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Vietnam Travel Guide

Witten by Tessa Bradford
The Northern Region
Northern Vietnam is characterized by green mountains and high altitudes. It is the coldest region of the country, and so there are less available spices. This doesn’t mean less flavor, though! They use black pepper in place of chili, and they carefully blend their sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, and sour flavors for lightly balanced meals.
It can get cold up in the mountains through those winter months, so families have traditionally gathered around a charcoal stove to make slow-cooked stews. The broth is kept on a long boil with fresh vegetables and meat thrown in, and everyone stays cozy and warm.
The North is also influenced by their Chinese neighbor, so here you’ll find lots of stir fries and the use of chopsticks. The preference here is for noodles, rather than rice, so you’ll see lots of vermicelli with the meals here.
Bánh cuốn
They use lots of freshwater fish and seafood, such as prawns, squid, crabs, shrimp, and clams– expect to find lots of crab-centered dishes here, it’s a favorite! They flavor their food with fish sauce, soy sauce, prawn sauce, and lime juice.
Vietnamese culture came out of the northern mountains, and many traditional Vietnamese dishes originated in this region of Vietnam. While you’re in the area, make sure you try these tasty classics:
Bun Rieu: a tomato broth soup with shrimp or crab paste and rice vermicelli
Banh Cuon: pork, mushrooms, and minced shallots rolled up in a thin rice sheet and dipped in your choice of sauce
Cha Ca: fish fillets pan-fried with turmeric and dill and served on top of rice vermicelli
The Central Region
The last royal dynasty in Vietnam made its capital in the city of Hue in the Central Region, and the cuisine that comes from this part of the country is truly fit for a king. The foods here are colorful, decorative, and complex. The portions are smaller, but the number of courses is larger you can expect to be served all sorts of appetizer-sized dishes.
The Central Region is also known for all of its spices. Strong, bold flavors distinguish the food here. I hope you like a little heat with your meal, because the food here can be very spicy! Go for lots of chili peppers and shrimp sauce to add that extra oomph to your meal.
Don’t miss these Central Vietnamese dishes:
Bun Bo Hue: A spicy soup with beef, vermicelli, and lemongrass
Banh Xeo: A savory fried pancake made of rice and stuffed with pork, vegetables, and herbs and dipped in a special soy sauce
Nem Nuong: Grilled pork meatballs, marinaded in a fish sauce and served on skewers
Southern Vietnam
The Southern region of Vietnam has sunshine and fertile crops, and that lends flavor and variety to their cooking. The diets in the south are very green. The food here is full of fresh, natural goodness– tropical fruits, leafy vegetables, and an abundance of seafood provide a rich, healthy, and delicious range of dishes to choose from.
They use generous amounts of garlic, shallots, and herbs in their dishes, the open coastline provides crab, fish, squid, and shrimp, and the Southerners have the biggest sweet tooth, so coconut milk or sugarcane is used in many dishes to sweeten things up.
In the south, don’t expect the stews or stir-fries of the north. Instead, try some of the grilled seafood or the fresh veggies they have to offer. Thai, Cambodian, and Indian cuisine have all traveled over and added to the flavors. Meals are served with rice and fish sauce spiced up with chillies so dig in!
Get ready for some truly delicious treats. Try these meals when you’re in Southern Vietnam:
Chao Tom: Grilled shrimp wrapped around sugarcane, served with herbs, garlic, and dipping sauces
Com Tam Sai Gon: ‘Saigon-style Broken Rice’ is rice with grilled pork served with vegetables and prawns
Banh Bot Chien: A fried rice cake with onions, eggs, and often garlic and chillies, served with a tangy soy sauce.
So now you’ve got an idea of what kinds of food you can expect while you’re traveling in Vietnam. Be prepared to shock and delight your taste-buds, because Vietnamese food is absolutely delicious! The Vietnamese are creative with their ingredients, and more often than not, the street food is going to be the tastiest bang for your buck. So be adventurous, try some new flavors, and let us know what your favorites are!



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