Vietnamese food has gone through many changes over the years. The initial Chinese influences have, through years of trade and occupation, absorbed hugely differing styles and ingredients. The early Portuguese missionaries brought new ingredients and ideas. The opening of the Spice Route with Europe is well known for the tremendous Eastern Spices that it brought to the West. However, this was a two way street of course and many ingredients and knowledge of cooking techniques, over the years, travelled the other way. Crops that had never been seen here such as cauliflower and broccoli were traded and soon growing in the cool climate of Dalat.
With the French occupation came more influences and the Vietnamese have always been accepting of cultural influence, especially when it results in something tasty landing on a plate. The Banh Mi is as Vietnamese as any dish imaginable, but it is basically a French baguette sandwich. Even the humble bowl of Pho is, in some circles, claimed to have been named after the French dish Pot Au Feu.
All this cultural exchange has resulted in a cuisine that is extraordinarily diverse. Vietnam food can be found on the streets, in tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants, through mid-range establishments right up to fantastic five star restaurants serving remarkably delicious Vietnamese dishes. Tourists coming to town may immerse themselves in this amazing cuisine to see which of the myriad of dishes suits their particular style.
A real favourite dining style here is the barbecue. A clay pot of hot coals is brought to the table and customers select raw meats, seafood and vegetables which they cook themselves. It is an extremely sociable way of dining. Seafood in Vietnam is both bountiful and of superb quality. Oysters have become a US$100million industry, with the bulk of them coming from the Nha Trang area. eating great seafood at an open air eatery is one of the truly great Saigon experiences. Khoai Restaurant in District 3 have mastered the art of sourcing rare local seafood and adding a thoroughly unique twist to their presentations.
Visitors to the city simply must seek out some of the local highlight restaurants serving amazing local food at all ends of the financial scale.