Enjoying another culture’s cuisine can be a daunting task. With a variety of unique condiments, difficult to master utensils, and table etiquettes, the simple act of eating can be a performance in cultural appreciation. Understanding the basics of a traditional table setting will bring you closer to
the essence of Vietnam.
Rice bowl on a small plate.
Unlike Indian cuisine, where rice is mixed directly with meat and sauce, Vietnamese cuisine prefers separating the rice into a smaller bowl. Having many dishes of different choices of foods on the table at once, you will have to grab the food you want into your rice bowl. This unique setting creates a culture for sharing and community, as the whole table join in together, while still keeping a sense of privacy.
Typically made from bamboo or wood, chopsticks are used in every meal. Sometimes adorned in elaborate decorations, a pair of chopsticks can be a prized possession. Vietnamese favor chopsticks for the convince, chopsticks are the perfect utensil for any situation. Chopsticks might seem difficult
at first, but after a few drops of food, you’ll understand why Vietnamese have been using them for generations.
For a traditional Vietnamese meal, spoons are as essential as chopsticks. Because soups are a vital component of an authentic menu, Vietnamese spoons are usually short and flat. Dishes like Bun Cha or Nem Lui, which have fish sauce as a condiment, use spoon to spill the sauce over the main
dish. Spoons can also be relied upon for those inclined to use chopsticks.
Glass of water or wine
The elderly used to say wine helps with digestion, which is why a glass of it is always nearby. Vietnamese rice wine is served in shot glasses, while Western wines are served in tall glasses. Because of influences from Indochina and French culinary, most Vietnamese cuisines are well complemented by wine.
An essential for any Vietnamese restaurant, whether street-side or lavish, toothpicks can always be found on the dining table. Toothpicks are simple and cheap, and almost everyone uses them after a hearty meal. A perfect end to a meal, toothpicks signal the end of eating and the beginning of conversations.