Korean and Vietnamese Cuisine (Part 1 of 2) - Vietnamese Food Focus
Vietnamese cuisine is influenced by a delicious combination of native ingredients and flavours inspired by neighbouring countries and colonial visitors. Yet Vietnamese cooking has a distinct style of its own. It tends to be less spicy, lighter and has a stronger fragrance than other South East Asian cuisines. Meals are leisurely family affairs, with many shared dishes served all at once.
French colonisation in the late 1850's left its mark on Vietnamese cuisine, with the most obvious example perhaps being Banh mi - a crusty French baguette spread with pate, then layered with Vietnamese flavours including sharp pickles, marinated strips of pork, and topped with cilantro and daikon.
Vietnam's national dish, Pho, also has French influences, consisting of Vietnamese rice noodles soaked in the style of meat broth ubiquitous with French cuisine. This noodle soup is typically made from chicken or beef seasoned with fresh herbs and spices, and is often served as a breakfast dish from roadside food stalls which prepare it fresh each day.
there are a few Vietnamese delicacies which may seem odd to the western palate; including baked Balut, a fertilised duck egg which, when cracked open will reveal a baby duck, complete with feathers, ready to be eaten whole with chilli and vinegar. Another dubious delicacy is snake wine; rice wine is served in a bottle containing a whole, venomous snake. The alcohol denatures the venom, but snake wine should still be treated with caution as it is renowned for its strength.
The cuisine in Vietnam varies across the regions. The food of the North is influenced by neighbouring China and the cold climate, with its warming stir-fries and noodle-based soups. The food of the South draws on influences from nearby Thailand and Cambodia. The tropical climate also sustains more rice paddies and coconut groves. The results is the food in southern Vietnam is typically sweeter, with palm sugar and coconut cream added to both savoury and sweet dishes.
Despite this regional variety, two basic ingredients can be found in the dishes all over Vietnam; rice and fish sauce. Its fertile river deltas, known as "the rice bowls", allow Vietnam to be the world's second largest rice exported after Thailand. Rice is served at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and appears not only as traditional grains but as rice wine, rice noodles, rice paper and rice porridge.
Some claim that fish sauce was invented in Vietnam, and the traditional Vietnamese version, nuoc mam, is the base of almost every soup, noodle or curry dish. It is also comparable to ketchup in it s popularity as a standalone condiment, mixed with chilli and lime to soften its pungency, it can be found on every Vietnamese dinner table.
If you fancy trying some Vietnamese food, why not try come of our delicious recipes?
Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
Fresh beef stock:
1 kg beef bones
3 in ginger
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 lumps rock sugar or 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 tsp Coriander seeds
1 tsp Whole cloves
5 Cardamom pods
1 Cinnamon sticks
5 Whole Star anise
1 tsp Fennel seeds
For the bowls:
700g Flank steak – very thinly sliced and at room temperature
800g Rice noodles
200g Bean sprouts
8 Lime wedges – garnish
20g Fresh mint – garnish
20g Fresh basil – garnish
20g Fresh coriander – garnish
2 Spring onions – thinly sliced, garnish
2 Fresh red chillies – thinly sliced, garnish
1. To make the beef stock, place all the ingredients, along with 2 litres of water boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Remove scum and discard the liquid keeping the bones and spices. In a clean pan, add contents back with enough fresh water to cover and simmer for 2 hours topping up water as necessary and removing any impurities. Strain again discarding all the bones and spices etc. Place in a clean pan until ready to serve. Bring to the boil just before serving, topping up with water if necessary.
2. Cook or soak the rice noodles as per the packing instructions and then rinse with cold water and keep to one side. Roughly chop the mint, basil and coriander and mix together.
3. Divide the noodles, steak and beansprouts evenly between the bowls. Pour the beef broth into the bowls and over the other ingredients. Ensure that the broth is very hot.
4. Garnish with a lime wedge, a few slices of fresh chili and spring onions and a sprinkle of the mixed herbs.
Hints and tips: Partially freeze the beef before slicing as it makes the beef easier to handle.
Serving suggestion: This can be served with Sriracha sauce and Hoi Sin.