Inside Asia Tours: Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos

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Wednesday, 24th September 2014

In focus: Vietnamese cuisine

Vietnamese food is becoming more popular all over the world, but Vietnam itself is still by far and away the best place in which to sample the unique cuisine.

America in particular is falling hard for Vietnamese cuisine in a big way and as the West becomes increasingly attuned to what Vietnam has to offer, this trend is only going to continue to grow quickly over the coming years.

But exactly what is Vietnamese cuisine and how does it differ to other countries' food?

Vietnamese cuisine

Vietnamese cuisine might have a reputation for being overly reliant on rice, but this is far from the case and the country's food embraces a wide array of ingredients.

Fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are all very important in Vietnamese cuisine, and soy sauce and fish sauce are among the other most important ingredients, while spices such as ginger, mint, cinnamon and lemongrass are used in a lot of dishes as well.

Balance of flavours is at the heart of Vietnamese menus and as a result, most foods will be categorised as either hot or cold, meaning they can then be mixed together for a great taste.

Due to the focus on the freshness of the vegetables involved in Vietnamese cooking, the country's cuisine is widely received to be one of the healthiest in the world.

Dumplings, pancakes and noodle soups are all typically a firm fixture on the menu of any Vietnamese restaurant, giving visitors to the country the chance to sample a lot of exciting and invigorating new meals during their time in Vietnam.

Growing influence

The healthy nature of Vietnamese cuisine has earned it attention from all over the world and it is now common to see restaurants and cafes serving meals inspired by the country.

Chinese American chef Martin Yan is one of the best known fans of food from Vietnam and his new series focusing on the country's cuisine is going to start airing on Asian Food Channel from next month.

Martin Yan - Taste of Vietnam will see the chef explore the food of Vietnam across 26 episodes and in a launch event in Ho Chi Minh City he explained why he was so keen to have the programme made, reports

Yan said: "I wish I would be reborn in Vietnam, as I’m infatuated with its landscape, people and gastronomy."

As part of the show, Yan headed as far afield as Ca Mau province in the south of Vietnam, as well as central Quang Ngai province's Ly Son Island and southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province's Con Dao Island.

The series will be shown around the world and in Vietnam itself on Ho Chi Minh City television channel HTV7.

Yan will be far from the last top name chef to explore Vietnamese cuisine and his series is an indication of the increased profile the country's food can expect to enjoy in the near future.

Vietnamese sandwiches - known as banh - are now being sold by a fast food shop in Dallas, Texas, and the company behind the venture - Yum! - is intending to roll the idea out across the US in the coming months.

Typical Vietnamese meals

Vietnamese pastries are one of the main attractions of the country's cuisine and a report by the Otago Daily Times recently showed just how moreish they can be, with the newspaper's writer admitting they had to stop themselves after four of the delicious treats.

Worth hunting out on a visit to Vietnam is a restaurant serving the oldest crap soup in Hue. Nga's restaurant at 32 Pham Hong Thai Street is hugely popular and in the busiest time of the day, late-afternoon, people often queue out of the door for the broth.

According to the Thanhnien News, the former imperial citadel's soup is made up of crabs from Tam Giang Lagoon and costs just $1 for a bowl.

Many meals in a typical Vietnamese feast will also include seafood, pork, beef, chicken, but visitors to the country are not likely to have ever eaten food like this before anywhere else in the world.

Pho is perhaps the best known of all Vietnamese dishes and the hearty yet healthy broth, which features fresh rice noodles and typically a sprinkling of either beef or chicken, is a staple for most Vietnamese people. Cheap yet extremely nutritious and warming for the soul and body, it is little wonder pho stands can be spotted all over Vietnamese streets.

Related news stories:
The West's increasing influence on food in Vietnam (28th September 2014)
Enrich your stay in Cambodia through charitable ventures! (20th November 2014)
What's on in Ho Chi Minh City (23rd September 2014)
A method to the madness of Saigon, or Ho chi Minh (11th May 2015)