Vietnamese cuisine is divided into three regions: North, heavily influenced by China; South, more influenced by the French; and Central, spicier and more complex than cooking in the northern or southern regions of Vietnam. A typical meal might include roasted meat or fish, stir-fry vegetables, rice, soup, and fish and soy sauces.
In Vietnam in the 1970s and 1980s, a thousand years of Chinese and French-influenced culinary tradition went down the drain as austerity set in and restaurants came to be regarded as bourgeois indulgence. Some of the best chefs fled the country. The Vietnamese emulated the Soviet example of giving restaurants numbers, after the street address—thus avoiding all bourgeois pretension. So the restaurant at 202 Hue St. in Hanoi is known as Restaurant 202. Thang Loi Hotel in Hanoi had a Restaurant A and a Restaurant B.
Happily, there has been a remarkable return of gourmet Vietnamese food beginning in the 1990s. Key ingredients are now in much better supply. You can eat well. Foreigners generally find the list of exotic and endangered on some menus to be beyond the pale —dishes here include pangolin, python, gecko, and bat. Vegetarian food is widely available—especially in marketplaces—because Mahayana Buddhist monks in Vietnam are largely vegetarian.
Chuc an ngon! (Good appetite!)
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from Kate's Global Kitchen:From Moon Cakes to Pancakes
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This page modified January 2007
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