Vietnam cuisine is one that is rich in variety and flavors, because of several factors, including culture, climate, and historical events. Along with the Chinese influence on food culture came the cultural, technological, economical, and medical-science influences. In fact, Vietnam has its own modified form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, because of the Chinese. Later during the French occupation, the French brought Chinese medicine to their home country (France). In general, Vietnamese dishes tend to incorporate a variety of flavors, textures, colors, temperature, cooking styles, and food items to achieve taste. One can say that Vietnamese food is very complex and often has long preparation time.
As it is the region of flourishing (summer), there is a myriad of life, and therefore food as well. Fortunately, you’ll never be bored with Vietnamese cuisine. Unfortunately, we cannot really pinpoint what constitutional type would match their cuisine because of its broad spectrum of flavors and recipes
Because of China’s introduction of Chinese Medicine in Vietnam, they utilize the Five Element principles in their medicine and cooking as well. Thus, you can see that certain aromas, colors, flavors, textures, and even sounds are used with certain dishes.
The five elements have five flavors associated with them. These flavors influence certain physical AND energetic aspects of the human body. We have briefly detailed a table below.
Five element table
|Fire||Bitter||Helps get rid of toxins and phlegm|
|Earth||Sweet||Nourishes and energizes the body|
|Metal||Pungent||Benefits respiratory system and encourages circulation|
|Water||Salty||Cools and moistens the body|
|Wood||Sour||Assists digestion and helps retain fluids|
Common food items used
Beef, chicken, pork, duck, duck eggs, chicken eggs, grass-field rat, boar, freshwater fish (carp, catfish)
Crab, shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels, mollusks, snails, squid, prawns, variety of fish, squid, octopus
Bitter melon, bok choy, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, ceylon spinach, chayote, cucumber, daikon radish, eggplant, jicama, shallots, bean sprouts
custard apple, star fruit, star apple, soursop, durian, cherimoya, acerola, longan, lychee, mango, papaya, persimmon, dragon fruit, plum, pomelo, rambutan, mangosteen, sapodilla, sweetsop, rose apple, water apple, guava, jackfruit, coconut, gandaria (thanh trà), kumquat, lemon, lime, sugarcane, gooseberry, tamarind
fish sauce, soy sauce, prawn sauce, lime, shrimp sauces, chili sauce, hoisin sauce
Chilies, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, star anise, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg
Mint (bo he), basil, perilla (zi su ye), cilantro, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, dill, culantro, Houttuynia cordata (yu xing cao), knotweed (bian xu), curry leaves, lotus seed
Snacks and desserts
Most Asian cultures try not to eat desserts, but Vietnamese culture is an exception. This mainly due to the large amount of sweet fruits available and the French influence on baking. The most famous dessert would be called Chè, which is a sweet dessert beverage, soup or pudding, it is usually made from beans, sticky rice, and mixed with coconut milk. This is the primary dessert, but one can think of it as a parent category of many kinds of different desserts. They also incorporate many jellies, fruits, and sticky rice-based desserts.
Chè đậu trắng
- Black-eyed peas, rice, and coconut milk
- Most common
Just an overall great tasting dessert. This is the standard variant of Chè
Chè đậu xanh
- Mung beans and coconut water
- (optional) seakelp shreds
Mung beans clear toxins while moistening the body. Coconut water nourishes electrolytes. Sea kelp benefits the thyroid and also nourishes electrolytes. This possibly a good weekly dessert for those with goiter.
Chè hạt sen
- Lotus seed
- coconut water
Lotus seed calms the spirit and nourishes the digestive system. It is alo used in TCM to treat leakages of the body such as irregular menstruation. Coconut water nourishes electrolytes. Overall, this is a good dessert for those with menstrual problems.
Vietnam’s hot climate requires cooling, so Southern Vietnamese incorporate a lot of fresh raw herbs such as Yu Xing Cao (Houttuynia Leaf) and Peppermint with their meals. For example, spring rolls are hand assembled with a thin rice-wrap, rice noodles, a form of meat such as cured pork, and the addition of several raw herbaceous vegetables and bean-sprouts. In Chinese medicine, seafood is considered to contain toxins, which is why there are many food-borne illnesses associated with their consumption. A common remedial herb is Zi Su Ye (Perilla Leaf), which is often eaten with seafood dishes in Vietnam. People with “hot” constitutions can benefit from utilizing Southern Vietnamese style dishes as part of food therapy.
Central Vietnam is most famous for the dish, Bún bò Huế, which is a spicy beef noodle soup originating from Hue. It has a beef-bone and shrimp-paste broth, lemongrass, cinnamon and dried chilies. Beef is warm, chilies and cinnamon are hot and spicy, and lemongrass is warm and pungent. In regards to food therapy, this dish is very warming for the body, invigorates circulation, and can help clear nasal passages.
All of Vietnam is famous for its pho noodle soup, a clear bone-broth with meat and spices. It actually originates from Northern Vietnam, but the story is that during French occupation, a Chinese immigrant used bones left over by the French to make this soup with cinnamon, coriander seeds, and charred ginger and onion. It is often topped with herbs such as mint, basil, and bean sprouts with a dash of lime. It’s a rather neutral dish, which is very characteristic of Southern China.
4lb beef bone
1 onion halved
5 slices of ginger
2 star anise pods
2.5 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tbsp salt
4 quarts of water
1.5 lb sirloin beef, thin sliced
Cilantro, green onion, bean sprouts, basil, lime, hoisin sauce, sriracha
- Baked beef bones until browned (1hr)
- Char onions
- Add bones, ginger, onions, salt star anise, and fish sauce into pot with 4 qts of water
- Bring to boil then reduce to low simmer for about 6-10 hour
- Boil rice noodles and set aside for assembly (per bowl)
- Put rice noodles in boil and add condiments and some sliced beef]
- Pour hot broth on top
What else can you do?
Our staff at Acupuncture Healing Center are well acquainted with herbs and food therapy. To be good healthcare providers, we ourselves need to be healthy and illness-free. A large portion of our lives conists of eating, so we have learned how to enjoyably maintain our health through food therapy. You can call us to start a consultation when we open or right now online. Just click the link below!
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