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The family table

The Vietnamese family’s meal present a sense of community and helps foster a close cohesion amongst family members. Not only important for providing families with time to be together, the family meal is also the principal component of Vietnamese celebrations and festivals. The women of the house are generally responsible for the preparing the family meal, although men will lend a hand if the wife or daughter is unable. So important is the family meal that within Vietnamese culture the quality of a woman’s cooking is considered a reflection of her character and upbringing.


Vietnamese family meals are a slow, friendly affair. Guests are either seated at a table or in a circle on the floor at the center of which the dishes are placed. With the exception of individual bowls of rice, all dishes are communal and shared. In Vietnamese cuisine there are no distinct courses and dishes are presented together and consumed in any order. According to tradition, the younger people at the table should ask the elders to eat first, and women will normally sit beside the rice pot in order to help serve rice for other people. Using chopsticks and in consideration of good manners, guests take bite size portions of food from the communal dishes, one at a time, placing into their own rice bowl before bringing it ti the mouth. In show of care and respect, family members may also pick up to food for each other.



Dinner is considered by Vietnamese to be the most important meal of the day and is usually consumed at home. The core components of a typical family meal include a large bowl of steamed white rice, a fish or meat dish( grilled, boiled, steam, or stewed ), a stir –try dish a vegetable dish, and a clear broth soup. Accompanying the dishes are a range of condiments and dips that often include seasoned fish sauce minced garlic, fresh chili soy sauce, Muoi Tieu Chanh ( salt and pepper with lime juice) or Muoi Ot ( chili and salt ). In place of dessert or sweats, a plate of fresh fruit is normally presented at the end of the meal.



 A yin-yang approach is commonly adopted when composing a Vietnamese meal such that a balance is created that is believed to be beneficial to the body. In this approach contrasting textures and flavors are important, as are an understanding of the “ heating “ and “ cooling “ properties of ingredients with examples including serving duck meat (“cool”) in summer with a ginger and fish sauce (“warm”) or serving chicken (“warm”) and port (“hot”) in winter. In addition to the yin – yang approach, Vietnamese cuisine is influenced by the Asian principle of the five elements and Mahabhuta. As such, many Vietnamese dishes will include five spices ( ngu vi ) that correspond to five ( ngu tang ) , five types of nutrients ( ngu chat) and where possible, five colors ( ngu sac ). In its completion, the meal should appeal to the five sense ( nam giac quan), through the food arrangement ( sight), crispy ingredient ( sound ), spice ( taste ), aromatic herbs ( smell ) and contrasting texture and consistency ( touch ).