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Characteristics of Vietnam's Cuisines

1. Variety

With its major staple food being rice, Vietnam has been the cradle of wet rice and throughout times has turned rice into its national food. Vietnamese people have used the grain of rice to create a variety of dishes, namely plain rice, congee, steamed sticky rice, rice wine, rice noodle, rice vermicelli; followed by rice cake, rice paper, rice crackers and hundreds of other items. Taking plain rice as an example, there are many different recipes including rice in clay pot, pressed rice balls, rice in bamboo tube, plain rice mixed with sweet potato, bean or tapioca; for sticky rice, there is a dozen of varieties including steamed rice with mung beans and shredded pork, rice with crushed mung beans, rice with plain beans, and rice with sweet spiny gourd pulps, etc.; for rice vermicelli, there is another dozen of dishes including vermicelli with grilled pork paste, vermicelli with spring rolls, vermicelli with paddy crab paste, and vermicelli with beef. These varieties are quite rich and are continuously improved to become more and more abundant.

2. Low-fat diet

Vietnamese people usually subsist on a low-fat diet and consume less fatty foods, which does not make one feel unappetizing. Most of the dishes are prepared from plant products, vegetables, beans and fishes, especially freshwater fishes that live and grow up in the same environment as the wet rice.

3. Abundance and subtlety of spices and sauces.

The abundance and subtlety usually follow the principle: one sauce fits one dish. The sauces consist of fermented liquid, creamy or semi-solid components of saltwater and freshwater fishes, or shrimps and crustaceans. Additionally, there are also sauces of fermented plant products, being beans, maize, soy bean, and other mixed seasonings from table salt, lime, chilli, black pepper, and ginger.

4. General blend of many components and tastes.

Within one meal, there are usually many dishes with different tastes like hot, sour, sweet, salty accompanied by a variety of ingredients. Fishes, shrimps and meat are always cooked with vegetables insofar as to diminish the fatty and oily level, which originates from Yin Yang concepts, or cold and heat. As a consequence, half-hatched duck eggs should go well with Polygonum odoratum, Vietnamese coriander; clams and oysters should be steamed together with ginger, lemon grass, and chilli.

5. Tasty and healthy

Tastiness means:

• Fresh foods.
• A cooking method that least damages the food nutrients, which includes steaming and grilling, insofar as to maintain the food flavour.
• Yin Yang harmony.
• Use of vegetable pickles, including scallion, sauerkraut salad, green leafy vegetables, morning glory, banana sprouts, bean sprouts, green papaya, white radish, carrot, and cucumber, which stimulates a smooth and easy digestion of high-calorie foods.

(The views expressed in this page are for illustration purpose and solely those of the writers.)