Vietnam is a country with a fascinating culture and history. You will see the stunning countryside and beautiful coastlines; you will meet friendly locals and travelers from all over the world, and a wide selection of museums will teach you about the history of everything from war to medicine. Vietnam is an increasingly popular destination for travelers – tourism has recently grown by an impressive 32.1%.
One of the most incredible experiences in Vietnam is the delicious Vietnamese foods. Noodle soups, street food, and a unique coffee culture will all be integral parts of a trip to Vietnam. The food isn’t only a delight for your taste buds, it also teaches us about the history and culture of the country. Here are 6 things we can learn from the diet in Vietnam.
Bahn Mi – French Colonialism
The Bahn Mi is a small crusty baguette filled with a selection of meats and salad, often served with pate. You buy these from small carts that appear around the city in the early hours of the morning. The baguette shows us a touch of French influence in the Vietnamese diet.
Vietnam was occupied by the French in the 1800s and the region became known as French Indochina. At the end of the Second World War, Vietnam declared independence, but France regained control. They eventually evacuated Vietnam after the Geneva accords of 1954.
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Rice – Vietnam’s White Gold
Many Vietnamese dishes are served with either rice or rice noodles. Rice is an essential part of the culture, and is seen as a ‘gift from God’ and sometimes known as ‘white gold’.
Rice is not only a central part of Vietnamese cuisine and culture, but it is also a major part of the economy. The Mekong Delta runs through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The 12 provinces adjacent to the river in Vietnam are known as the ‘rice bowl’ and are home to 17 million people.
Of those 17 million people, around 80% are employed in rice cultivation.
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Seafood and the Vietnam coastline
Vietnam has a coastline that is 2030 miles (3260km) long (not including the many islands off the coast of the mainland). The long coastline has led to fishing becoming an integral part of life in the country.
There are many fishing tours that visitors can go on, particularly around the islands, such as Phu Quoc. The long coastline has also led to seafood becoming a major part of the Vietnamese diet. The culture is very obvious when you visit Da Nang, the largest city in Central Vietnam built on the coastline.
Goi Cuon (shrimp and greens wrapped in rice paper), also known as spring roll, is a popular street food snack. Ca Kho To is a caramelized fish stew cooked with garlic, onion, fish sauce, soy, and coconut juice.
And one of the best places to try the seafood is in Cat Ba Island, where you can also take the tour to Ha Long Bay in the most convenient way.
Vietnamese Coffee – From Novelty to Major Export
Vietnamese coffee is highly unique, it has a strong and bitter flavor. They serve it hot or cold and usually with condensed milk. The condensed milk is sweet and offsets the bitterness of the brew. This combination gives the coffee a chocolate flavor.
The iced coffee is easy to drink and refreshing, especially when dealing with the heat in the south of Vietnam. Coffee is another legacy from the French, being introduced to the country in 1857. Vietnam is now the world’s 2nd largest producer and exporter of coffee, beaten only by Brazil.
The local innovation had also led to the invention of Vietnamese egg coffee. It first appeared in Vietnam during the war period when milk is not easily available. If you’re visiting Hanoi, then head to Giang Cafe and try it out for yourself!
Pho – Unity and Division
Pho is the main dish in Vietnam, a noodle soup most often served with beef and made with beef broth. However, it is also commonly available with chicken or pork as alternatives.
Alongside the Pho, you will be served bean sprouts, chilies, and fresh herbs. They eat Pho for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Pho unites the country by being the national staple, available on nearly every street corner.
However, it can also be divisive, with people having friendly arguments about whether pho is better in the north or south!
Fun Fact: The Southern Vietnamese Pho is different compared to the Northern Vietnamese Pho!
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Diversity and community
One of the main things we learn from the Vietnamese diet is the diversity of the country and its sense of community. It is diverse because there are so many wonderful foods to try. Nearly every street has independent vendors serving their specialty dishes.
It is communal because in Vietnam everyone serves themselves from the same central bowl. Even when dining alone you will bump elbows with the ever-friendly locals.
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Wrapping It Up
So what do you think about this article? If you’re still hesitating whether to plan a trip to Vietnam or not, here are 7 reasons why you should visit Vietnam at least once in the lifetime. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy your trip to Vietnam and don’t forget to learn the interesting history of the Vietnam War.
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