Vietnamese culinary culture

The simplicity is the root of the good food

When you get a chance, take a good look at traditional Vietnamese kitchen. You might be surprised by its simplicity. It consists of a strong flame and some very basic cooking essentials such as basic cutting utensils, a mortar and pestle, and a well-blackened pot or two. To many Vietnamese, their kitchen is kind of a sacred place. The kitchen even has its own deity named Ong Tao or the Kitchen God. This spiritual guardian of the hearth must have its due and the most important object in the kitchen is not the flame, nor the cooking utensils but his altar.

Vietnamese habits & customs

Vietnamese generally eat three meals a day and snack (or drink coffee) in between.

Breakfast (bữa sáng)

Breakfast is usually simple and may consist of noodles, chao or Pho Bo. Vietnamese don’t usually eat cereals or dairy products for breakfast. The chances of seeing an elderly Vietnamese indulging on corn-flakes or muesli bars are not far off from spotting a flying dragon. Baguettes (banh mi) are very popular morning take-away dish though. Having a cup of iced-coffee or tea is almost compulsory.

Lunch (bữa trưa)

Lunch starts early, around 12:00. In earlier years workers used to go back home to eat with their families, but these days they usually eat at nearby street cafes or street food places. Many of them magically appear on the streets near big constructions site around 11:00 and after lunch time (14:00) quietly disappear. Popular lunch dish in Vietnam is Com Tam, Pho Bo or Bun Bo.

Dinner (bữa tối)

Dinner has a special place in Vietnamese culture. It is a time for family bonding. The dishes are arranged around a central rice bowl and diners each have a small eating bowl and they serve themselves. It’s common for woman to server food to her man or children though.

Dining out

When ordering from a restaurant menu don’t worry about the succession of courses. All dishes will be usually placed in the centre of the table as soon as they are ready and diners serve themselves. One special occasions the host may drop a morsel or two into your rice bowl.

Table etiquette

Sit at the table with your bowl on a small plate. Have chopsticks and a soup spoon ready. When serving yourself from the central bowls, use the communal serving spoon. Do not to dip your chopsticks into the central bowl. Pick up the small bowl with the left hand, bring it close to your mouth and use the chopsticks to maneuver the food into your mouth. If you’re eating noodles, lower your head till it hangs over the bowl and slurp away. It is polite for the host to offer more food than the guests can eat, and it is polite for the guests not to eat everything.