Interesting food facts in Vietnam

Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnam is a culinary paradise, boasting a diverse and flavorful cuisine that reflects the country’s rich history and cultural influences. From the aromatic pho to the delectable banh mi, Vietnamese food offers a tantalizing array of flavors that will delight even the most discerning palate. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of Vietnamese cuisine, uncovering its history, iconic dishes, unique ingredients, and cultural significance.

History of Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnam’s culinary traditions have been shaped by a multitude of factors, including its geographic location, foreign influences, and cultural diversity. The country’s long history of trade and colonization has played a significant role in shaping its cuisine, resulting in a harmonious blend of flavors and cooking techniques.

Ancient Origins

The origins of Vietnamese cuisine can be traced back to the ancient kingdoms of Văn Lang and Âu Lạc, where wet-rice cultivation formed the foundation of the country’s agricultural practices. These early civilizations relied heavily on locally grown ingredients, such as rice, fish, and various herbs and spices, laying the groundwork for the vibrant flavors that characterize Vietnamese cuisine today.

Chinese Influences

During the Chinese domination period, which lasted for over a millennium, Vietnamese cuisine absorbed Chinese culinary influences. This cultural exchange introduced techniques like stir-frying, the use of chopsticks, and the incorporation of soy sauce and rice noodles into Vietnamese dishes.

French Colonial Impact

The French colonization of Vietnam, which began in the late 19th century, left an indelible mark on the country’s culinary landscape. French influences can be seen in the use of baguettes in banh mi sandwiches, the incorporation of pâté and mayonnaise, and the adoption of baking techniques for pastries like bánh mì and bánh patê sô.

Popular Dishes in Vietnam

Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its harmonious balance of flavors, textures, and aromas. Here are some of the most popular and iconic dishes that have become synonymous with Vietnam’s culinary heritage.


Arguably the most well-known Vietnamese dish, pho is a noodle soup that has captured the hearts and palates of people worldwide. This iconic dish features rice noodles, thinly sliced beef or chicken, fresh herbs, and a flavorful broth that is simmered for hours with spices like star anise, cinnamon, and cloves.

Banh Mi

Banh mi, a Vietnamese-style sandwich, is a beloved street food that showcases the fusion of French and Vietnamese culinary influences. This portable delight features a crispy baguette filled with savory ingredients like pork, pâté, pickled vegetables, and an array of fresh herbs and sauces.

Goi Cuon (Fresh Spring Rolls)

Goi cuon, or fresh spring rolls, are a popular Vietnamese appetizer that epitomize the fresh and healthy aspects of the cuisine. These delicate rolls are filled with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and a variety of ingredients like shrimp, pork, or vegetables, all wrapped in a translucent rice paper wrapper and served with a flavorful dipping sauce.

Unique Ingredients Used in Vietnamese Cooking

Vietnamese cuisine is characterized by the use of distinctive ingredients that lend unique flavors and aromas to the dishes. Here are some of the most notable ingredients that make Vietnamese food stand out:

Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam)

Fish sauce, or nuoc mam, is a staple ingredient in Vietnamese cooking. This pungent sauce, made from fermented anchovies, salt, and water, adds a savory depth of flavor to many dishes and is often used as a dipping sauce or a seasoning.

Fresh Herbs

Vietnamese cuisine heavily incorporates fresh herbs, such as cilantro, mint, basil, and rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), which add vibrant flavors and aromas to the dishes. These herbs are not just garnishes but essential components that elevate the overall taste and complexity of the meals.

Chili Peppers

Chili peppers, both fresh and dried, play a significant role in Vietnamese cuisine. They add a delightful heat and depth of flavor to many dishes, ranging from soups and stir-fries to dipping sauces and condiments.

Street Food Culture in Vietnam

Vietnam is renowned for its vibrant street food culture, where vendors offer an array of delectable and affordable treats on every corner. From bustling markets to sidewalk stalls, the street food scene is an integral part of Vietnamese daily life and a must-experience for any culinary enthusiast.

