Day 21: Vietnamese Pho

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Vietnam is a beautiful country; rich in its variety of indigenous and European cuisines prepared perfectly. There is surprisingly beautiful food available nearly everywhere. The national dish is called pho – a broth in which noodles, vegetables, and chicken or beef or pork or meatballs or shrimp or Tofu are added.

Vietnamese cuisine encompasses the foods and beverages of Vietnam, and features a combination of five fundamental tastes (Vietnamese: ngũ vị) in overall meals. Each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavor which reflects one or more of these elements. Common ingredients include shrimp paste, fish sauce, bean sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables. French cuisine has also had a major influence due to the French colonization of Vietnam.

Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird's eye chili, lime, and Thai basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of dairy and oil, complementary textures, and reliance on herbs and vegetables. It is also low in sugar and is almost always naturally gluten-free, as many of the dishes are made with rice noodles, rice papers and rice flour instead of wheat. With the balance between fresh herbs and meats and a selective use of spices to reach a fine taste, Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.

Philosophical importance

Vietnamese cuisine always has five elements which are known for its balance in each of these features. Many Vietnamese dishes include five fundamental taste senses (ngũ vị): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth), corresponding to five organs (ngũ tạng): gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder.

Vietnamese dishes also include five types of nutrients (ngũ chất): powder, water or liquid, mineral elements, protein, and fat. Vietnamese cooks try to have five colours (ngũ sắc): white (metal), green (wood), yellow (earth), red (fire) and black (water) in their dishes.

Dishes in Vietnam appeal to gastronomes via the five senses (năm giác quan): food arrangement attracts eyes, sounds come from crisp ingredients, five spices are detected on the tongue, aromatic ingredients coming mainly from herbs stimulate the nose, and some meals, especially finger food, can be perceived by touching.

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Five-element correspondence

Vietnamese cuisine is influenced by the Asian principle of five elements and Mahābhūta.

Correspondence Elements

Wood Fire Earth Metal Water

Spices Sour Bitter Sweet Spicy Salty

Organs Gall Intestine Stomach Intestine Urinary

Colors Green Red Yellow White Black

Senses Visual Taste Touch Smell Sound

Nutrients Carbohydrates Fat Protein Minerals Water

Yin-yang balance

The principle of yin and yang (Vietnamese: Âm dương) is applied in composing a meal in a way that provides a balance that is beneficial for the body. While contrasting texture and flavors are important, the principle primarily concerns the "heating" and "cooling" properties of ingredients. Certain dishes are served in their respective seasons to provide contrasts in temperature and spiciness of the food and environment.[6] Some examples are:[7]

Duck meat, considered "cool", is served during the hot summer with ginger fish sauce, which is "warm". Conversely, chicken, which is "warm", and pork, which is "hot", are eaten in the winter.

Seafoods ranging from "cool" to "cold" are suitable to use with ginger ("warm").

Spicy foods ("hot") are typically balanced with sourness, which is considered "cool".

Balut (trứng vịt lộn), meaning "upside-down egg" ("cold"), must be combined with Vietnamese mint (rau răm) ("hot").

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Cultural importance

Salt is used as the connection between the worlds of the living and the dead. Bánh phu thê is used to remind new couples of perfection and harmony at their weddings. Food is often placed at the ancestral altar as an offering to the dead on special occasions (such as Lunar New Year). Cooking and eating play an extremely important role in Vietnamese culture. The word ăn (to eat) is included in a great number of proverbs and has a large range of semantic extensions.

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Ingredients - 4 servings

Organic Chicken, beef or Tofu 1lbs

Organic ginger 2 TBSP

Organic diced carrots 1.5 large

Organic sweet pepper 1

Organic bok choy bunch 1

Organic Cardamom Pods 2 pods

Organic star anise 4 pods

Organic cloves 1 pods

Organic lime and peel 1 TBSP

Organic Rice wine 1 TBSP

Organic Sriracha 1 TBSP

Organic diced onions 1 cup

Organic Honey 2 TBSP

Organic Coconut Aminos 2 TBSP

Organic coriander 2 tp

Organic cinnamon 2 tp

Freshly minced Gilroy garlic 4 cloves

Organic fennel seeds 1 tp

Finely ground sea salt 1 tp

Stone ground pepper 1 tp

Organic hoisin 1 tp

Organic basil 1 tp

Organic Cilantro 1 tp

Organic low sodium chicken / veggie / beef broth 2 cube

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