The basic palate
of Vietnamese food is salty
; most recipes involve a specific balance between those 4 things and
some of their most basic sauces, such as nuoc cham
are clearly made from
things designed to give you those 4 flavor elements. (In the case of nuoc
, salty from nuoc mam
, sweet from sugar
, spicy from chile
sour from lime and/or vinegar
. You'll find very little that's bitter in Vietnamese cuisine.
It's very closely related to Thai food, Khmer (Cambodian) food,
Laotian food, Burmese (Myanmar) food and Yunnanese food. These
countries are all on or near the Mekong river, which is a source of food
and a road system in one. Vietnamese food doesn't have any of the curry
or nearly the same level of spiciness that Thai food has, and there's also
a bit of a French influence.
Food from northern Vietnam tends to be a bit spicier and a bit simpler
than food from the south end of Vietnam. The more complicated and varied foods of southern Vietnam is probably directly related to where the Mekong delta is and where the better ports are; southern Vietnam was the richer half of the country.
Many Vietnamese Buddhists either fast (eat no meat) for one month out of
the year or every fifteen days, on the new moon and the full moon.
This custom has been around for a long time, so there is a long vegetarian
tradition and a wide selection of vegetarian foods.