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Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnamese cuisine of the last 200 years is a unique combination of Asian and French cooking. Of Asian origin is the importance of vegetables in the daily diet, and the habit of chopping up food before preparation. Accordingly chopsticks are used at the table.

French, for example, is the base of most Vietnamese soups, actually a consomme. Also there are many French terms in cooking. The most common spice, lemon grass, is referred to in Vietnam as citronelle; and an indigenous paste of mashed shrimp, black pepper, and coriander is called pate.

Aside from the French influence in cooking Vietnam has a tradition of purely French dining. Before the US-Vietnamese war and the communist take-over there was a large number of French restaurants in Vietnam, particularly in Saigon.

However, Vietnamese cuisine differs in one aspect from French cuisine: it uses hardly any oil. But it also doesn't boil most of the foods; the most common preparation is to stir-fry.

Meats are less important in Vietnamese cuisine than are fish and particularly seafood. There is an immense abundance of shrimp in Vietnam. Among meats the Vietnamese prefer beef over pork because pork is often too fatty for their taste.

It was mentioned that the Vietnamese use a soup base similar to the French consomme. However, in Vietnamese cuisine noodles are often added to the soup. The resulting "noodle consomme" is called pho bo.

The Vietnamese also eat curries but they are less spicy than Indian or Thai curries. Vietnamese curries get their taste mainly from coriander, and chili is used in very small quantities.

Spring rolls seem to be an adoption from Chinese cuisine. However, much in contrast to the Chinese habit of deep-frying spring rolls, they are prepared largely without fat in the Vietnamese variation, named cha gio.

In common with most Southeast Asian cuisines the Vietnamese have a very tasty fish sauce (nouc mam). It is added to many dishes and also used as a salad dressing. Commonly prepared as salads are not only vegetables but meats as well.

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