, and if you enjoy exotic fruit flavours like coconut, papaya, mango, pineapple and even the famous durian (a fruit which is banned in some places because of its strong smell!), then you will be spoilt for choice.  If you have the opportunity to try some coconut candy, do – it is really delicious and will appeal to just about anyone (as long as they like coconut!) including kids.  There are also some great fritter style fried fruit dishes made with banana and pineapple and served with cool coconut ice cream.  The perfect way to top off your Vietnamese meal!

If you want to try Vietnamese ‘anything’ you best visit the Hayes and Jarvis website and book a holiday to this amazing Asian country – you will have an amazing time!

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