Five flavours to rule them all
Balance is the heart of Vietnamese cuisine. Five flavour profiles – bitter, salty, sour, spicy and sweet – are equally represented. While flavour plays a large part of the cuisine, texture also play a large part of the dining experience. A predominately soft textured dish that has rice noodles can be livened up with some bean sprouts or fried shallots. Each element of presentation right down to the garnish plays into this philosophy.
Take for example the humble bun thit nuong which translates to noodles meat grilled. It seems pretty simple. Put some greens in a bowl, throw on top some rice noodles along with some grilled meat. Finish it off with a flourish of pickled veggies, roasted peanuts and splash some nuoc cham. However, delve a bit deeper in the bowl and you’ll find a complex medley of flavours and textures.
First, the veggies. Torn leaf lettuce, bean sprouts bring a crunchiness to the party. Herbs such as basil, mint and cilantro bring a herbacious aroma to the mix. The noodles are what binds the bowl together. If you have a good vendor, the noodles will be firm and not too gooey. The thit (meat, almost always pork) is marinated in a fish sauce, lemongrass and garlic mix. The thit is then grilled (the nuong part) with a bit of char left on the meat which adds bitterness to the mix. Rounding out the bowl is some chopped peanuts for texture, chopped scallions in oil for richness and if you are lucky, crunchy deep fried pork fat.
It has all the flavours you would expect from a Vietnamese dish along with some balanced textures and is also easy on the eyes!
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