A Cuisine of Nuance

The flavorful cooking of Vietnam has been influenced by China, India, France, Portugal and even ancient Rome. No wonder it’s so delicate and complex
Vietnamesecuisine

“Mellifluous” is the word Andrea Nguyen, author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, uses to describe the cuisine of her homeland. “Where Thai food is full of wonderful peaks, Vietnamese food is more like rolling hills,” she says. Compare a Thai curry with a bowl of pho (rhymes with “duh”), the noodle soup famous as Vietnam’s signature dish, and it’s easy to see what Nguyen means.

Instead of being hit with gutsy fire and spice, you are comforted with warmth and fragrance—and an overwhelming impression of healthfulness. “Vietnamese food is not particularly rich or fattening,” says Nguyen, who’s been in the U.S. since age 6. “People say it’s very fresh because of the raw vegetables, the herbs, the lettuce, the cucumber. Even when you eat something deep-fried, you’re wrapping it in lettuce.”

Another distinguishing feature? You can make it all your own. “It’s highly customizable,” says Nguyen. “For example, if you were to order a dish with a garnish plate of lettuce and fresh herbs, you could vary every mouthful by adding a different herb to each bite. No one will take offense if you tweak a sauce by adding chili, lime juice or vinegar. If raw bean sprouts are served with your pho, you can ask to have them poached; they won’t be as crunchy and they won’t cool down the soup [as raw ones would]. Actually,” adds Nguyen with insider humor, “you’ll earn a lot of brownie points for that!”

 

Where to eat

The flavors of Vietnam—found!

Huong Viet
358 Passaic Ave.
Nutley
973.667.0827

Binh Duong
61 Belleville Ave.
Bloomfield
973.680.8440

Miss Saigon
200 Route 10
East Hanover
973.884.0270

Saigon Pho
744 Route 46
Parsippany-Troy Hills
973.794.4632

Viet Ai
189 Ridgedale Ave.
Florham Park
973.410.9400

 

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