The use of herbs and spice in Vietnamese gastronomy

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Either you are attending a Southern or Northern Vietnam food tour, you may always find that Vietnam cuisine literally bears a distinctive aroma when put on the scale against other neighboring countries. Graham Holliday, an author of the book Eating Vietnam admitted that the harmony of spice and herbs has paid tribute to the success of Vietnamese dishes.

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The use of herbs and spice

It may come up to countless of the number natural herbs and veggies up and down across the length of this S-shaped country. Some are so unique that they are only spotted out in a significant town or village. The use of fresh vegetables shows up in almost every single daily consumption. Northern Vietnamese, meanwhile, has a slightly less use of veggies in their meals compared to Southern siblings. For instance, Trảng Bảng rice paper in Tây Ninh, a Southern province in the Northern face of Saigon, requires up to 8 or 10 different types of herbs.

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Spice in Vietnamese food

Legume is the key factor highlighting the flavor of each dish in Vietnam’s culinary history. Vietnamese food contains less oil use, which is a great element contributing to its citizens’ good health and body shape. A good local guide may reveal how important it is to create an utmost balance in every single Vietnamese dish during one of your culinary tour in Vietnam, which accordingly results in the balance of one’s internal energy. On the whole, there are 4 main spices in Vietnamese gastronomy, which are saltiness, spiciness, sourness, and sweetness. Yet, these can be slightly adjusted depending on specific individual’s regular taste. Mr. Holliday points out that the use of herbs and spice in Southern Vietnamese dishes brings a controversial sophistication and newfangledness. He also admits that Saigon culinary somehow bears a more diversified look rather than Hanoi’s.

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Healthy Viet dishes

Not to mention, elements that form a significant alteration must be listed as climate condition and soil formation at each area. Available ingredients have a big effect on the locals’ eating habit. For example, when making fish noodle soup, Hanoians and other dwellers living in mainland cities will use fresh-water fish, whilst onshore citizens will definitely catch fish from the ocean for the main element in the dishes. On the other hand, Southern Phở is served with a good amount of fresh veggies and herbs, while in the North, this can be judged as less elegant. In addition, Northern cuisine seems to cut down on the use of spice compared to other regions down South.

Phở-helloVietnam

Phở

The author of Eating Vietnam discloses that foreign visitors should rely on the choice of the natives. If you spot out a long line queueing up in front of a food stall, it is surely a good local brand. If the chef only makes one significant dish, that must be the best choice that has got to offer. Moreover, those who have not been a big fan of street food for long should dust off their prejudice against this nectar of God or else they probably get to miss the best to be offered along the length of Vietnam. Fermented fish noodles, pancakes, rice noodle soup are the big names in Southern Vietnamese culinary, while it must be Bún Chả, or grilled pork with vermicelli noodles in the Northern land, and this is going to be a shining focal point in your Northern Vietnam culinary tour, especially if you take that in Hanoi.

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Fermented fish noodles

Only when having a meal served on the sidewalk of a street, tourists will have a chance to witness their portion to be processed in actual life. A pro tip is that if you are so into one specific dish, just step right into the eatery and make an order with the most generous voice and attitude, you are then loved by the local chef!

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Vietnamese local market

Picking a Vietnam culinary tour is the finest way to get an in-depth sight towards the virtual soul of a nation, and street food is the most excellent reflection. Come to visit Vietnam and open your eyes to realize how broad the topic of Vietnamese cuisine can be, without the only names of Phở, Bánh Mỳ or Spring Rolls.

Bot Chien – the snack of the people in Saigon

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It is a big mistake if you miss Bot Chien during your Saigon food tour as it is one of the most famous must-eat dishes in Saigon.

Coming to Saigon, mentioning about Saigon cuisine, the visitors will easily think about Broken rice. However, Saigon food guides will show you the most well-known dish in Saigon which is Bot Chien or Fried rice flour cake with egg. The yellow square dough is mixed with fried eggs, accompanied with sauce has long become a familiar dish of Saigon diners. This delicious dish has contributed to the variety of Vietnam cuisine in general and Saigon cuisine in particular.

