Vietnam culinary tours: herbs and vegetables

Vietnam is known for not only its eccentric beauty but also excellent cuisine. Why some may disagree, but its cuisine is listed among the healthiest for its balance use ingredients.

Have you ever noticed that mini basket of greens on almost every table, even in street vendors?


A mini basket of greens

While some may only feel familiar with salad as the only green dish in a full course meal, the Vietnamese enjoy their fresh vegetables with almost every single dish. Whether you are in a fancy restaurant or a shabby street vendor, you will quickly notice that almost everything is accompanied by some fresh leafy greens. Locals usually just pick them up with their chopsticks, some even use their bare hands, dip in some kind of sauce and enjoy them fresh like that.

Vietnamese food earns its reputation from this generous use of fresh herbs and vegetables, which set the cuisine apart from others.

Here we will give you some basic information about them: what they are, why they are included and how they are prepared.

What are those?

While they appear in almost every meal, tourists know little about them.

The Vietnamese use the terrm “rau sống” when mentioning these green ingredients.

They make up the most common side dish in Vietnam.


Vietnamese’s most common side dish

They can be fresh herbs, but usually green leaves. There are many types used, but the most common ones are: lettuce – iceberg and butterhead lettuce (xà lách Mỹ và xà lách mỡ), watercress (cải xoong), ung choi or water spinach/morning glory (rau muống), mustard green (cải bẹ xanh), Chinese parsley (rau mùi), lemon mint(kinh giới), centella (rau má), beansprout (giá đỗ), basil (húng quế) and perilla (tía tô).

Why are they included?

The reason varies for people. Ask your tour guide and you might receive a different answer. But here are the most popular explainations:

  • The Vietnamese consider them a staple – something that has always been on the dining table. Some do not give particular reasons and just accept them as a necessary part. But part of it stems from the history of poverty. For many years, undergoing many political conflicts and wars, they were what readily available. Meat was quite luxurious. When they did not have much around, the Vietnamese had to utilize what they had. Vietnam is also a tropical country with fresh herbs and vegetables available year round.
  • These edible bits contain nutrition like vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, dietary fibre, carotenoids, folate, and manganese. They are also low in calories and fat, making them healthy snacks for many people.
  • It is also about the contrast and balance. The Vietnamese cuisine especially highlights the Yin and Yang elements in their dish.


A full Vietnamese meal

Their freshness is used in contrast with cooked meat. They also provide a different texture to the dish, balancing the ingredients. And there flavour is also taken into consideration to harmonize and even enhance the taste of the whole dish. Not to mention the green do add an eye-catching color. And with them, after enjoying the healthy and delicious Vietnamese combination, people often feel surprisingly refreshed.

  • It might be that the Vietnamese just love fresh food, to be honest.

How are they prepared?

If something that worries visitors the most when sampling the Vietnamese cuisine, it is possibly the questionable hygiene standards.

But overall, be assured that they are usually not the main cause of any digestive concerns.

They can all be eaten raw and if you are still in doubt then a few dunks in boiling water is enough.

They are usually rinsed a few times before consumed. Some places soak them in salt water to make sure that they are thoroughly clean of dirt and harmful pesticides. They are also let dry before eaten.

All in all, fresh veggies are of importance to the Vietnamese. They are an essential part of the cuisine. They add a delicate touch to your dish – the flavours, the textures and the colors seem a bit off without them, so top your food up with some greens.


The refreshing green color

And, while you are in Vietnam, you can always have some fun with them – they are aromatic and colorful, and with each combination, you get to experience something new and amazing. The possibilities are endless.