HANOI (VIET NAM NEWS / ANN) - After an international marketing guru’s advice that Vietnam should sell itself as a food destination, there has been increased focus on the culinary delights produced in the country.
The CNN television channel has released a list of six must-try dishes in the country: phở (noodle soup), bún bò Nam Bộ (southern vermicelli with beef), xôi (sticky rice), gỏi cuốn (vegetables, shrimp and pork meat wrapped up in rice paper), bánh xèo (rice pancake folded in half and filled with shrimp, meat and green bean sprouts) and bún chả (vermicelli and grilled chopped meat).
The choice of these six dishes chosen is not a surprise, but it is noteworthy that all these gourmet creations are part of daily food in the country, available throughout the year, and even throughout the day.
Renowned writer Nguyễn Tuân has written that enjoying phở is almost a religious rite because it is intrinsic to the daily life of locals, especially Hanoians.
Trần Văn Trí, 78, a Hanoian, said that for around 50 years, a bowl of phở has been his breakfast, come rain or shine.
Ray Wester, an Australian lecturer at the National Economics University, said phở is the most tasty soup in the world that adds to his enjoyment of working in Vietnam.
Traditional cuisine expert Phạm Ánh Tuyết said phở is so highly appreciated because it is a great combination of broth which is made by boiling cow bones for six to seven hours and spices like cinnamon, anise, cardamom and white rice noodles.
“No one can hold his or her appetite on seeing a bowl of rice noodle soup covered with thin beef pieces, green onions, and Láng basil. The dish gets even more delicious when a few drops of lemon juice, chilli and peppers are added to it,” Tuyết said.
The bún bò Nam Bộ is an aromatic gift from the southern part of the country. Unlike the flat rice noodles used in phở, the bún (vermicelli ) is round.
Food expert Lê Kim Chi said this southern dish is a mix of bún, stir-fried beef, vegetable salad of green bean sprouts, cucumber pieces and basil topped with fried groundnut, fried onions, and sweet and sour vinegar or lemon juice drops.
“The dish is ideal for summer because it not only has a great flavour, but also helps cool down heat inside your body,” Chi said, adding that you need not to go to the south to enjoy this dish. It is available in Hà Nội.
Xôi, another popular dish, is made with glutinous rice that is cooked wither by itself, or with corn, black beans or peanuts.
Nguyễn Thị Sang, a resident of Hà Nội’s Hai Bà Trưng District, said she buys xôi as breakfast very often, choosing xôi lạc (sticky rice with groundnuts) for her grandparents, xôi đỗ xanh (with green beans) for her husband, xôi bắp (young corn) for her son and xôi ruốc (salted shredded meat) for her daughter.
Sometimes, they enjoy xôi gấc (momordica cochinchinensis) fruit or xôi thịt kho tàu (Chinese braised pork).
“Each portion of xôi can be as low as 5,000 Vietnamese Dong (30 Singapore cents), suitable for a crowed family like ours. It helps us feel full through the morning, not to mention healthy,” said Sang.
The dish is available in all parts of the country, and many cities now boast xôi chains, even.
Gỏi cuốn (vegetables, shrimp and pork wrapped in rice paper) is a dish that is very popular among locals and foreigners.
The dish is also from the south, originally. Dipping the roll in sweet and sour sauce and chilli, makes it a tasty snack or food that is full of different flavours and textures, said food expert Chi.
She said however, that the dish should not be eaten to fill oneself.
The bánh xèo (rice pancake folded in half and filled with shrimp, meat and green bean sprouts) is well known in all the three regions.
Ray said his Australian friends were delighted with the bánh xèo they had when visiting Việt Nam.
“ I still remember a shop selling bánh xèo in Huế, witnessing the cooks quickly putting the rice powder and its dumpling into a cooking pan over a medium fire and waiting until it turned yellow and well cooked,” recalled Ray.
Having it with fresh salad, cucumber, fresh banana and sour carambola wrapped in rice paper, is really enjoyable, he said, adding that “although it’s a fast food, I can never have enough of bánh xèo”.
The final dish in the top six is bún chả (vermicelli and grilled meat) of Hà Nội. The dish enjoyed an extra dose of fame when former US President Barrack Obama had it when he visited Vietnam last year.
Many eateries in the capital city serve this dish, but one of the tastiest versions can be found at the Quán Ăn Ngon Restaurant chain in Hà Nội, said overseas Vietnamese-American businessman Dương Quang Nghị.
He said the cookers use young fresh and flat bamboo sticks to grill pork on wood charcoal, which gives the dish a special flavour.
“I like the way a waiter gets the grilled chả out of the bamboo sticks and puts it in a bowl with a mixture of carrot and kohlrabi pieces in sweet and sour sauce,” Nghị said.
“For a long time, I have preferred having bún chả for lunch whenever I come here on business trips,” he said.
In fact, the Quán Ăn Ngon chain is a place where all the six dishes can be enjoyed in their original tastes.
Quán Ăn Ngon restaurants in Hà Nội:
- 18 Phan Bội Châu Street, Hoàn Kiếm District
- 25T2 Trung Hòa Nhân Chính, Cầu Giấy District
- 34 Phan Đình Phùng, Ba Đình District
- B2R6 Vimcom Royal City, 72A Nguyễn Trãi, Thanh Xuân District