Popular Street Foods

Some of the most popular Vietnamese street foods include:

  • Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches)
  • Banh xeo (Vietnamese crispy crepes)
  • Bun cha (Grilled pork with noodles)
  • Goi cuon (Fresh spring rolls)
  • Banh trang nuong (Grilled rice paper rolls)

Street Food Tours

Many cities in Vietnam offer street food tours, allowing visitors to explore the local culinary scene and sample a variety of dishes from different vendors. These tours provide an immersive experience, offering insights into the culture, history, and traditions behind each dish.

Traditional Vietnamese Cooking Techniques

Vietnamese cuisine is characterized by a range of traditional cooking techniques that have been passed down through generations. These techniques not only contribute to the unique flavors and textures of the dishes but also reflect the cultural heritage and ingenuity of the Vietnamese people.

Nuoc Mam (Fish Sauce) Preparation

The preparation of nuoc mam, or fish sauce, is a time-honored tradition in Vietnam. This essential ingredient is made by fermenting anchovies or other small fish with salt, allowing the mixture to age for several months or even years to develop its distinctive flavor and aroma.

Grilling and Smoking

Grilling and smoking are popular techniques used in Vietnamese cuisine, particularly for preparing meat and seafood dishes. These methods add a unique smoky flavor and tender texture to the ingredients, creating dishes like thit nuong (grilled pork) and ca nuong (grilled fish).


Steaming is a healthy and delicate cooking method employed in Vietnamese cuisine, often used for preparing dishes like banh bao (steamed buns) and banh cuon (steamed rice rolls). This technique helps to retain the natural flavors and nutrients of the ingredients while creating a delicate texture.

Influence of French Colonization on Vietnamese Cuisine

The French colonization of Vietnam, which lasted from the late 19th century until the mid-20th century, had a profound impact on the country’s culinary landscape. This cultural exchange resulted in the fusion of French and Vietnamese culinary traditions, giving rise to unique dishes and flavors that are now integral to Vietnamese cuisine.

Bread and Pastries

The French influence can be seen in the widespread use of baguettes and pastries in Vietnamese cuisine. Dishes like banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) and bánh patê sô (Vietnamese pâté chaud) showcase this fusion, combining French bread and pâté with Vietnamese flavors and ingredients.

Dairy Products

While not traditionally part of Vietnamese cuisine, the French introduced dairy products like butter, cream, and cheese, which are now used in various dishes and desserts. For example, bánh flan (Vietnamese crème caramel) and bánh su kem (Vietnamese choux pastry) incorporate these French-inspired ingredients.

Coffee Culture

The French also brought their love for coffee to Vietnam, which led to the development of a thriving coffee culture in the country. Vietnamese coffee, often served with condensed milk, has become a beloved beverage enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Health Benefits of Vietnamese Food

Vietnamese cuisine is not only delicious but also offers a range of health benefits due to its focus on fresh ingredients, balance of flavors, and cooking techniques that preserve the nutritional value of the dishes.

High in Antioxidants

Many Vietnamese dishes incorporate fresh herbs and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals and oxidative stress. Ingredients like cilantro, mint, and chili peppers are excellent sources of antioxidants.

Low in Fat

Vietnamese cuisine tends to be low in fat, as it relies heavily on lean proteins like fish and poultry, as well as vegetables and herbs. Traditional cooking methods, such as steaming and grilling, further reduce the need for added oils or fats.

Rich in Probiotics

Fermented foods, like nuoc mam (fish sauce) and pickled vegetables, are common in Vietnamese cuisine. These fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which can promote a healthy gut microbiome and improve overall digestive health.

Vietnamese Dining Etiquette

Vietnamese dining etiquette reflects the country’s rich cultural heritage and traditions. Understanding and respecting these customs can enhance your dining experience and demonstrate respect for the local culture.

Family-Style Dining

In Vietnam, it is commonto have family-style dining, where dishes are placed in the center of the table for everyone to share. It is considered polite to serve others before serving yourself and to use serving utensils rather than your own chopsticks or spoons to take food from communal dishes.

