Com (boiled rice)
In Vietnam, com is eaten at the main meals of the day (lunch and dinner). Rice is eaten together with a variety of different dishes and is made from different kinds of rice. Typically fragrant rice is used, such as Tam Thom and Nang Huong. An ordinary meal may consist of boiled rice and the following:
Mon an kho (meal without soup) consists of dishes of pork, fish, shrimp, and vegetable cooked in oil, as well as vegetables, pickles, etc.
Mon canh (meal with soup) consists of a soup made with pork or spare-ribs, crab meat, and fish.
In the past several years, people in urban centers have begun to go out for lunch at the food stalls on the street. Consequently, there has been a proliferation of temporary food stalls along many sidewalks and public spaces in the cities. Some stalls are open until early in the morning to cater to regular customers. Around noon, owners can be seen arranging tables and benches along the pavement to form makeshift shop floors. After two or three hours, when there are no more customers, they begin to remove all of their wooden furniture, so that the place resumes its former appearance. A well served lunch for one is very inexpensive.
Banh Chung (Sticky Rice Cake)
Sticky rice cakes are a Vietnamese traditional dish that must be part of Tet meals. As a matter of fact, every Vietnamese family must have sticky rice cakes among the offerings placed on the altar to their ancestors.
Bang chung is made of glutinous rice, pork meat, and green beans paste wrapped in a square of bamboo leaves, giving the rice a green colour after boiling.
According to the legend, under the reign of the Hung Kings, Prince Lang Lieu created sticky rice cakes and presented them to his father. Bang chung won high acclaims from the King who awarded the prince his throne.
Making sticky rice cakes is a very meticulous job. To obtain the best cakes, rice has to soak in water for an entire day. The pork meat must include skin and fat, the green beans must be of the same size, and the bamboo leaves must be fresh. Squaring off and tying cakes with bamboo strings requires skilful hands.
Sticky rice cakes are available at any time of the year, although one is sure to enjoy them with relatives and friends during Tet. During Tet, rice cakes are served with gio lua and hanh muoi? lean meat pie and salted sour onions.
Gio Lua (Lean Pork Pie)
Lean pork pie is available in Vietnam only and has different names in the north and south. Foreigners as well as Vietnamese are fond of lean pork pie.
Gio lua consists of pork meat wrapped in fresh banana leaves. The little bundles are then boiled. The most delicious part of lean pork pie is the top layer since it absorbs the flavour of the banana leaves.
Pho – Noodles
Pho is the most popular food among the Vietnamese population. Pho is commonly eaten for breakfast, although many people will have it for their lunch or dinner. Anyone feeling hungry in the small hours of the morning can also enjoy a bowl of hot and spicy pho to fill their empty stomachs. Like hot green tea which has its particular fragrance, pho also has its special taste and smell. Preparations may vary, but when the dish is served, its smell and taste is indispensable. The grated rice noodle is made of the best variety of fragrant rice called Gao Te. The broth for Pho Bo (Pho with beef) is made by stewing the bones of cows and pigs in a large pot for a long time. Pieces of fillet mignon together with several slices of ginger are reserved for Pho Bo Tai (rare fillet). Slices of well done meat are offered to those less keen on eating rare fillets.
The soup for Pho Ga (pho with chicken meat) is made by stewing chicken and pig bones together. The white chicken meat that is usually served with Pho Ga is boneless and cut into thin slices. You could consider Pho Bo and Pho Ga Vietnam’s special soups. Pho also has the added advantage of being convenient to prepare and healthy to eat.
Lau Mam (Mixed Soup)
Lau mam was a popular dish among farming communities hundreds of years ago, especially in the southwestern provinces. Nowadays, lau mam is considered a delicacy and is often served to special guests. Lau designates the broth, and mam the salted fish.
The main ingredient used in the broth is marinated fish to which meat and vegetables are added. Various ingredients, such as seafood, fish, and meat, are prepared on separate plates. Guests choose and boil their meat in the broth. The meal is accompanied by several fresh vegetables and aromatic herbs.
This dish is particularly enjoyed since so many alternatives are possible, offering a wide array of delicious flavours.
Cha Ca (grilled minced fish)
Grilled minced fish has been served in Vietnam for more than 100 years. The Doan family of Cha Ca Street in Hanoi first invented this dish.
A wide variety of fish can be used in this dish including sturgeon and tuna. Tuna is low in fat, has an exquisite flavour, and few bones. The bones are separated from the meat and put into saffron water to be later used in a sauce. The fish is marinated in salt before being grilled.
What is interesting about this dish is that people can add their favourite condiments: coriander, mint, dill, shallots, and more.