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Understanding Vietnam: Culture, Sports and Cuisines
This guide provides useful information and links to resources on Vietnam.
The following information have been carefully selected for your reference. Some resources may have bias perspectives. Please approach the SMU Libraries (firstname.lastname@example.org ) should you have any doubts or need clarifications.
These videos show the distinct culture, belief, values, norms, and traditions of Vietnam.
Phở is the quintessential Vietnamese dish, the word phở referring to the type of noodle used in the recipe. Flat rice noodles dance around with medium-rare slivers of beef or boiled chicken in a hearty beef stock. The more popular of the two widely known varieties is Phở Hanoi. Originally from the north, it is distinguished by a clear broth and dressed only with a squeeze of lemon and slices of bird’s eye chili. The southern iteration, Phở Nam, has a murkier broth and is served with a bouquet of fresh herbs like bean sprouts, basil and mint.
This dish is found on almost every street corner and is actually consumed for breakfast, unbeknownst to outsiders.
Baguettes may have been adopted from the French, but bánh mì is as Vietnamese as it comes. Paté and margarine are spread swiftly across the soft, chewy interior of a baguette and later, the sandwich is loaded with pickled vegetables, fresh cilantro, pork belly, pork floss and cucumber. Sink your teeth into the crunchy crust and watch the warm roll give way to a whole scheme of textures.
A Mekong Delta creation, bánh xèo is widely eaten around south and central Vietnam. Watching the crispy crepe being assembled is an audio-visual experience: the batter crackles loudly when it hits the hot pan—xèo meaning sizzling—and the edges gradually curl and golden as the skilled xèo maker deftly swirls the pan to evenly spread out the dense batter. The batter, traditionally made from rice flour and coconut milk, owes its yellowish hue to the addition of turmeric. Another French inspired delight, the savoury pancake is filled with slices of boiled pork, minced pork, bean sprouts and shrimp and then folded in the manner of a crepe. A bánh xèo shouldn’t be too soggy and is best appreciated fresh off the skillet.
This specialty of the Old Quarter in Hanoi has always been popular among the locals. Around lunchtime, the scent of pork grilling over hot charcoal wafts down the sidewalks, filling the noses of hungry Hanoians.
This classic northern dish is comprised of cold bún (rice vermicelli); slices of seasoned pork belly; a mountain of fresh herbs and salad greens; and last but not least, medallions of minced pork swimming in a bowl brimming with a fish sauce-based broth. The go-to approach is to scoop small bundles of bún into your broth bowl and rotate between eating the noodles, the pork and the greens.
Perfumed with fresh dill, chả cá is a uniquely northern delicacy from the capital contrasting in flavours, textures and colours. Chunks of flaky white fish are marinated in turmeric before being sautéed in butter on high heat. Dill is then generously distributed across the skillet, feathering out across the pale yellow fish fillets like moss growing in wild abandon. It’s a very photogenic entrée so snap a picture while the dill is still wispy and not wilted from the blazing temperatures.
For a new brew to add to your coffee repertoire, cà phê trứng is something not to be missed. The story goes that this Hanoian delectable was invented by accident. Seventy years ago, the then-barman of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Mr. Nguyen Giang, ran out of fresh milk on a shift to serve for the coffee. He ingeniously created a substitute mixture of egg yolks and condensed milk, and the rest is history. More of a confection than an actual caffeine boost, a frothy meringue-like substance is perched atop a cup of black coffee. It can be served either hot or cold.
Chè is a sweet, beverage-like dessert, served either hot or cold. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a pudding while others have likened it to a dessert soup. Cold chè is speckled with jellied ingredients and tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes and longan, usually doused in coconut milk. The firm crunch of artificially dyed water chestnuts is somewhat of a surprising encounter in the syrupy pool. Try the beautiful three-coloured dessert, chè ba màu. Often called the rainbow dessert, this is a layered spectacle of red beans, mashed mung beans and pandan jelly, topped with crushed ice and coconut sauce.
This video introduces the hundreds of food places in Hanoi.
Vietnam is the world's second-largest rice exporter, after Thailand, a huge achievement for such a small country. Vast rice paddies blanket the nation, from the terraced highlands of the north to the fertile river valleys of the Mekong Delta. Find out why rice is at the heart of every Vietnamese meal.