Friday, May 6, 2011

Vietnamese Veggies

[caption id="attachment_699" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Source: Flickr. (c) Charles Roffey"][/caption]

Vietnam is a haven for vegetarians. Not only for them, but this category of foodies can finally be completely satisfied. Although there are not very many types of vegetables in the Vietnamese cuisine, they are very often used, both in vegetarian and meat dishes.
Unlike other Asian cuisines, the Vietnamese serve many uncooked vegetables, often in the form of salads and pickles. Many fresh herbs and spices, including basil, mint, coriander, ginger, chili peppers, and garlic, give Vietnamese food its distinctive flavor and add color to many dishes. The most used vegetables in Vietnamese cuisine are: chayote squashes, cucumbers, eggplants, daikons, water spinach, bok choy, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, and bitter melon.

Everybody knows cucumbers and carrots. In Vietnamese cuisine, they are commonly used sliced in submarine sandwiches, pickled, chopped, boiled, sliced, fried, steamed, minced, and so forth. Cucumbers are one of the main vegetables in Vietnamese cooking (whether cooked or raw). Eggplants, cauliflower, and cabbage are equally common.

[caption id="attachment_700" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Daikon. Source: Flickr. (c) rumpleteaser"][/caption]
Daikon is a long white radish that looks like a large white carrot. In Vietnamese cuisine, it can be cooked with meat or chopped up and served as a salad or vegetable platter. Chayotes are a kind of squashes, that also also popular in Mexican cuisine.

[caption id="attachment_701" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Chayote squashes. Source: Flickr. (c) CIAT"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_702" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Water spinach. Source: Flickr. (c) Elvis Ripley"][/caption]
Water spinach is common in Vietnam as it's grown in East and Southeast Asia because it flourishes in waterways. Water spinach is very common and plentiful and it is considered a vegetable for the poor. Today, it's a reminder of the peaceful rural life. In Vietnamese, it's called rau moung.

[caption id="attachment_703" align="aligncenter" width="333" caption="Bok choy. Source: Flickr. (c) sweetbeetsandgreenbean"][/caption]
Bok choy is the Chinese cabbage and it represents a common ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. Last but not least, bitter melon is very much used in vegetarian dishes. But you can also have it with meat or shrimp.

[caption id="attachment_705" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Bitter melon. Source: Flickr. (c) Yoshifumi Harada"][/caption]

Herbs are used abundantly in almost any meal. Vietnamese recipes utilize a diverse range of herbs, including lemongrass, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander and Thai basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for freshness of the ingredients and for the healthy eating style.

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Lemon grass, a tropical grass that looks something like scallions, gives food a unique, lemony tang. As for spices, Vietnam is one of the most important producers and exporters of pepper in the world.

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