Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens – one of the best highlights of Vietnamese food

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As a tourism destination, Vietnam food has been one of the most seductive and varied all over the world and brought a wonderful influence in the areas more than several decades. However, one of the most amazing aspects is that there are more and more people who decide to learn and study about Vietnamese cuisine. Vietnamese food is widely voted as the healthiest dishes’ listed all around the world by a great number of famous chefs.

While enjoying your Vietnam culinary tour with your family and friends, you will easily find out that the cuisine of this country has been influenced by some neighbor countries surrounding, in particular, China. But the brightest highlights of Vietnam cuisine are the harmony of the variety of flavors and fresh ingredients. You will certainly find the great balance in the flavors of bitter, sour, spicy and salty of the food while you are experiencing your Vietnam food tour. The dishes tend to be lighter, fresh and less spicy which is quite similar to other neighboring countries such as Cambodia and Thailand. A typical meal of Vietnamese people usually consists of rice, a vegetable dish, a bowl of soup, grilled, steamed or boiled meats, salad and fresh fruits as deserts. Especially, all of these are placed on the table at once.  In particular, Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens (Dưa Muối) is seriously considered as one of the most important dishes that is indispensable in a traditional meal. Now follow this article and get more detailed information about this popular dish to make your food tours in Vietnam more complete.

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An important dish in Vietnamese family’s meal

Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens

Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens or Dưa muối or Cải chua is one common type of traditional pickles of Vietnamese culture. You may not find those dishes on any menus of Vietnamese restaurants; however, they are made and served in every Vietnamese family and in every meal. Pickled Mustard Greens is a perfect choice to eat together with a lot of salty homemade dishes such as braised and caramelized pork belly with hard-boiled eggs (thịt kho trứng) and braised and caramelized catfish in a clay pot (cá kho tộ). In Northern Vietnam, locals commonly eat this dish with jellied meat (thịt đông) – a traditional and popular dish usually cooked in winter.

Pickled Mustard Greens is absolutely one of the dishes you should not miss out when you have your Vietnam food tour. As it is your first time mustering up all of your courage to try this dish, it actually has a lot of fun. It has various textures, is less pungent and crunchy which make this dish seriously fun to enjoy. In fact, some people like eating the leaves while some only prefer the crunchier branches. As a result, each big jar of pickled mustard greens in every Vietnamese family is different depending on their tastes.

Additionally, pickled mustard greens with its sour, spicy and a little pungent flavor also make a great accompaniment to many other countries’ cuisine, for example, grilled sausage, fried fish, Cajun-style seafood, rice and meatballs and even some noodle soups of Korean and Chinese. What’s more, you can also add pickled mustard greens into pork or beef bone soup to make a great flavor that you only can find in Vietnam tailor-made tours.

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Vietnamese pickled mustard greens

There are a lot of things to remember when you want to make home-made Vietnamese pickled mustard greens.

Firstly, how to choose perfect mustard greens for your pickling recipes? The answer is that you should pick matured mustard green which has more stems than other younger ones. The older ones will contain less water, has amazingly stronger taste, and are much crunchier.

In addition, it is very important to carefully prepare the container jars. You can use an Earthenware jar or a glass one, but remember to soak it into extremely hot waters or especially boiling water for about ten minutes. And then, drain and put it aside. One more thing is that you need to use water free and oil-free tools while taking out some of the pickled mustard greens. In particular, all the mustard green must be soaked carefully and cleanly in the water. These steps help you keep you pickled mustard greens fresh for a longer time which can even up to be several months.

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You can make this dish at home

It seemed to be a little weird when you see pickled mustard greens for the first time in your Vietnam food tour. However, do not worry, give it a try and you will definitely like it.

