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Vietnam, oh the Questions We Ask…

International Flavors: Asia and the Middle East


Questions taken from The New American Chef

  1. Explain the quotes from pg 350, “Eating pho involves thinking like a chef”, and “It is a ritual in Vietnamese dining to participate with the food”

“Eating pho involves thinking like a chef” is really simple to explain. It means that with pho the kitchen creates a basic broth and thin slices of beef with rice noodles and then leaves it up to each customer to pick and choose what they want to add more of. This could be fresh herbs, hot sauce, hoisin sauce, or even fresh lime juice. The choice really is up to each diner and you must think like a chef because you are making it just for you so you must really know what you want to make it taste like. This simple example of pho really helps to explain the second quote; in Vietnamese dining you are going to do something with your food. You might wrap it, or even add something else to the dish to make it fit your taste. Regardless of what you end up doing you will appreciate it that much more because you have worked for that perfect taste that fits you.

  1. What are the three food regions of Vietnam?

The three food regions of Vietnam are: The North, The Central Region, and The South.

  1. What are the “four principles” applied by Vietnamese chefs?

Salty, sour, sweet, and spicy, this way the food is always balanced, and as a result of this no one flavor is ever overwhelming.

  1. What three cultures have had the biggest impact on Vietnamese cuisine?

The French because of the almost 100 year occupation of Vietnam are one. Like Most Asian Countries China played a very large role in helping shape the cuisine of Vietnam, and lastly there is a dash of Indian, in the form of dishes like soupy chicken curry.

  1. Which of the three regions is the spiciest?

The South

  1. Which has more Chinese influence? Why?

The North has the most Chinese influence because of the close proximity to one another. They use woks more extensively for stir-frying, and steaming then anywhere else in Vietnam.

  1. Which region has more French Influence?

In the book it talks about how the French have had a big impact on all of Vietnam in general but what it doesn’t say is what region has the biggest French influence. Looking up information online about the French occupation of Vietnam (wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_and_southern_Vietnam) it said “During French colonialism, the French divided the country into three parts, directly ruling over Cochinchina (southern Vietnam) while establishing protectorates in Annam (central Vietnam) and Tonkin (northern Vietnam). Consequently, Cochinchina was more directly influenced by French culture than the other two regions.” So I would say that all three regions of Vietnam where influenced by the French.

  1. Which region has more Indian influence?

The South because of the Indian trade routes

  1. Soy sauce is to China what ______    _______ is to Vietnam/SE Asia

Fish Sauce (Nuoc Nam)

  1. What is the preferred cooking vessel in the South?

A sauté pan is used to cook foods quickly.

  1. Explain the process of making fish sauce

You take anchovies (about the size of your pinkie finger) and put them in wooden barrels, and top them with salt. After about two weeks the first extraction is taken and then poured back over the top of the fish and let shit for another three months. It is then pressed, and like olive oil the first pressing or “Fuqua” is very expensive and also very strong. You would only need a few drops at the end to flavor.

  1. Explain “…serving traditional Vietnamese food in the European way”

Simply put this is how we eat here in the US. Appetizer, entrée, and dessert, but if you where eating in the Vietnamese style it would all be served at once and everyone would eat family style, or to quote the book (page 359) “Anything Goes!”

  1. What are the two most common dipping sauces in Vietnam?

Nuoc Cham and Peanut sauce

  1. Why is tea comparable to wine?

Because its character depends on how and where the leaves (instead of the grapes with wine) where grown. Tea can also pair with different dishes or meals just like wine can, take a black tea as an example. It has more body but is a less fragrant tea. Also like wine the older the tea tree the more intensity and flavor you are going to get

  1. Why is green tea not a good choice for spicy foods?

Spicy foods overpower the tea.

  1. How long should tea brew/steep?

Tea should never brew for more than three minutes, and if you want a stronger tea start with more tea leaves.


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