Chopstick Etiquette

Chopsticks are the primary eating utensils in Vietnam, and there are certain etiquette rules to follow when using them. It is impolite to leave chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl of rice, as this resembles incense offerings made to the deceased. Instead, place chopsticks horizontally across the top of your bowl when you are not eating.

Toasting Customs

When sharing a meal with others in Vietnam, it is common to make a toast before drinking. The youngest or most junior person at the table usually initiates the toast, and it is customary to clink glasses with everyone present before taking a sip. It is polite to hold your glass lower than the glass of the person who is older or of higher status.

Regional Variations in Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnam’s diverse geography and rich cultural history have given rise to distinct regional variations in cuisine, each with its unique flavors, ingredients, and cooking styles. From the northern highlands to the Mekong Delta in the south, exploring these regional differences offers a deeper appreciation of Vietnam’s culinary heritage.

Northern Cuisine

Northern Vietnamese cuisine is known for its subtle flavors and incorporation of Chinese culinary influences. Dishes often feature freshwater fish, pork, and a variety of herbs and vegetables. Popular dishes include pho (noodle soup), bun cha (grilled pork with noodles), and cha ca (turmeric fish with dill).

Central Cuisine

Central Vietnamese cuisine is characterized by spicy and bold flavors, influenced by the former royal capital of Hue. Dishes from this region often feature chili peppers, lemongrass, and shrimp paste. Some iconic dishes include bun bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) and banh khoai (crispy rice flour pancakes).

Southern Cuisine

Southern Vietnamese cuisine is known for its sweeter and more tropical flavors, reflecting the abundance of fruits and vegetables in the Mekong Delta. Coconut milk, sugar cane, and fresh herbs are commonly used in dishes like goi cuon (fresh spring rolls), com tam (broken rice), and hu tieu (pork and seafood noodle soup).

Famous Food Markets in Vietnam

Food markets are an essential part of Vietnamese culinary culture, offering a vibrant and bustling environment where locals and tourists alike can sample fresh produce, street food, and regional specialties. Visiting these famous food markets provides a sensory experience that immerses visitors in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Vietnam.

Ben Thanh Market (Ho Chi Minh City)

Ben Thanh Market is one of the oldest and most famous markets in Ho Chi Minh City, offering a wide range of goods, including fresh produce, meats, seafood, and street food stalls. Visitors can sample local delicacies like pho, banh mi, and fresh tropical fruits while shopping for souvenirs and handicrafts.

Dong Xuan Market (Hanoi)

Dong Xuan Market is the largest covered market in Hanoi, located in the historic Old Quarter. This bustling market is a maze of narrow alleyways filled with vendors selling everything from fresh produce and spices to clothing and electronics. Visitors can try traditional Hanoi dishes like bun cha and banh cuon at the market’s food stalls.

Hoi An Central Market (Hoi An)

Hoi An Central Market is a vibrant and colorful market located near the Thu Bon River in the ancient town of Hoi An. The market is known for its fresh seafood, herbs, and textiles, as well as its street food vendors serving up local specialties like cao lau (noodle dish) and white rose dumplings. Visitors can also participate in cooking classes and market tours to learn more about Vietnamese ingredients and cuisine.


In conclusion, Vietnamese cuisine is a harmonious blend of flavors, textures, and aromas that reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage and diverse regional influences. From popular dishes like pho and banh mi to unique ingredients like fish sauce and fresh herbs, Vietnamese food offers a culinary experience that is both satisfying and nourishing. The street food culture, traditional cooking techniques, and French colonial influence all contribute to the depth and complexity of Vietnamese cuisine, making it a favorite among food enthusiasts worldwide. Whether exploring the bustling food markets of Ho Chi Minh City or savoring regional specialties in Hoi An, Vietnam’s culinary landscape is sure to delight and inspire all who partake in its gastronomic delights.

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