One of the great myths of Vietnamese cuisine asserts that it is impossible to make at home. And that there are so many unfamiliar names and ingredients, even a Vietnamese person would have problems with all of them. For some Americans the mere mention of Vietnamese food conjures up images of kitchen disaster. There are too many nuances to capture; how can anyone master this complex and mysterious cuisine?
But in fact, Vietnamese cuisine is usually quite simple. What makes it so lively are the assertive flavors of just a few often-used ingredients like ginger, lemon-grass, scallions, chile, garlic, black pepper, fermented fish sauce, and an abundance of fresh herbs such as cilantro, Thai basil, and mint. Cooking techniques are basic, like sautéing, grilling, steaming, and light frying. What may seem complicated is in reality a simple, quick dish to prepare. The time-consuming dishes simply require patience for a hands-off, slow-cooking simmer, not hours spent searching for and preparing ingredients.