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Distinct dishes give foods across Vietnam unique culinary values

January 27, 2021 | 07:52

If boiled pork is the signature dish of the northern provinces during Lunar New Year (Tet), boiled pork with sour shrimp and braised pork are, respectively, indispensable on the menu of the Central and Southern people.

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Northern region

According to culinary artist Anh Tuyet, a traditional Tet food tray must have a plate of red sticky rice, Chung cake, pickled onions, spring roll, pork sausage, meat jelly. Jelly meat is a typical dish during cold winter days of nothern people.

In addition to these dishes, each family can diversify their meal with other options such as boiled chicken, bamboo shoot soup, fried vermicelli, etc. According to Anh Tuyet, a traditional Tet food tray in the past normally consisted of 4 bowls and 4 plates. Rich families, however, could afford a tray of 6 bowls, 6 plates, or even 8 bowls, 8 plates.

A typical New Year food tray of a northern family (Photo: VNE)
A typical New Year food tray of a northern family (Photo: VNE)

Characteristics of cuisine Northern Vietnam

Northern cuisine represents the culinary elite of the North. This place is considered the best place to keep the culinary culture of Vietnam. Consequently, from the method of preparation of the ingredients to the processing, the name of the dish is always simple and rustic, but still retains the very subtle trait of the Hanoian.

According to Asia Tour Advisor, northerner’s taste is not too spicy, but rather frugal, sweet in each dish. They focus on flavors such as chili, lemongrass, pepper,… as an indispensable thing in almost all their dishes, but the amount of spice used should be enough, not too much, in order that the natural flavor of the main ingredients in the dish will not be lost. It is this “balance” created the ethereal and delicate characteristics for northern cuisine in particular and for Vietnamese cuisine in general.

Central region

Central provinces, including Hue imperial city, normally has at least 7 dishes on the tray, including Chung cake, or Tet cake, stews, boiled pork with sour shrimp, simmered shrimp, fried fish, one stir-fried dish, pickles, not to mention boiled chicken, sticky rice, sweet soup. Pork sausage, fermented pork rolls, Hue ram, salad are other must-haves on Tet tray of Central people.

A New Year food tray of Central people must have at least 7 dishes (Photo: VNE)
A New Year food tray of Central people must have at least 7 dishes (Photo: VNE)

Characteristics of cuisine in Central Vietnam

Central Vietnam is not favored by nature and often suffers from bad weather, the central region often encounters many natural disasters each year. Probably because of this, the people here always know how to appreciate and extract gifts, food sources from nature in their dishes, which have a rich taste typical of people of the Center. And tourists, once enjoying the dishes of Center, will never be able to forget the flavor.

We can clearly see that the peculiarity of the cuisine of the Center is harmony, the mixture of many spices. We often say that “the inhabitants of the Center love to eat spicy and salty dishes to fight against the biting cold of time”, it really makes sense in this case!

Southern region

Tet cake, bitter melon soup stuffed with meat and braised duck are among the indispensable dish to celebrate the Tet – the biggest annual festival of the country. According to chef Tran Ngoc Sang, it is traditionally reputed that eating the bitter melon soup (means khổ qua in Vietnamese) will dispel the bad lucks of the old year and usher in good fortunes in the coming year.

The braised pork belly with eggs is another iconic dish of Northern provinces during the Lunar New Year. The square shape of the meat symbolizes the earth, meanwhile, the round egg symbolizes heaven. Thus, the square meat and round eggs if go together would signify a fulfilled and complete New Year. Fruit jams, candies are for dessert.

Braised pork belly with eggs is iconic in the Southern region in New Year (Photo: VNE)
Braised pork belly with eggs is iconic in the Southern region in New Year (Photo: VNE)

Characteristics of cuisine in Southern Vietnam

Having a favorable and alluvial geographic position, the cuisine of the South not only absorbs the quintessence of Vietnamese cuisine, but is also influenced by neighboring countries such as Thailand, Cambodia,… Not sophisticated like the royal cuisine of the Center, the Southern dishes bring a soft and popular but very varied trait.

Like the warm southerners, the dishes in this region are all sweet. Typical dishes such as: cakes (printed cakes, sticky rice cakes, beef cakes,…), sweet soups (Ms. Ba sweet soup, banana sweet soup), sticky rice, grilled meat ball, chicken porridge, chicken curry,…

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