Vietnam Cuisine brings its own culture from the North, Central and South. Each region has its local cuisine, which is affected by people’s habits and rich natural conditions, and creates the diversity of the country’s cuisine. Vietnamese culinary culture is formed and developed in association with the development of the society. Nowadays, Vietnamese cuisine, after undergoing long-term development of national history, is diverse and harmonious.
There are authentic Vietnamese dishes, and dishes are influenced by Chinese culture, French cuisine and Indian cuisine… Through the trade between countries, Vietnam cuisine is influenced by India food with typical spices and dishes. The historical period of nearly 1,000 years under Chinese domination, has showed that not only writing but also cooking and eating habits are affected from China, creates a system of Chinese-Vietnamese cuisine . Besides, with nearly 100 years under French colonial rule, Vietnam cuisine is impacted greatly from French’s typical cooking style with lots of sauce, broth.
Because of the development of globalization and international economic integration, Vietnamese culinary culture has more favorable conditions to continuing development and growth. Food culture is basically constituted by tangible and intangible elements. In particular, expressions of the immaterial nature of culinary activities are: the rituals, how to perform culinary activities; how to select ingredients, spices; how to arrange and manage daily meals, etc. Tangible factors include food and drink are formed, developed and shaped with various and plentiful characteristics. Vietnam exists four main categories:
- Authentic Vietnamese cuisine: although they experience many ups and downs of history, they remains unchanged, with bold Vietnamese characters.
- Food with influence of Chinese food culture: using lots of fat or vegetable oil in cooking, has strong influence from China, and special seasoning (using medicinal herbs).
- Food with influence of French cuisine: using sauces in cooking. The food is used cooked with different sauces and broths: sweet and sour sauce, spicy and sour sauce, clear broth.
- Food with influence of Indian culture and Southeast Asian cuisine: using spices sourced from India.
The culinary culture, especially cooking, seasoning, and values in terms of look and feel, are acquired and changed by Vietnamese to suit the needs, interests and living conditions. For example, influenced dishes from China do not have too much fat in the processing. On the other hand, Vietnamese culinary culture is influenced by French cuisine but is not too picky in using sauces as French; influenced dishes from India, Thailand but the food is not too spicy, etc.
Also, Vietnamese dishes are prepared according to the principles of yin and yang harmony. Vietnamese discriminate the food according to five levels of yin and yang, which apply five elements : cold (Water, more yin), heat (Fire, more yang), warm (Wood, less yang), cool (Metal, less yin) and average (Earth). To create the harmony of yin and yang, it is role of different types of spices: sour, bitter, salty, sweet and other herbs. The Northern cuisine has relative harmony in taste: spicy, sour, salty, sweet. The Central cuisine is hot spicy and salty. The Southern cuisine is spicy, sweet and succulent with coconut water. The distinctive characteristic is due to the influence of regional climate.
Eating habits of Vietnamese are also different. Using common sauce, eating with chopsticks, using common serving tools like spoon, fork… have shown bold eating traditional ethnic culture. Drinks are also very diversified, seasonal reflecting, link to the climate, natural conditions and regional custom.
This post is translated from the Vietnamese article “EXPLOITING THE VALUE OF CUISINE TO ATTRACT INTERNATIONAL TOURISTS”, of Le Anh Tuan, and Pham Manh Cuong, Cultural Research Magazine, Hanoi University Of Culture