Vietnam is a multiethnic country with a diversified culture converging from 54 distinct ethnic groups in 3 different regions (which are northern, central, and southern Vietnam). Therefore, traveling throughout the north to the south of Vietnam and experiencing the country’s diversified cuisine (and reflected culture) is considered to be well-worth the effort, whether you are doing Vietnam luxury tours or on a budget.
Vietnamese cuisine by regions
While traveling in Vietnam, you will be amazed by the breathtaking natural landscapes along the country, the richness in natural resource, and the diversified culture. Moreover, experiencing the incredible cuisine in Vietnam from the North to the South will surely make your trip the best Vietnam luxury tour ever.
Northern Vietnam is the first and the oldest of the three geographical regions within Vietnam. It has 3 sub-regions and 28 provinces in total with a history of over 2000 years, originating in the Red River Delta. If we consider this region as the first place where Vietnamese culture started to bloom out, Hanoi – the 1000 years old capital – is the convergence of the entire of the Northern quintessence, for both culture and cuisine. Despite of the increasing development of other tourist meccas across the country, Hanoi and its cuisine is always the top must-try experience on almost any Vietnam luxury tour.
Being one of the oldest cities (and the capital), Hanoi’s cuisine is renowned for its sophistication and elegance. Due to the geography, freshwater seafood like fish and shrimp is preferred over meat. Northern people prefer a soft texture, a neutral taste, which mostly seasons with diluted fish sauce and shrimp paste as well as a well-blend of fresh herbs and vegetables. Based on this principle, “bún thang”, “bún chả”, “bún ốc” and “bún đậu” are famous vermicelli dishes that originated from Hanoi and spread out to the South with different variation. Just as a matter of curiosity, “Phở” is famous internationally as a must-eat dish in the city, but its origin is from Nam Dinh. Last but not least, “Chả cá Lã Vọng” – a special dish with roots only in this city- is the dish that you should not miss!
The cuisine of Central Vietnam
The second place on our ideal Vietnam luxury tour is central Vietnam. The region is divided into 3 sub-regions of the North-South Centers and the Central Highland. In contrast to the richness of the north, central Vietnam is a poor area with extreme weather and natural disasters every year. Going through the hardship and poverty of the arid land, the people here built up a diverse culture as well as an incredibly unique and colorful cuisine. Lined by a long coastline, the central area’s people prefer salt-water fish in their daily cooking with a spicier and saltier flavor. Due to difficult conditions, salting (or marinating) seafood is a cooking method invented initially to keep the food staying fresh for longer. Interestingly, based on such a cooking method, “mắm tôm chua” (marinated shrimp) was born as one of most famous dishes of central Vietnam, as well as the imperial cuisine of Hue – the capital of Vietnam from the 17th to the 19th century.
Being an old capital, Hue has the charm of a royal place with its remarkable imperial cuisine. Unlike most of central Vietnam’s people, the people in Hue are quite discerning diners who prefer their dishes with a more distinct taste to it. Strong flavor, attractive blend of colors, and gorgeous decoration, Hue cuisine is recognized as a signature not only in the region but also in the entire of Southeast Asia. While experiencing the imperial dishes, you will realize that it is more than just food, but a history of an empire in the past. To enrich your experience even more, travel to Hue or Hoi An – two stunning old towns of the region – and enjoy dinner on a boat on the Perfume River (Hue) or Thu Bon River (Hoi An). There are two signature luxury boat tours in Vietnam that are worth a try.
Vietnamese cuisine at a glance (Source: Internet)
Under the influences from Chinese, Cambodian, and the Thai, most Southern Vietnamese dishes tend to be sweeter and spicier. Thanks to the richness of nature in the Mekong Delta, southern cuisine has a bountiful source of seafood as well as agricultural products. The rural residents often prepare meals with fresh ingredients available, and find ways to preserve and store surplus ingredients for longer use. Dried salted fish and fish paste are the most famous delicacies of the region, and come with the most expensive hotpot of a Vietnam luxury tour menu to the cheapest noodle bowl from a street vendor. The best bowl of “bún mắm”(Mekong Delta style-fish noodle) is only found in a floating market on Cái Bè River, and the authentic pot of “lẩu mắm” (seafood hotpot with fish-paste broth, served with a lot of fresh vegetables) is only found on the orchard of a local. Many of today’s noodle recipes (like “bún nước lèo” or “hủ tiếu”) are originated from the gardens and floating markets of the south!
The balanced harmony in cooking (Source: Internet)
Asian cultures in general and Vietnamese cuisine, in particular, are well influenced by the balanced harmony among the five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, and Wood) and yin-yang perspective. Signified in different taste (and color) as well as represented for different parts in the body, these five elements are integrated perfectly into the nutrition, taste, and color of every dish. In this way, sour (yin) harmonizes with sweet (yang) and is combined, creating the remarkable “sour-sweet” sauce in Vietnamese cuisine. Another example is the perfect match of “salty” and “sweet” taste in the worldwide famous “salted caramel” candy. Along with the skillful blend of sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and spicy throughout thousands of years of cooking, many generations of Vietnamese housewives creates incredible recipes that hold national fame today. Also, such beliefs reflect the way we choose herbs and condiments in cooking. For example, duck is characterized as cold (in yin-yang perspective, aquatic produce and buffalo meat are also classed as cold), so it will combine with ginger (a hot herb). In this way, fish, beef, and chicken (cold meats) are combined with ginger (a hot herb), and mushroom (a cold vegetable) is used to cook with wild meats (a hot meat). Based on such belief, the combination list is infinite and the creativity in cooking is definitely unlimited. The balance of Yin-Yang and the five elements is demonstrated in every step of cooking, from making the menu (based on human needs, weather, or season), combining ingredients, choosing a cooking method, and decorating the dish. Indeed, you can find this balancing principle is almost any Vietnamese dishes, whether you are taking on a Vietnam luxury tour or just wandering around trying Hanoi street food.
The culture and spirit through the dishes (Source: Internet)
Vietnam has been an agricultural country for thousands of years, and the dining culture plays an extremely important role in Vietnamese life. Mealtime is a chance for all of the family members to spend time together, relaxing and sharing their thoughts. Also, the local culture reflects through the display of the meals, the taste of the food, and the way people behave with others. For a family dining together, the younger people will invite the elders to eat, and will wait for them to take their first bite before starting their own meal. Also, whether you dine at home or in a restaurant, the receiver is expected to use both hands when receiving dishes passed from others (especially from elders) and should always say thank you.
Like the famous quote, “The great tradition of a place can be seen through its cuisine”! This is definitely true, for all nations. To deeply investigate and experience all of these incredible Vietnamese delicacies, it is worth saving up for a luxury culinary tour throughout Vietnam, from the North to the South!
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