Vietnamese food: More than what it seems
Vietnamese food is very interesting and delicious to boot. The food encompasses five fundamental taste elements in each meal.
Vietnamese food is very interesting and delicious to boot. The food encompasses five fundamental taste elements in each meal. The food is packed with flavour that will bring your taste buds to life. Each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavor which reflects one or more of these elements. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables. With the balance between fresh herbs and meats and a selective use of spices to reach a fine taste, Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.
Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, and fruits and vegetables. Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime, and basil leaves. These ingredients help to balance the five elements found in Vietnamese food, namely; spicy, sweet, bitter, sour and salty. These elements correspond to five organs, namely; urinary bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach and gall bladder, five types of nutrients; powder, liquid, mineral elements, protein and fat, and they appeal to the five senses. Vietnamese cooks try to have five colours in the cuisine each time, white (metal), green (wood), yellow (Earth), red (fire) and black (water). Thus the food is not only healthy and delicious but there is a definite philosophy behind the preparation of the meal.
The principle of yin and yang is applied in composing a meal in a way that provides a balance that is beneficial for the body. While contrasting texture and flavors are important, the principal primarily concerns the “heating” and “cooling” properties of ingredients. Certain dishes are served in their respective seasons to provide contrasts in temperature and spiciness of the food and environment. Some examples are:
- Duck meat, considered “cool”, is served during the hot summer with ginger fish sauce, which is “warm”. Conversely, chicken, which is “warm”, and pork, which is “hot”, are eaten in the winter.
- Seafoods ranging from “cool” to “cold” are suitable to use with ginger (“warm”).
- Spicy food (“hot”) are typically balanced with sourness, which is considered “cool”.
- Balut (hột vịt lộn), meaning “upside-down egg” (“cold”), must be combined with Vietnamese mint (rau răm) (“hot”).