Bot Chien appeared in Saigon since the Chinese immigrated to Southern Vietnam. This is one of the popular food of many people, especially the young.

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This is one of the popular food of many people

How to make Bot Chien?

Bot Chien is processed in many steps but not too fussy. First, the chef will take pieces of steamed cooked dough and slice it into the small square and thick pieces. Then pour oil coated pan surface and drop the dough into the pan.

When the fried dough pieces turn into yellow color, the chef smashes the egg and spread it onto the dough. Eggs should be spread evenly in order to avoid being bored while eating. Normally, the eateries add little green onions to add some green to decorate the dish. After flipping the two sides, the fried dough will be picked up and ready to serve diners.

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Bot Chien is processed in many steps but not too fussy

Drain the dipping sauce into the dishes and mix well, you can enjoy this dish. The fat of the egg, crispy aroma of flour, light sour of vegetable pickles with the tasty sauce will make Bot Chien become an unforgettable afternoon snack to the people and visitors from every corner of the country when visiting Saigon.

This dish is placed on a small plate, served with vegetables pickles and sauces. The sauce will be prepared depending on each chef, but usually, the main ingredients are diluted soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Sellers put the vegetable pickle on top of Bot Chien, and the sauce is filled in a small bowl.

You can easily find a Bot Chien eatery in Saigon

Bot Chien is usually prepared and served in smaller or more traditional restaurants, on strollers on the sidewalk. Saigon people always tell that Bot Chien in Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, District 3, Vo Van Tan, or Tran Dinh Xu – District 1 is delicious with reasonable prices from 15,000 to 25,000 VND.

Located on Vo Van Tan Street, District 3, this Bot Chien eatery has opened for 30 years. The ingredients for making a dish are prepared by the family every day. The flour is the decisive factor of the dish. The dough after frying should be soft, not sticky or tough. In addition to the two main ingredients are flour and eggs, the dish also includes scallions and greaves.

Like other restaurants in Saigon, Bot Chien at this address also added soy sauce and served papaya salad. Soy sauce in the eatery is aromatic, papaya is crunchy and not too sour. Pour the waving sauce on the plate and then scoop up small pieces of flour, eaten with papaya, you will feel the full flavor of the dish. The price for a meal is 26,000 VND.

The shop is open from 16:00 every day but from 17:00 there are crowded. You have to come before the open time in case there are too many people. In addition to the famous Bot Chien dish, the menu also includes dried beef salad, chives cakes, fried macaroni, taro, dumpling and many other delicious dishes,

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A dried beef salad dish price is about 20,000 VND a plate.

The spring roll is also a favorite dish of many customers. Each roll price is 7,000 VND. The Popiah in this restaurant is made from lettuce, cassava, sausage and dried shrimp, which is appreciated by many guests for the price of 4,000 VND per roll. The restaurant also serves a variety of soft drinks such as chives, orange juice, fresh milk, lemon, salt, fresh water, etc.

Bot Chien is really a delicious dish of many generations in Saigon. With Saigon food tour, you will have a chance to experience this tasty food. Furthermore, there are also many dishes in Saigon waiting you to explore. Don’t miss it.

Top 5 breakfasts in Saigon to discover Vietnam cuisine

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Discovering the cuisine of a country is also a way to discover its people and traditions. Today, let’s take a look at 5 best breakfasts in Saigon to find out whether Vietnam cuisine is like what you thought it would be.

Saute bread (Bánh mì chảo)

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Sauté bread Saigon

Saute bread is the best Vietnam food in the morning that can give you enough energy for a long day. It depends on the specific recipe of each restaurant that saute bread has different foods to come with. However, a common dish is composed of two sunny-side-up eggs, sausages, ham, jambon, and liver pate. All are placed on a pan.

The secret lies in the eggs, which need to have a certain consistency and still melt when your pork touches them. To do that, they must be fried on medium heat and done to a turn. The more skillful the cook is, the tastier the dish can be.

