Vietnamese at Windsor in Melbourne
Vietnamese street food is a minefield of delicious surprises. From the very traditional cha am to the modern fusion of pho, there are many tantalising treats to be discovered in Vietnam. In the West, we have an expectation that Vietnamese food will always contain egg noodles, but there is so much more to it than that. Vietnamese cuisine uses ingredients from all around Asia and beyond. A variety of different herbs and spices are used to give dishes their signature flavour. There is also a great deal of regional variation. In Northern Vietnam, for example, things are very different from the South.
Pho was originally a Northern dish, but it has become incredibly popular in the South over the last few decades because it’s cheap to make and easy to eat on the go. In other parts of the country, you will find certain specialties which are unique to that area. For example, in Nha Trang in the South-Central coast, you will come across a dish called cha am. Cha am is a mix of noodles and seafood that was traditionally served to fishermen on their boats. Instead of using fresh fish and chicken as most Vietnamese dishes do, cha am uses older ingredients that are more affordable – like frozen fish and chicken pieces from the supermarket.
One of the most popular street snacks in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is banh mi. This is a baguette filled with meat, salad and pickled vegetables like carrot and daikon radish. Banh mi was first created by the French in 1849 as a way to use up leftover bread, but it has since evolved into a popular local dish with many variations depending on where you go.
It is important to note that not everyone cooks with fish sauce when they are cooking authentic Vietnamese food. There are people that don’t. The majority of Vietnamese people use fish sauce in every dish because it is seen as a ‘must have’ in every home and most restaurants.
This dish is much more than a snack, it is a time honoured tradition of enjoying delicious food at all times of the day. Mostly made, eaten and enjoyed at home, banh mi is popular with Vietnamese workers or students who are on the go all day long. It is easy to eat and doesn’t cost a lot. It is also really popular with tourists in Vietnam.
A traditional Vietnamese meal is something that a lot of people like to share. When you go out to eat with a group of friends, you might order six or seven dishes that can be shared between everyone at the table.