Vietnam Food and Drink
Vietnamese cooking is fresh, flavourful and usually superb, as the profusion of Vietnamese restaurants in New York, London and Berlin attests. Within the country, there’s a plethora of regional variations. And as in all parts of the region, rice or noodles usually form the initial basis of a meal.
Not surprisingly, fish is plentiful. There’s a reliance on fresh herbs and vegetables, as well as the gloriously pungent presence of shrimp paste and fermented fish sauce. Vietnamese cuisine is generally considered healthy.
Pho: An omnipresent noodle soup, usually with meat.
Nem: Spring rolls with pork, noodles, eggs and mushrooms wrapped in rice paper, sometimes fried and served hot.
Banh chung: Sticky rice wrapped in large leaves and cooked for up to 48 hours, to be eaten cold at any time.
Nuoc mam: Fermented fish sauce, widely used.
Bun cha: Grilled pork with cold rice noodles and a big bowl of salad leaves.
Banh bao: A steamed dumpling typically stuffed with onions, pork and other ingredients.
Com hen: Rice served with clams. Popular in Hue.
Lau: Vietnamese hot pot.
Bia hoi: Fresh beer produced daily and served cold in small, local bars. It is not particularly alcoholic but very refreshing.
Coffee: Vietnam is the world’s second largest producer of coffee and the local brew is usually served with condensed milk.
Tipping is now quite customary, especially in tourist areas, and is much appreciated in a country where salaries are still low. Upscale restaurants and hotels may add a 5-10% service charge to the bill.