If the bread that comes with it is baked until hot and crispy, your saute bread will be perfect. After adding some peppers, green onions, and vegetables, you can enjoy the dish immediately. This is a common food to Saigon people due to the harmony of all flavors just on a small pan.

Broken rice (Cơm tấm)

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Broken rice Saigon

This is an original dish from Southern Vietnam, which has been spread to all regions in the country and even foreign nations. Nevertheless, according to various connoisseurs, only in Saigon can broken rice has its unique flavor. The main ingredient of the dish is the rest of the rice after it is crushed and ground. Because there is still bran in it, broken rice is very delicious and nutritious.

Therefore, it provides you with enough nutrients for a whole day of working or traveling. The most common foods that come with this dish are ribs, fish sauce, and fried purple onions. Having diverse flavors and many colors from ingredients, broken rice is one of the top breakfasts in Saigon.

Although it has a lot of variants with pork or meat pies at the moment, the traditional recipe is preferred the most.

Beef noodle soup (Bún bò)

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Beef noodle soup saigon

You can find beef noodle soup almost everywhere in Saigon. The citizens have it for not only breakfast but also lunch and dinner. Starting from Central Vietnam, the dish has rapidly spread to Southern Vietnam and become one of the best Saigon foods.

After it is imported into Saigon, the cooks have reduced the spiciness and increased the sweetness in its broth. Particularly, the pig feet is added to make the dish more complete and meet the flavors of people in Southern Vietnam. 

To satisfy clients, most restaurants in Saigon make the broth by stewing beef bones and ribs in 10 to 12 hours instead of adding seasoning powder. That is why beef noodle soup always has a bland flavor, bringing us a nice warm meal in the morning. There is nothing better than sitting in the restaurant in winter and enjoy a hot bowl of beef noodle soup.

Steamed rolled rice pancake (Bánh cuốn)

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Steamed rolled rice pancake saigon

When you cannot decide what to eat in Vietnam for breakfast, steamed rolled rice pancakes will be an excellent option. Original from Northern Vietnam, the dish has been “Saigonized” and strongly affected by cuisines of the Chinese living in Saigon.

In Northern Vietnam, steamed rolled rice pancake comes with fried purple onions and roasted cinnamon pork. But in Saigon, it comes with sweet-and-sour fish sauce and chili peppers. Besides common foods such as fermented pork roll, you will find having the dish with purple taro cakes very interesting.

Don’t miss the chance to try a steamed rolled rice pancake when visiting Saigon. It will tell you the most precious values of Southern cuisines. There are a lot of restaurants serving steamed rolled rice pancakes in the city so looking for them is very easy.

Beef cooked with brine (Bò kho)

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Beef cooked with brine saigon

At first glance, beef cooked with brine is somehow similar to ragu or curry in Western countries. Nonetheless, this breakfast dish is completely different. It is much milder than curry in both of its outlook and taste. The broth of beef cooked with brine is less consistent and its flavor is also not as mature as curry.

In fact, the dish has an exclusively sweet taste, which shows a unique Vietnam cuisine and is perfectly fit with the eating habits of people from Southern Vietnam. That is why it is not only a common breakfast but also a famous food to eat between meals.

Because its broth is quite watery so the dish often comes with bread, rice, or noodles. Hence, sometimes, you will see some restaurants serve beef-cooked-with-brine noodle as a special dish. It is simply a variant of the originally popular dish that we love.

Explore different kinds of Che in three Vietnam regions

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As the weather in Vietnam is turning up the heat, one of the most favorite desserts during the hot summer months of Vietnamese is Che (Vietnamese sweet soup). A special thing is that from North to South of Vietnam, Che has different types featuring the regional flavors of each region.

If you are wondering what to eat in Vietnam, let’s explore different kinds of Che with us!

