Expats in Vietnam enjoy its unique cuisine

Published:  29 Jun at 6 PM
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The growing popularity of Vietnam as an expat hub is being helped along by the country’s delicious, healthy cuisine.

One of the obvious attractions of becoming an expat in an unfamiliar land is the inevitable exposure to a completely different culture with diverse beliefs, customs and cuisines. Vietnam is somewhat of a late-comer on the list of countries favoured by Western expatriates, but is rising fast as an alternative to the more usual destinations in Southeast Asia. The country is well into the transition from its troubled past and is a rising star in the region as regards its economy and rapidly modernising environment.

Whilst it’s easy to find Western-style accommodation in Hanoi and other larger conurbations, expats may find it more difficult to adjust to Vietnamese culinary realities. One thing’s for sure, everyday meals here definitely don’t include the popular TV presentations of snakes, deep fried insects and congealed blood cakes. In fact, for those who know and love it, Vietnamese cuisine is one of the healthiest and tastiest in the world and is at its best in street markets and local restaurants.

Low in fat and calories and packed with nutrients and antioxidants, Vietnamese recipes embrace locally grown produce combined with small quantities of meat or fish served with noodles and are often eaten with chopsticks and a soup spoon from a central bowl or plate. Clear soups, unusual, fresh greens used in salads and everyone’s favourite fresh spring rolls are available everywhere at incredibly cheap prices. No meal is complete without a glass or three of natural coconut water, again packed with health-giving minerals and nutrients, and ultra-fresh, varied tropical fruits end the perfect culinary experience.

Vietnamese culture determines mealtimes, and new arrivals are invariably made welcome with friendship and hospitality. Everyone sits around a large, circular tray table on which the dishes are placed, helping themselves to their favourite treats. It’s normal to wait until the eldest male has taken his first mouthful before digging in, and both hands should be kept on the table during the meal. Vegetarians and vegans are in heaven here, as vegan restaurants are easily found, and the food is filling and delicious.

For newly arrived expats worried about food safety, it’s easy to check your dishes are piping hot, but raw fish and meat should be avoided. Salads are mostly carefully washed in clean water, but tap water is generally avoided. Peanut oil and the nuts themselves are popular ingredients, meaning those with allergies or intolerances should carefully check recipies to make sure neither are included. One thing’s for sure, Vietnam’s culinary culture is one of the most appealing aspects of this fascinating country.
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