Vietnamese food is healthy, tasty, affordable, and popular with expats and various kinds of diners here in Ho Chi Minh City and across the world. Five tastes – salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy – are equally represented in Vietnam’s cuisine. Culinary influences include those of the Chinese, Indian, Thai, and French cultures. Fresh herbs play a dominant role in flavourings with cilantro, basil, mint, tarragon, ginger and lemongrass amongst the most commonly used, depending on the plate (for instance, boiled chicken must go with lemon leaves, pork meat must go with spring onions, and dog meat must go with galangal). Hence, don’t be surprised if your Vietnamese dining partner admonishes you for using the wrong garnish and try not to be too offended, as they are simply trying to show you the proper flavour for the dish. Deep-frying, steaming, grilling, boiling and stir-frying are popular cooking techniques. Rice is the single most important element of any Vietnamese meal, the foundation upon which many dishes are built.
Vietnamese cuisine varies from region to region and is generally classified into Northern, Central, and Southern specialities. Ingredient lists are shaped by the climate, which varies when you consider the length of the country from north to south. Consider, too, the atypical growing conditions of the central highlands versus those in the Mekong Delta and outside HCMC.
In HCMC you will not have to venture far to find a stunning array of delicious specialities from sandwiches and grilled meats to broken rice and mouth-watering soups. For those curious or inclined towards culinary creativity, cooking classes are offered at a few city restaurants.
For information on street food go to Street Food at Bui Vien