The North – Mild and lingering
The mild, pleasant, and slightly vinegary taste has become a hallmark of the Northern cuisine. Notable dishes that represent the quintessence of said cuisine are Hanoi’s pho, Hanoi’s bun cha, bun thang, snail rice vermicelli, etc.
It would be a mistake to not mention the specialty of Hanoi – bun dau mam tom when it has captured the hearts of so many people. For those who are unaccustomed to the flavour of shrimp paste, you can still replace it with regular chili fish sauce. But if you can manage it, you will find yourself a big fan of this dish.
The Northern cultural characteristics are also reflected through holidays when it is always required to have “four bowls and six dishes” on the table in extremely elaborate and eye-catching manners of preparation. Delicacies of the North such as banh com, banh gai, banh xu xue, etc. are known for their austerity and simplicity.
The Central – Piquant and savoury
As people living in a less-favoured-by-nature land, the Central folks are therefore highly appreciative of communal products. The Central cuisine is characterized by its piquancy and is more savoury than the Northern but less sweet than the Southern.
Hue is considered the cradle of Central cuisine, from rulers to commoners there are always plenty of dishes in a meal. Most notable of which are popular dishes such as bun bo Hue, cao lau, mi Quang, spring rolls, fish rice vermicelli, rice paper rolls with pork, etc.
The Central is also known for more complicated cakes such as banh xeo, banh bot loc, banh beo, etc. It is also one of the regions to own a menu of very delicious sweet gruels. Unlike those from the South, the sweet gruels in the Central are mildly sweet instead of creamy. Many of which that need mentioning are lotus seed sweet gruel, lotus seed encased in dried longan sweet gruel, butter bean sweet gruel, etc.
The South – Sweet and varied
By having scenic rivers and alluvial lands that provide lush greenery year-round, the culinary style of the Southern people is therefore very generous and diverse in manners of preparation.
The Southern cuisine is characterized by having a sweeter and fattier seasoning style compared to the Northern and the Central. It is arguably the cross between the Chinese, Cambodian, and Thai cuisines. For example, the preparation of hu tieu Nam Vang is somewhat influenced by the way Chinese people make soups, wontons, or shui jiaos. The Southern people also have the habit of using coconut milk in cooking due to the influence of Cambodians and Thais.
There are popular dishes that you would only need to hear the name to know of their Southern origin such as hu tieu Nam Vang, bun mam, grilled snakeheads, rice paper rolls, etc. The South is also called the paradise of cakes and sweet gruels such as banh bo, banh chuoi, banh da lon, black beans sweet gruel, aloe vera sweet gruel, etc. Especially due to being more favoured by nature than the Central, the streams of the South are full of meaty and delicious freshwater fishes. To preserve the fishes longer, the folks here usually ferment them or dry them after seasoning. Grilled jerky dishes from fishes like snakeheads, gouramis, etc. are also thought of as specialties on a Southern drinking table.
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