What we Eat

Appears in

Little Saigon Cookbook: Vietnamese Cuisine And Culture In Southern California's Little Saigon

Little Saigon Cookbook

By Ann Le

Published 2011

  • About
Food is an important part of the Vietnamese culture. It represents the time for families to be together after a busy day, and it is the principal component of celebrations and festivals. The women of the house are generally responsible for the meals, though men are expected to lend a hand, or to cook if the wife or daughter is indisposed. The quality of a woman’s cooking is a reflection of her character and whether she was raised properly.
The Vietnamese pride themselves in cuisine that uses only the freshest ingredients—a principle applicable to everything from produce to seafood. Fresh herbs and vegetables play a pivotal role in the dining experience. From the citrusy, cumin-flavored rice paddy herb to the licorice and cinnamon tastes of the perilla leaf, herbs wrap a second layer of flavor around the food they adorn. Fresh produce is also important to help achieve the contrast of textures that Vietnamese cuisine is known for. Crunchy, crispy, al dente textures derived from vegetables and fruits make all the difference to otherwise simple dishes. The ubiquitous salad platter consists of sliced or julienned cucumbers, green or red leaf lettuce, bean sprouts, sprigs of mint, coriander, Thai basil, and whatever else the local garden yields.