Guidebook Food is at the very heart of Vietnamese culture

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Food is at the very heart of Vietnamese culture

“An com chua?” … “have you eaten yet?” If you want to understand Vietnam and the Vietnamese, says Peter Jon Lindberg in Travel and Leisure, this three-word phrase is key. “A friendly greeting exchanged throughout the day, it poses a seemingly mundane question: ‘Have you eaten yet?’” The polite answer, even if you have eaten, advises Lindberg, is “Why, no -- let’s eat!” That’s because “food is at the very heart of Vietnamese culture … almost every aspect of social, devotional, and family life revolves around the procurement, preparation, and shared pleasure of nourishment.” And that includes commercial life -- “more than half of Vietnam’s population makes a living in agriculture or the food trade.”

The staples of Vietnamese meals are rice and noodles, explains Rough Guides. “Typically, rice will be accompanied by a fish or meat dish, a vegetable dish and soup, followed by a green tea digestive … seafood and fish — from rivers, lakes, canals and paddy fields as well as the sea – are favoured throughout the country, either fresh or dried … the most commonly used flavourings are shallots, coriander and lemon grass … ginger, saffron, mint, anise and a basil-type herb also feature strongly, and coconut milk gives some southern dishes a distinctive richness.”

“The influences on Vietnamese food can be narrowed down into three specific areas: regionality, history, and the belief in the healing properties of food. In the north, the cuisine is influenced mainly by the proximity to China as well as food that is tailored to colder climates. Further south, the use of spices and sauces is more prevalent, such as fish sauce, also commonly used in Thai cuisine. It is also the close proximity to the fertile regions of the Mekong that result in an abundance of fruit, vegetables and an array of herbs that make their way onto the dining table. The use of these ingredients is generally seen as bone of contention between the north and the south.” - Jimmy Eats World

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