Anyone visiting Saigon or any province in Vietnam should go on a food adventure. Foreigners and expats are always excited to try something new and whether you’re in the mood for some authentic street dishes or high end cuisine, you will definitely have a mouthwatering and flavourful experience.
Vietnamese food is known for its fresh ingredients usually of herbs, different textures, and various meats. The common ingredients are rice, soy sauce, shrimp paste, bean sauce, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. You will also notice Chinese and French influences in some of their dishes like noodles, pastries and soupy dishes.
Vietnamese fruit and vegetables are usually served fresh. All fresh fruit and produce should be thoroughly washed, soaked or preferably cleansed under a small stream of flowing water for a short period of time before consumption to purge residual pesticides and chemical. This applies to items purchased at either local markets or supermarkets. The same goes for meat or fish. While the use of growth hormones is not as prevalent as in some developed countries, meat may be left out for long periods of time at room temperature before being sold.
The country’s cuisine is predominantly healthy, with less processed or fried food when compared to many other countries around the world. Not to say there isn’t greasy fare such as the bountiful pork dishes, the oh-so-oily but delicious Bún Bò Huế, or the slightly notorious full-fat Vietnamese Bánh Mì baguette sandwiches. Like most other Asian countries there is also the carbohydrate-centric preference for rice.
The Vietnamese diet consists primarily of fresh vegetables, meat and fish. By taking a few simple precautions it is easy to avoid potential health hazards. It is not uncommon for first time visitors to enter the country with a limited knowledge of Vietnam’s unique indigenous produce. Exotic items that are either unavailable or overpriced at home suddenly become affordable.
Many expats are delighted to bite into their first rambutan, mangosteen or dragon fruit – while others are horrified at their first encounter with the smelly durian, also known kindredly to many as the “King of Fruits”.
For information on Vietnamese traditions go to Vietnamese New Year Traditions