Refreshing herbs like cilantro, mint, and lemongrass, basil, and chives are a mainstay of Vietnamese cuisine. Since Vietnam is bordered by both China and Thailand, its cuisine can often feel like a hybrid of those two nations, with its own special twist.
As in Thailand, condensed milk is a popular ingredient in Vietnamese beverages and desserts, and green papaya is as common in salad as lettuce is in the United States.
The Chinese influence is found in the popularity of clay pot dishes and broth-based soups. Vietnamese cuisine stands out for using fish sauce, as opposed to soy sauce, to provide salty and umami flavors.
Most Vietnamese dishes are served with rice or noodles, which can quickly spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling filled out, rather than filled up. Rice and noodles are fine in moderation, as a side dish to an entire rich in vegetables and healthy proteins. But eat small portions, and ask for fiber-rich brown rice when available.
Five worst Vietnamese dishes:
1. Clay pot dishes: Often times, the proteins in clay pot dishes are fried. Even if they aren’t, clay pot dishes contain very salty broths.
2. Xao gung: These dishes cook your protein of choice in a caramel or honey sauce, which tacks on a hefty amount of sodium and sugar.
3. Cha gio: The Vietnamese version of “egg rolls,”this is a deep-fried rice wrapper usually filled with minced pork. Even if you get a vegetarian version, the ratio of vegetables to fried starch doesn’t make this a nutritional bang for your buck.
4. Ca Phe: If you’re looking to get your caffeine fix, think twice before ordering this popular Vietnamese beverage, which is basically iced coffee with a generous helping of sugary condensed milk.
5. Nem Nuong Cuon: This appetizer consists of pork meatballs served inside rice paper alongside a small handful of vegetables.
Five best Vietnamese dishes:
1. Goi Cuon: Also known as “summer rolls” or “fresh spring rolls”, this appetizer wraps cellophane noodles along with various vegetables and herbs in rice paper. Goi cuon is usually served with a peanut-based dipping sauce.
2. Pho: The quintessential Vietnamese dish (there are restaurants that only serve pho), this aromatic, herb-rich soup can be tailored and easily made healthier. Ask for vegetable broth in place of beef broth, replace half the noodles with vegetables, and add in tofu for a source of healthy protein.
3. Rau muong: You can never go wrong with greens stir-fried with garlic. In this case, the green is water spinach. Order it as a side dish or find it inside steamed vegetable dumplings.
4. Nuong: Satay (grilled meat served on a skewer) always makes for a protein-rich appetizer. Opt for chicken or tofu, which is becoming more common in many restaurants.
5. Goi Tom: This shrimp salad packs a wide array of healthful vegetables: cabbage, cucumber, daikon (a white root vegetable), and jalapeno peppers.