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The flesh of Vietnamese Cuisine August 27, 2007

Posted by adrien in Food facts, Ingredients, Vietnamese Cuisine.

With more than 1600 miles of unspoiled coastline in addition to countless canals and waterways, which include the Red River, the Perfum River and the Mekong River (the most important river in South East Asia), it is obvious that seafood and aquatic products are such an important part of the Vietnamese alimentation. This ubiquity of water in Vietnamese landscape is reflected in the food by the extensive and systematical use of nuoc mam . In the same way, rice is omnipresent in Vietnamese landscape and Cuisine.

With its well irrigated lowlands and vast green uplands, the dramatic interchangeability of its landscape, Vietnam is a beautiful and fertile country, rich in agricultural ressources. Sixty per cent of its arable land is given over to the production of rice. Lush green rice paddies shinning under the sun dotted with water buffaloes and women’s conical hats is a picture that one can see everywhere in Vietnames countrysides, from the Red River Delta in the North to the Mekong Delta in the South, from the moutains of Sapa near the chinese border to southshore of Phu Quoc Island. Being the third exporter of rice after Thailand and the United States, rice has also an important position in the economy.


But it is in the Vietnamese kitchen that rice reveals the versatility of its use, the skill of those hands which turn this little white grain into such delicious tastes and forms, and the wisdom of a millenaire culture. As a matter of fact, the application of rice reaches far beyond the simple steaming, occuring in a diverse range of ingredients or dishes and not always recognizable as rice. In addition to being used in the production of wine and vinegar, rice flour is used to make noodles, cakes, dumplings, crepes, raviolis… Rice is also transformed into flat rice paper sheets for wrapping rolls and unumberable dishes; glutinous rice soaked overnight, steamed with beans or corn, then wrapped in an attractive way into a banana leaf with different garnishes such as shredded coconut, toasted sesame seed, sugar, crushed roasted peanuts, fresh coconut milk..it is xoi, the most healthy and delicious breakfirst ever. The same soaked glutinous rice can be also stuffed with mung bean paste, pork, then tightly wrapped with banana and cooked in water, it is called banh chung, a traditional “tamales” eaten during Lunar New Year holiday accompanied with cu kieu: preserved mixed vegetables (thinly slices of carrots, Daikon, green papaya , young shallots cooked in a nuoc mam based sauce).

Travelers often put steamed rice in a cotton cloth, press and compact it into a solid mass, then cut it in thick slices so that they can bring them in their travels. The Hmong, Dzao or Thai minorities in the northern Sapa often have with them a sealed bamboo tube which contains soaked rice with the appropriate amount of water. Just a fire is needed and fresh steamed rice is made with the most convenience everyhwere.



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