Vietnamese cuisine is the original fusion. Nearly a century of Gallic occupation meshed the sweet and tangy flavors of Southeast Asia with France’s rich flavors and obsession with good bread. You could eat your way through the country for months. One of the trends you’d notice is Vietnamese cuisine’s elevation of fresh vegetables and especially herbs–like mint, cilantro, and basil pictured above.
Today, we’re highlighting five of the most beloved dishes from the region, many of which have made their way to the U.S.–and to Blue Apron boxes.
1. Banh Mi
In Vietnam, “banh mi” refers to the baguette-like bread that was brought to the region during French colonial rule. You’ll find vendors peddling their fresh bread on the sides of highways and busy streets all over the country. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the rolls are mostly sold as sandwiches stuffed with tons of aromatic herbs, vegetables, meats, fresh chili peppers, and mayonnaise.
2. Summer Rolls
Unlike spring rolls, which are usually deep fried, summer rolls are wrapped in fresh rice paper, or bánh tráng in Vietnamese. They’re almost always filled with fresh vegetables and herbs, and often also with pork or shrimp. In Vietnam, the bánh tráng are created by drying rice batter on large bamboo mats, leaving them with their signature crosshatch pattern.
Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a staple dish in Vietnamese cuisine. Throughout Vietnam, in the early morning, groups of people enjoy a bowls of it for breakfast on the sidewalk from street vendors. The soup is famous for the complex flavors that come from hours of simmering with beef bones and tons of exotic spices. Our express version uses the key spices (cardamom, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, and star anise), a rich beef base, and all the essential garnishes.
4. Bun Cha
This dish of little flavored pork patties is traditionally served with a plate of fresh herbs, including cilantro, Thai basil, and bean sprouts. This array of greens transforms the dish, each herb adding distinctive fragrances and flavors. The best way to eat this is to customize each bite as you go, and trying different combinations of meat, herbs, noodles, and broth.
This dish is inspired by the cuisines of Southeast Asia where the focus is on the balance of sour, salty, sweet, and bitter flavors. In stalls at markets and on the sidewalk, vendors stir-fry their own combinations of ingredients: meats, noodles, sauces, vegetables, and aromatics.