The country of Vietnam is divided into 3 distinctive sections: Northern, Southern and Central. Vietnamese cuisine in each section brings different tastes and flavors. However, in general each dish is made from many different ingredients and Vietnamese have a habit of using lots of spices. It brings the unmistakable taste to any gourmet dish even if its the first time you’ve tasted it.
Northern Vietnam cuisine doesn’t usually focus on lots of spice, fattiness or salt because it has to strictly follow the ancient family recipes. Northern Vietnamese people are very reluctant to change the recipes, because they believe all the recipes of old are the best and were handed down from generation to generation. However, don’t assume that Northern cuisine isn’t creative. If you have the chance to pass by Hanoi or the Nam Dinh province, one must try food is Pho.
CNN voted Pho as one of the top 50 most delicious foods on the planet. Pho is rice noodle mixed with soup and beef or chicken. Northern Vietnamese people have a special recipe for the soup. It normal made from 10 – 15 different ingredients and each vendor keeps his/her recipe a closely guarded secret.
You can smell the delicious flavors of Pho from quite a distance; “Pho” was a typical smell throughout small alleys in Hanoi for decades. In Southern Vietnam, people also make “Pho” but it has a very different taste. The taste of Southern Pho is sweeter and less flavorful than Hanoi or Nam Dinh Province. Northern Vietnamese foods normally have stronger tastes than anywhere else in Vietnam.
Moving South in Vietnam to the central area of Vietnam, we meet very different type of food. Central area of Vietnam was formal capital of Vietnam where king’s and queen’s lived. Therefore, foods in the Central area of Vietnam are always well-decorated and sophisticated.
However, the agriculture products in the central of Vietnam is not as various as Northern or South. Chef’s from long time ago had to try their best in creating lots of foods from rice. They create many types of rice noodles to combine with various soups. The soup normally is made from pork ribs, chicken bones and spices vegetable’s.
The Central of Vietnam foods are a fine balance of taste: not too sour, not too salty or sweet. Central people also have habit to eat every meal in small portions like: small bowls, small dishes and they don’t eat as much as Northern or Southern people. Some typical dishes such as: Banh beo (rice boiling cake which is put inside a small-shallow bowl), Hen xuc (small oysters combine with dry rice cake and black sesames), chicken rice Hoi An and so on.
Southern foods are also different from these 2 other places. Being affected by Chinese from long time ago, Southern cuisine is perfect mixture of Chinese and Vietnamese foods. Southern foods are sweeter than in North and Central Vietnam. Many dishes are mixed with coconut milk like: sticky rice with mango and coconut milk.
Not like in the North, people prefer to use fresh water fishes or shrimps, people in South prefer to use salt water fishes, snails or crabs. Southern people are open and friendly, therefore their foods reflect exactly their wildlife. They love fish or chicken which is covered in mud and baked over the fire. If you want to experience something really “adventurous”, you may try snake porridge or lizards fried. Somehow it’s really delicious somehow it’s a bit scary, but from my point of view, it’s worth a try.
In general, Vietnamese foods are made from 3 elements: taste, color and decoration. You rarely see a food in Vietnam with single color dimension. A dish is always a symphony of colors: red of meat, green of scallions, white of rice and many more. Even in North or South, people tend to add more spice as their taste. However, gourmet always can see the balance and sophistication in the way Vietnamese cook.