Traditional Vietnamese Family Meal – What They Eat and Table Etiquettes
The traditional Vietnamese family meal embodies the cultural aspects of the country that emphasizes the traditions that all family members are expected to dine together. In the previous years, mealtime was very important as it represented the meaning of reunion as well as the strong bonds among the family generations. Though the significance is somehow lessened, the Vietnamese still enjoy their family meals that appeal to the foreigners. If you want to know what the locals eat and their table etiquettes while dining with other family members, read on.
Images of Family Meals in Vietnam
“Meaningful and enjoyable,” the family meals in Vietnam have long been the unforgettable images in the Vietnamese’s minds. While the mother is preparing food, father is watching TV, kids are playing, and the grandparents are reading books or doing something else. The happy atmosphere during the family meal and other similar family gatherings seem to be the most beautiful and memorable moments of those that are away from home. That’s said, children who live in a family that often has meals together tend to grow better and happier than those do not.
Typical Vietnamese Family Meal – what’s on the table?
Traditionally, members of a family will sit around a table that embodies the attachment among them. As they are sharing the meals, they have to support, protect, and help each other regardless of whatever. The tools that Vietnamese uses to eat can be chopsticks and spoons. A person will use a pair of chopsticks to take food, which makes chopsticks the indispensable items on the table. Regarding the chopsticks, there are even the Vietnamese folk tales that tell about the lessons of solidarity: one chopstick can be broken easily while bunches of chopsticks are hard to break. This means family members should be solidary and help each other. It also takes time to teach a local kid to use chopsticks, so don’t be embarrassed if you cannot use it well in the first place.
Often, on the table of the typical Vietnamese family meal is the common Vietnamese food such as fluffy rice, pork, egg, and vegetables. Similar to other Asian countries, rice is the core item in the local meal. Some local elders might feel it just half-finished if the dining table lacks the cooked rice. Besides, the other favored dishes are fish soup, vegetable pickles, boiled or stir-fried vegetables, stewed pork, slices of meat or fried egg, etc. Due to the living conditions and budgets of each family, the quality of the family meal varies. The nutrient-rich meals need more money to buy. Some families even prefer spending weekends together to make the special dishes. The members will take those moments to unwind and say goodbye to daily life pressure.
Table Etiquettes during Vietnamese Family Meals
Generations of the family members in Vietnam remember the core principle of “showing respect to the seniors and giving love to the juniors.” In that sense, the delicious food should be given to the eldest or the youngest members of the family. So, it’s common to see other people use the chopsticks to take the most scrumptious food for the old grandparents or the youngest offspring. Giving food to each other also symbolizes the values of solidarity and compromise.
Some other etiquettes on the table are to watch the circumstances before you eat, and not to talk while chewing. There is even an old saying about the table manner in Vietnam: “When you eat, check the pots and pans. When you seat, check the directions.” What’s more, the traditional family meal in Vietnam includes the invitation at the beginning of the meal. That custom teaches the local children to invite their grandparents and parents to “enjoy the meal” first.
And if there are some other older people sitting around the table, it’s necessary to invite them too, based on the priority of their ages. But nowadays, some families disregard this custom and value the comfort while dining. It’s up to different family’s regulations. If there is only one piece of food left on the table, people will ask whether anyone wants to eat it. If not, they will pick up the piece with the others’ approval.
Topics while dining should be what’s going on at work or at school, the acquaintances of the family, the stories of the past that the elders would love to share with their offspring, etc. The Vietnamese family meal is also a kind of the family reunion that they gather around the delicious table, share, and listen to each other.
Attempts to Maintain the Tradition of Family Meals in Vietnam
Living in the busy and tough life, especially in the cities, some Vietnamese families have to sacrifice their family meals for the urgent meetings, necessary work overtime, studying for important exams, etc. These circumstances drive the locals to use the processed food or fast food to fulfill their bellies. As a result, family meals in some houses become fewer and fewer.
Nonetheless, there are several families that emphasize the significance of dining together, so they teach their children about this tradition from the childhood. This is the beautiful culture to keep and develop. In fact, when people grow up, memories about the family meals will be one of the sweetest and most unforgettable things that give them much energy and motivation to try in life.
At present, foreigners can join the family meals via Vietnam Homestay Services especially in the off-the-beaten-track countryside areas. Not only you can share food on the table with the locals, but you can also get the hands-on experiences in the domestic house chores and live in their houses. Another channel for the foreign foodies to attend the family meals in Vietnam is via Food Tours, especially to the Mekong Delta areas in which the thatch-roofed houses deliver the cozy dining experiences. Though you might not understand what the locals are saying around the table, they are very friendly and the food is absolutely delicious.
Try eating meals with a local family just like the Vietnamese such as using chopsticks, inviting the elders to eat first, etc., when you travel to Vietnam.