The rich desserts of France. The flavourful dishes of India. The street meat of New York City.
Every culture has its own distinct cuisine. Vietnam is no different. While not exactly conventional food options you’re accustomed to, Vietnamese food provides you with something unique – food you have never tasted before. Let’s just say it involves dogs, snakes, and half eggs (we’ll explain).
So, grab your bamboo hat and let’s go. Here are 10 fun facts about Vietnam and its food that you should know:
1. The Healthiest Cuisine in the World
When you look at the world’s top cuisines, you often don’t consider the health aspect. You want food tastes great, smells divines, and looks superb. Who cares about health when you’re touring the world and enjoying the local culinary delights? Well, Vietnam successfully combines both: being healthy and staying delicious at the same time.
In fact, all the food experts say that Vietnamese cuisine is the healthiest in the world.
2. So, What’s for Breakfast?
Your breakfast back home is a plate of eggs, sausage, toast, and coffee – maybe you’ll have a doughnut. What about in Vietnam? OK, get ready for this: have-hatched eggs.
Called a balut, this is a developed bird embryo that is boiled and consumed directly from the shell. This is a common breakfast – think of it is your egg and cheese on a biscuit or French toast.
3. Little Fido
Your dog on a plate? That’s right. In the west, millions of households have a dog as a pet. However, out east in many countries, including Vietnam, dog is dinner. According to the data, Vietnam is the world’s second-largest consumer of dog meat; approximately five million dogs are eaten and killed every year.
But why is it such a popular food item? The local superstition is that eating dog meat brings good luck.
4. Cashew Nuts and Black Pepper
You have probably always wanted to know about the biggest markets for cashew nuts and black pepper. Well, now you know: Vietnam.
The East Asian country is the world’s biggest exporter for these two items.
In 2018, Vietnam exported more than 350,000 tonnes of cashew nuts and nearly 200,000 tonnes of black peppers. It turns out that this is a major industry for the country.
5. Need Java? Head to Vietnam
Do you know what else is a major food product in Vietnam? Coffee. A lot of people tend to think of Colombia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Ethiopia for their coffee need, but Vietnam controls approximately one-quarter of global coffee market share.
For a planet that survives on coffee, Vietnam is raking in the dong!
6. Two Famous Dishes
Interested in some pho and bahn mi? You should because these are Vietnam’s two most famous dishes. If you ever visit Hanoi and only two dishes during the length of your entire stay, then these two need to be on your plate – literally!
First, pho is a noodle dish comprised of rice noodles, chicken (or beef), fresh herbs, and chili. Second, bahn mi is a baguette that comes in pork sausage, pate, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and eggs.
7. Earth’s Elements
The key question is: Why does Vietnamese cuisine taste so good? The answer to that is simple: it uses Earth’s elements to achieve an incredible culinary experience:
- Bitter (fire)
- Salty (water)
- Sour (wood)
- Spicy (metal)
- Sweet (earth)
Taking the planet’s elements into account for your next meal is always the best thing to do!
8. A Sip of Snake Wine
How about this? You keep your wines made up of grapes and hints of lemon and strawberries, and the Vietnamese will keep their ruou ran.
Wait, what is ruou ran?
Are you ready for this? Ruou ran is a snake wine. It is pickled snake soaked in rice wine. Not only does it provide the effects of a typical glass of alcohol, it offers a wide range of health, restorative, and vitality benefits. Does your Roma wine offer the same thing?
9. Am I That Short?
When you stop off at a restaurant, don’t be offended. The restaurateurs do not think you are really short or that you belong at the kiddie’s table. It’s just the way of life in Vietnam – that is, if you wish to eat with the locals and get a taste of authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
If you want authenticity and the cheapest prices, then you eat at restaurants where you eat on city sidewalks. With small plastic stools, you’ll join dozens of other people quite close to the floor – roughly 30 inches. Women will be sitting on even smaller stools.
10. Eating Like a Millionaire
Because the Vietnamese dong has been so devalued over the years, a comparative advantage of a country that relies on exports to grow the economy, you may be stunned to see how high prices are. You should expect to spend about 100,000 vnd a day on food, which is quite a bit. But what is that in local money? A couple of bucks!
That’s right. You can eat like a king or a millionaire (in dong).
Indeed, everyone wants to travel to Paris, Rome, New York City, London, and Sydney for their getaways. But why not do something different and see the other side of the world and a unique culture? While Vietnam may not be on the top of your bucket list, you should at least consider making a pitstop in Vietnam if you’re nearby. You won’t regret it one bit!