I’ve been organizing the Wine-Knows’ 2020 tour to Vietnam and I’m already dreaming of my third trip to this magical country. While Vietnam does make wine due to its historical roots as a French colony, it’s the nation’s food that pulls at the culinary strings of my heart.
Traditional Vietnamese cooking is well known for its fresh ingredients, along with its minimal use of dairy, red meat, and oil. With nearly a 2,000 mile coastline, fish is a common ingredient in the diet. There’s also a huge reliance on herbs and vegetables. Because of this, many believe that Vietnam’s cuisine may be one of the healthiest diets on the planet.
Antioxidant fresh herbs
Many dishes are served with a side plate of fresh herbs
Many Vietnamese dishes are accompanied by a large platter of fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, and mint. Lettuce leaves serve as a wrap for many items (like a burrito) and the herbs are placed inside the wrap along with whatever is being served.
This egg roll is wrapped in lettuce with purple basil & mint
Herbs have been used throughout history as a medicine. We know today that they exert an antioxidant influence and contain essential oils, vitamins, and other important substances that help protect our bodies against infection, as well as boost our immunity systems.
Mind-boggling array of nutritious fruit
Vietnam is located in a tropical zone with long hours of warm sunshine, as well as humidity---both of which create nirvana when it comes to fruit. Not only is there a tremendous assortment, but the Vietnamese pick their fruit ripe. This has a big influence on why every fruit tastes so better in Vietnam. It’s no wonder that people from China drive hours by car (or ride the bus) to the Vietnamese border to stock up on these extraordinary fruits.
Tropical fruits have long been known for their promotion of health. High in essential vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fiber, they are a staple in the Vietnamese diet. Fruits are served raw, juiced, used in salads, mixed with main courses and are served in desserts.
Jackfruit can grow as large as 80 lbs!
One of my favorite fruits from any country is Vietnamese. While we don’t grow it in the US, due to the vast Vietnamese population in California the fruit is now being imported. Called jackfruit, if you don’t know it, you should! This fruit is a party in your mouth. Offering a mélange of big-time tropical flavors, it tastes somewhere between a pineapple, a banana and a cherimoya (another tropical fruit found in many countries including Vietnam).
Jackfruit is definitely a love-at-first bite kind of fruit. It is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber and protein. While it does contain some fat, it’s not the bad saturated fat that leads to cholesterol buildup in our arteries.
Very little saturated fat
Unlike Americans, the Vietnamese eat very little saturated fat. While beef and pork are used, they are used in small portions---abundant vegetables and fruits are mixed with the proteins. Fish and seafood are used, as is tofu---all appear in concert with vegetables and/or fruits. In spite of their French linkage, there is no cheese or butter. Also, very little processed food exists.
Vietnam February 2020