Recipes by Ethnicity:
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Middle Eastern Recipes
United States Recipes
Vietnam is a long, skinny country stretching from Hanoi and the Red River in the north to Ho Chi Minh City and the fertile Mekong River Delta in the south. These ends are connected by a mountainous spine that runs along the South China Sea. On the west, Vietnam is bordered by Laos and Cambodia, and to the north, lies China. The food of the north, through stir-fries and noodle-based soups, shows the heavy influence of Chinese cooking. The mountainous middle section, with the former Imperial capitol, Hue, at its center, has an abundance of fresh produce. It was in Hue that royal chefs developed the more elaborate dishes of Vietnamese cuisine. The southern region is tropical, sustaining rice paddies, coconut groves, and many more spices than the north. As in the rest of Southeast Asia, there is an ancient layer of Indian cultural presence, most obviously evidenced in the religion of Buddhism (which, during the first millennium C.E., made its way along the Silk Road from India to East Asia). French colonization of Vietnam, which began in the 16th century and ended in the middle of the 20th century, also had a deep influence on Vietnamese cooking. The cuisine balances all these influences. One street vendor may noodle soup, pho bo, from his cart. The next vendor over might sell baguette smeared with one of the many ground pork concoctions known as pâtés. Both may be complemented by the ubiquitous native fish sauce (nuoc nam) or dipping sauce (nuoc cham -- made from fish sauce, water, sugar, and lime juice and seasoned with chiles and garlic).
Vietnamese cooking is generally not as rich or heavy as the coconut milk curries, of, say, Thailand or India. All that coastline means that fish and seafood are central to the diet. Other meats -- pork, beef, and chicken -- are also common, but in smaller quantities. Vegetables are often left raw, especially in the south, to act as a fresh contrast to the spicy cooked meat. The distinct flavors of Vietnamese food come primarily from: mint leaves, coriander, lemon grass, shrimp, fish sauces (nuoc nam and nuoc cham), star anise, ginger, black pepper, garlic, basil, rice vinegar, sugar, and green onions. Many flavorful marinades are made by some combination of these flavorings. Marinated meat or fish is quickly sautéed in the wok and served with an array of raw vegetables and herbs. All this may be eaten over rice or rolled in a rice-paper wrapper or lettuce leaf (or both), then dipped into a pungent sauce.