Che is a Vietnamese word describing any traditional Vietnamese sweet beverage, which can available in the form of pudding, or as a plain drink. It can be made from beans, milk, tapioca, fruit, coconut cream, glutinous rice and last but not least, plenty of sugar. Che is a famous Vietnam street food so it could be found easily at various stalls along the roadside. Below are some of the most popular types of Che in three regions of Vietnam:

1. Che in Northern Vietnam

Black bean sweet soup (Chè đỗ đen)

Sweet black bean soup is one of the most favorable desserts in summer for Vietnamese people. Black bean is the only ingredient needed so it is quite easy to cook this soup. Then black beans will be simmered for hours with sugar. Normally, black jelly and coconut are added to the soup to make it more appetizing.

Black bean sweet soup

Black bean sweet soup

Vietnamese sweet ginger rice (Chè con ong)

Because its spicy taste of ginger truly suits with the cold weather in Tet Holiday, this dessert is quite popular in Northern Vietnam. Different from other types of Che, Che con ong features the appearance of sticky rice but a little bit softer. It is one of the most special dishes in Vietnam cuisine that you should not miss.

Vietnamese sweet ginger rice

Vietnamese sweet ginger rice

Sweet Glutinous Rice Dumplings (Chè Trôi Nước)

Chè trôi nước is a kind of sweet glutinous rice dumpling, filled with mung bean paste and cooked in sweet ginger syrup. It is served hot, topped with white sesame and coconut milk. The sweet flavor of rice dumpling and an aromatic ginger fragrance make it a delicious sweet soup.

Sweet Glutinous Rice Dumplings

Sweet Glutinous Rice Dumplings

2. Che in Central Vietnam

Lotus seed and Longan sweet soup (Chè hạt sen long nhãn)

This kind of Che gives us a light and elegant sweetness. Lotus seeds are simmered in sugar for long hours, then cooked with longans, which is a Southeast Asian fruit similar to lychees. This dessert is very good for health and can help you to sleep soundly.

Lotus seed and Longan sweet soup

Lotus seed and Longan sweet soup

Rice Balls with Roasted Pork Filling Sweet Soup (Chè Bột Lọc nhân Heo Quay)

Rice Balls with Roasted Pork Filling Sweet Soup is a special dessert in Hue cuisine. Rice balls are made from cassava powder. Inside the rice ball is a piece of roasted pork, creating both sweetness and saltiness for the soup. This dessert should be enjoyed when it is still hot.

Rice Balls with Roasted Pork Filling Sweet Soup

Rice Balls with Roasted Pork Filling Sweet Soup

Purple Yam Sweet Soup (Chè khoai môn tím)

Thanks to its unique purple color and delicious taste, Purple Yam Sweet Soup is a favorite type of Che in Central Vietnam. The sweet soup is mainly made from purple taro and coconut water, then simmered under low heat until it becomes a condensed mixture. Last but not least, a small amount of sugar is added to balance the taste.

Purple Yam Sweet Soup

Purple Yam Sweet Soup

3. Che in Southern Vietnam

Sweet potato, Taro and Cassava Dessert (Chè Bà Ba)

Che bà ba is a typical Southern Vietnamese dessert, which contains several ingredients, including square pieces of taro, cassava, and long sweet potato. All of these ingredients are then cooked in coconut milk, decorated with translucent tapioca pearls, and topped with roasted sesame or minced peanuts. Its creamy and sweet flavor makes will definitely satisfy your appetite!

Sweet potato, Taro and Cassava Dessert

Sweet potato, Taro and Cassava Dessert

Pomelo sweet soup (Chè bưởi)

Chè bưởi is a typical food that Vietnamese like to eat when it comes to summer. It is amazing idea to enjoy a bowl of chè bưởi in the excessively high temperature. The sweetness of coconut milk and mung bean, along with a little crispy of pomelo meat creating a spectacular dessert that you can never forget. This is the reason why it becomes one of the top street foods in Vietnam.

Pomelo sweet soup

Pomelo sweet soup

Banana Sweet Soup (Chè chuối)

The dish simply contains banana and coconut milk. It is served hot as the hot coconut milk is poured on top of the steamed bananas. Its texture is incredibly soft, rich and creamy with the addictive taste of banana slices and coconut milk.

Banana Sweet Soup

Banana Sweet Soup