What to know about Vietnamese fish sauce

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We might have all had the taste of Vietnamese fish sauce at some point, be it ladled over noodle salad known as bún bò xào, stirred into soup, or slathered on Vietnamese grilled pork and noodles (bún thịt nướng) on your Vietnam culinary tours. But how many of us actually know where it comes from? This quick guide will help you unearth a few secrets behind fish sauce or nước mắm – the mother sauce of classical Vietnamese cuisine.

What Is Fish Sauce Made of?

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Fish sauce appears in all Vietnamese meals

Good fish sauces are the water or juice, in the flesh of fish that is extracted in the process of prolonged salting and fermentation for from 1 year to 18 months. Anchovies (cá cơm) are typically used, however, some fish sauces are also made from small fish that would otherwise have little value for consumption.

The basic ingredients of a good fish sauce – small fish and/or fish blood, and innards are packed into large barrels, jars, or crocks with water and layered with salt. Then, these barrels are set out under the hot sunlight for at least 12 months. A whiff from the bottle of fish sauce reveals its strong aroma and alludes to its very distinct, incredibly potent taste and you might notice a small difference when using one for the other. In case you are not yet familiar with nước mắm, it is that salty smelly rich translucent reddish-golden brown liquid made from fish that is the single, most important flavoring ingredient in Vietnam’s cuisine.

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How is fish sauce made?

Used like plain salt and pepper in Western cuisine and soy sauce in Chinese and Japanese cuisines, good-quality fish sauce adds a unique character to Vietnamese dishes and imparts a distinct aroma and flavor. It is used liberally in nearly all Vietnamese dishes since Vietnamese food would not be quite the same without it.

It is indispensable in all the Vietnamese kitchens. Ever tried fried spring rolls and noodle salad known as bún bò xào? The small bowl of sauce accompanied by your dish is fish sauce. And going a culinary tour in Vietnam as you quickly learn, Vietnamese cuisine is all about the fish sauce. By itself, fish sauce is very salty, which is why it is usually cooked with other ingredients and used as a finishing sauce.

This kind of sauce packs tons of flavors and enhances whatever it is served with. In the culinary arts, fish sauce is essentially delicately flavored, well-balanced fish sauce, which is the starting point for making various secondary sauces or “small sauces.”

How to make nước chấm or nước mắm chấm?

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Nuoc cham recipe

Fish sauce is usually not consumed in its original state, it is often used as a marinade for fish and meat or can be made into many secondary sauces called Vietnamese dipping sauce (nước chấm) to be served with nem or chả giò (fried egg rolls), gỏi cuốn (spring rolls or summer rolls), bánh xèo (sizzling cake), bánh hỏi (steamed rolls made of rice-flour), bánh cuốn (Vietnamese rolled rice cake), thịt nướng (grilled pork), and cá chiên (fried fish) just to barely name a few. Nước chấm is made by adding water, citrus (lime juice and/or vinegar), sugar, spices, chopped chilies, finely chopped garlic, or other ingredients into the bottled fish sauce.

Fish sauce is a base to open up a world of culinary possibilities. When combined with other ingredients like sugar, lime juice, and chilies, the “fishiness” mellows out and its ability to add richness and a layer of flavor to everything it touches becomes apparent. It is interesting to know is that not all fish sauce is created equal and the way to prepare nước chấm can vary from region to region throughout Vietnam. Depending on the kind you use, you will need to put your own twists on this recipe or adjust the amount used. This nước chấm deal is all about making it fit your taste. The quality is different among different brands of fish sauce. And Red Boat and 3 Crabs are the most popular brands of Vietnamese fish sauce.

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Fish sauce is so important to Vietnamese cuisine

Both a flavoring element and providing the salt for the dish it is included in, fish sauce is so important to the cuisine of Vietnam that almost all known Vietnamese recipes call for it. You have been mystified by Vietnamese cuisine and wondered what is in it that makes it so good. Wonder no more! Let’s go on a Vietnam food tour!

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.

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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.

Vietnam food tour – four worldwide-known hideout eateries you cannot miss

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For the past four years, I have been working as City tour guide in Saigon and met loads of people from every single corner on Earth. And one of the best things about being a guide is you can share and learn all at the same time.

