• Vietnamese cuisinefeatures a combination of five fundamental tastes
  • Each Vietnamese dish has a flavor which reflects one or more of these elements.
  • Common ingredients include fish sauceshrimp pastesoy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables.
  • Vietnamese recipes use lemongrassgingermintVietnamese mintlong coriandercinnamon, chili peppers, lime, and Thai basil
  • Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of dairy and oil, complementary textures, and reliance on herbs and vegetables.
  • With the balance between fresh herbs and meats and a selective use of spices to reach a fine taste, Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.
  • Vietnamese cuisine always combines fragrance, taste, and colour.
  • Vietnamese cuisine always has five elementswhich are known for its balance in each of these features.
  • Many Vietnamese dishes include five fundamental taste senses (ngũ vị): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth), corresponding to five organs (ngũ tạng): gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder.
  • Vietnamese dishes also include five types of nutrients (ngũ chất): powder, water or liquid, mineral elements, protein and fat.
  • Vietnamese cooks try to have five colours (ngũ sắc): white (metal), green (wood), yellow (earth), red (fire) and black (water) in their dishes.
  • Dishes in Vietnam appeal to gastronomes via the five senses (năm giác quan): food arrangement attracts eyes, sounds come from crisp ingredients, five spices are detected on the tongue, aromatic ingredients coming mainly fromq herbs stimulate the nose, and some meals, especially finger food, can be perceived by touching. Whether complex or simple, Vietnamese dishes also offer satisfying mouth feelduring the dining enjoyment.

 Asparagus Crab Soup (Sup Mang Tay Cua) Recipe

 YIELD: serves 8


  • 8 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 medium onion, halved
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound crab meat
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 large eggs, barely beaten together in a medium-sized bowl
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Rice vermicelli cooked


  1. Turn on the broiler. Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil, and place the onion halves on, cut side up. Place pan underneath the broiler, and cook the onions until blackened and fragrant. Flip the onion halves, and blacken on the other side. Turn off the heat.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of the chicken stock into a medium-sized bowl. Pour the remaining 7 1/2 cups of stock into a large pot, along with the blackened onions. Bring to a boil of medium-high heat. Add fish sauce, black pepper, a pinch of salt, and asparagus. Cook until asparagus is tender, four to five minutes.
  3. Stir the cornstarch into the 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Turn heat to medium, and in a slow steady stream, whisk this slurry into the pot. Add the crab. Let the mixture thicken for a minute, stirring occasionally. Slowly stir the eggs into the pot, and cook until they set, about one minute.
  4. Add rice noodles to heat.
  5. Season soup with salt to taste, and then ladle into four bowls. Garnish each with cilantro, and a little more freshly ground pepper.

Goi Dua Chuot (cucumber and shrimp salad)

Yield 4 Servings


  • 3 cucumber
  • 16 oz cooked prawns, peeled
  • 5 scallions, finely sliced diagonally
  • 2 Carrot scored and sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 small red chili, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped


Step 1. Peel the cucumber, and cut in half lengthways. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds, and discard. Cut the cucumber into thin slices.

Step 2. Combine the prawns, cucumber, onions, mint and chilli.

Step 3. Combine the lime juice, oil, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Drizzle over the salad and toss to combine. Scatter with the peanuts and serve immediately.

oi Cuon (spring rolls with spicy garlic hoisin sauce)

Yield 24 Rolls


  • 1 package clear edible rice paper sheet
  • 1⁄2 lb cooked chicken
  • 1⁄2 lb cooked small shrimp (, peeled, deveined, halved)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh mint leaves
  • 1 head leafy lettuce, washed and separated into leaves
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into very,very thin strips
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprout, optional
  • 1 package vermicelli rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • hoisin sauce, to taste
  • chopped peanuts
  • nuoc nam, vietnamese spicy fish sauce


  1. Have all meats precooked and cold and the rice noodles prepared already (the noodles should be white, long and at room temp).
  2. Make sure all veggies and herbs are cleaned, dried, and set out before you start.
  3. Dip a sheet of rice paper wrapper into water very quickly, no longer than a second or two (or they will get too soggy) and lay flat on a work surface.
  4. On one edge, lay a small handful of noodles, a few strips of meat, some shrimp, some cilantro and mint leaves, a lettuce leaf, some cucumber strips and bean sprouts, all to taste but don’t overstuff.
  5. Carefully start to roll up eggroll style, tucking in the sides, then continue to roll up-but not too tightly or the spring roll will split.
  6. These rolls will be thicker than the typical Chinese-style fried eggrolls.
  7. Combine a few spoonfulls of hoisin sauce with some chopped peanuts to use as a dipping sauce (or serve with prepared spicy fish sauce dip called Nuoc Mam, available at Asian markets).
  8. Serve immediately- these do not keep and will harden up in the fridge, so it is best to make just as many as you plan to serve (store any extra unassembled fillings in fridge and roll later).

Vietnamese-Style Stir-Fried Sweet Shrimp

Yield: 4-6 servings

What You’ll Need

  • 1pound unpeeled, uncooked shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or other vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey or light brown sugar
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 finely chopped shallot
  • 1 to 3 finely chopped small hot chiles, such as Thai chiles
  • 4 tablespoons chicken or fish stock
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

How to Make It

  1. With a sharp knife, slice down the backs of the shrimp to expose the black “vein,” which is the shrimp’s digestive tract. Pull out this little vein, but keep the shells on the shrimp.
  2. NOTE: These shrimp are served shell-on, which keeps them moister and gives them more flavor than if you removed the shell. But if shelling shrimp at the table is not for you, you can remove the shells and still make this dish.
  3. You can adjust the heat any way you want. You could use 3 Thai chiles for some serious heat, or 1 full cayenne would be similar, as would half a habanero. Or you can use less to your taste — or none at all.
  4. Heat the peanut oil and sesame oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat for a minute or two.
  5. Add the shrimp and the honey or brown sugar and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic and shallot and stir-fry for another minute or two.
  6. Add the stock (you can use water if you do not have stock available), fish sauce and salt and turn the heat to its highest setting. Let this boil down until the pan is nearly dry, which should only take a minute or two.
  7. Serve at once, garnished with the cilantro.

Ga Xao Xa Ot (chicken stir-fried with lemongrass and chili


  • 4 tablespoons Fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons chicken stock or water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thigh cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped lemongrass
  • 1 red chile, stemmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal into rings
  • 4 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon roasted chile paste
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped roasted peanuts for garnish.


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together fish sauce, stock, and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Heat a wok over high heat until hot; the metal will have a matte appearance and a drop or two of water flicked onto its surface should evaporate on contact. Add the oil and heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned on both sides.
  3. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil from the wok (leave the chicken in the wok) and return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, just until softened. Add the garlic, lemongrass, and jalapeño chile and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to dislodge any browned bits.
  4. Add the fish sauce mixture, chile paste, and scallions to the pan and continue cooking for 1 minute more, until the scallions have softened slightly and the chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the peanuts. Serve immediately over cooked rice.

Sweet Banana and Coconut Milk Soup: Che Chuoi

Yield: 4 servings


  • 3 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup tapioca pearls
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • tsp coarse sea salt
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled and diced
  • 1 banana sliced for garnish on top
  • Toasted sesame seeds


  1. Bring the coconut milk and water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low
  2. Stir in the tapioca pearls, sugar, and salt, and cook until tapioca pearls are translucent and soft, about 20 minutes.
  3. Add banana and cook for 5 minutes more.
  4. Place in bowls and garnish each with a few slices of banana and a sprinkle or 2 of sesame seeds
  5. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

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