There is a certain sound of solitary quietness when bent over a steaming hot bowl of phở, slurping away and sucking at noodles. The broth is laced with warm fragrant spices of star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon and cloves with top notes of fresh spring onions, coriander, basil, saw tooth herbs and citrus lemon linger the air.
Vietnamese cuisine is one of the most flavoursome in the world with many of its basic principles based on satisfying every taste bud of the tongue. Cooking is about fine tuning tasting skills to balance and master sweet, sour, salty, umani, bitter and hot flavours. It is about combining perfect textures such as silky meat/ fish with crunchy vegetables or herbs to satisfy the bite.
|bun bo hue -lemongrass beef noodle soup, morning glory, banana blossom|
|Cari Ga - chicken curry with okra|
Vietnamese food is about accomplishing a perfect balance in taste, in texture and the lightness of being. Many people naturally follow the yin and yang principles in combining ingredients, for example, a soup with heaty ginger to warm up the body is contrasted with refreshing cool leaves like pak choi to harmonise the feeling in your body. Eating in balance is a major factor in keeping healthy and many believe that food is medicine. Having too much bread, wheat or fried foods can have an effect on your body, making it heat up. To maintain an equilibrium, plenty of delicious cooling shakes, like avocado, papaya, pennyswort and watermelon etc are drank as snacks especially in the evenings to freshen and lighten the body before bed.
The Vietnamese has taken much inspiration from it occupiers, especially from the French. The streets are buzzing with food and its aromas. Barbequed meats fill baguettes (bánh mì), hot pork pastries, crunchy carrot salads and beef steaks with fries – French potatoes. The famous noodle soup, phở, was influenced by the French’s famous casserole: pot-au-feu (pot of fire) and you would find many Vietnamese words reflect a French one, like pate, phở –(feu), bò bít tết (beef steak), pâté so (pate chaud), cà rốt (carrot) …
Vietnamese people love eating so much that they have a term called “an choi” which means to eat playfully, like to snack! There are many small and light street food portions that one would pick up, eat and go – throughout the day. Sometimes they are even referred to as gifts to the mouth. There isn’t a starter, main and dessert – there are snacks, meals in one dish and family meals with many plates all served at once. Vietnamese food is all about the love of food, flavour, eating and how food is love.