So what I have learned from all these foreign friends of mine is that they, or possibly you, somehow do a few research before coming here, and yeah, that is the reason why you guys all come up with a lot of reputed restaurants in the city that somehow helps the places get more “traffic” as days go by. Today’s article is all about highly famous eateries that you can possibly drop by to get the best taste they get to offer. 

Banh My Huynh Hoa

I have heard so many times that my guests had mentioned a lot about this place. For those who have no idea what Banh My is like, it is a fusion of both French baguette but Vietnamized in a basic way. A piece of Banh My contains both softness and crunch at the same time.

Just a half of it can make you full

Just a half of it can make you full

Back to Saigon, the most praised and talked-about Banh My is for sure a little eatery down the street in downtown Saigon getting a long line of people waiting inside out – Banh Mi Huynh Hoa.

Huynh Hoa eatery was easily spotted out by the bright lights shining up the whole area and the huge blocks of sliced meats, jambon, veggies, chili, pork floss, and way many more. Red-shirted Banh My makers seem like their hands never get a rest.

These pieces of pre-sliced meat are madness

These pieces of pre-sliced meat are madness

Within just inside a small space, yet two different huge cabinets with loads of ingredients packed inside would totally amaze any of you when first entering the shop.

Ba Ghien Broken Rice

So Com Tam, or Broken Rice in English, is my must-pick dish when you ever ask me about what type of distinctive food Saigon can offer. Ba Ghien, a small eatery in District 3 is pretty much where locals usually stop over for a quick lunch. The reason why Ba Ghien gets this reputation for ages as the size of grilled pork displayed on the plate is insane! And not to mention, you had better come here with an empty stomach.

Look how massive this grilled pork is

Look how massive this grilled pork is

Chilling on Youtube, you would somehow come up with a famous food blogger Mark Weins, who stated that Broken Rice at Ba Ghien is “the Grand Slam of all Vietnamese Food”.

Pho Hoa

No need to explain too much more, Pho is the most recognized dish that whenever someone thinks about our country, Pho always comes first.

Pho Hoa restaurant is usually packed

Pho Hoa restaurant is usually packed

Pho Hoa, a highly reputed Pho restaurant, persistently ranks as one of the best places to taste Pho in Saigon. Pho Hoa Restaurant has been operated by generations of the same family for ages. The broth at Pho Hoa is a secret that somehow adds to the success of the restaurant’s label. A bowl of Pho is massively insane with a huge pinch of steak, beef balls, flanks and the list goes on. You can easily spot out Pho Hoa at the end of Pasteur Street in District 1, as a two-story building fully equipped with Air-Con.

The Lunch Lady

Well, when you happen to type “where to eat in Saigon”, there is a high possibility the results can come up with The Lunch Lady. A couple of years ago, a well-known TV Show called No Reservations hosted by Anthony Bourdain brought a friendly little lady named Nguyen Thi Thanh on air, and from then on, her given label The Lunch Lady has become a real deal!

Mrs. Thanh is just super friendly

Mrs. Thanh is just super friendly

The shop is genuinely not a high-end restaurant, that is for sure! With a few small chairs with roughly 4 to 5 tiny plastic chairs places around, under a big shade of a huge tree, hidden out of the hustle and bustle of District 1, this eatery offers a different menu each day and the taste remains unchanged after all these years. Mrs. Thanh, as stated above, is known for her soup noodles of all kinds, from pork, chicken to beef, she nailed them all!

Another reason that makes The Lunch Lady a big thing is how smiley she is. You can totally take a selfie with her, or even a chit chat that no bother has ever come around her face.

Look how yummy it is!

Look how yummy it is!

Now the selection of what to eat in Saigon is a little more expanded by a few suggestions above of mine. Food tour in Saigon has never been declining due to a wide range of dishes that you, or even us locals, can never be able to count!