Vietnamese Spices

A Guide to Vietnamese Spices and Their Usage You Should Know

21 December, 2017
Vietnamese Food Culture

Vietnamese Spices are put into food to make it flavorful and fragrant which have been passed from generation to generation. Sometimes, the secrets of the delicious Vietnamese food lie on the spicing principles which vary due to the regional climate, custom, preference, and testing. Through centuries, only the admitted spices have been being used across the country. For instance, the stir-fried beef cannot be complete without garlic, in several places. Following are the most popular spices in Vietnam that is good to know if you are fond of the local food.

Vietnamese Spices Made From Plant

It can be natural leaves, fruits, grains, and root vegetables. With regards to the leave-made spices, the popular items include laurel, green onion, shallot, basil, cilantro, cumin, coriander, lime leaves, guava leaves, daisy leaves, papaya leaves, chili leaves, tamarind leaves, pineapple leaves, and more. And if you ask about the fruit-made spices, get to know these names: lemon, grapefruit, chili, cardamom, pineapple, green banana, and tamarind. About the spices in the form of grain, the Vietnamese chefs usually use the pepper and bean seeds.

Also, the spices originated from the root vegetables are ginger, garlic, onion, bulb, and turmeric. What’s more, the popular use of mushroom, coconut water, and coconut milk make them easy to spot in any of the local markets. With respect to the processed powder spices, the dominant ones are chili paste, soy sauce, mustard, vegetable oil, mayonnaise, and curry powder.

Vietnamese Spices Made From Plant
Vietnamese Spices Made From Plant

Vietnamese Spices Made from Animals

For the non-vegetarian people, the use of spices extracted from animal sources is a must for their daily meals. Amongst the most common spices in Vietnam, the sauce made from fish, shrimp, crab, etc., are dominant throughout the country. Regarding the fish sauce, the popular ingredients are anchovy, mackerel, and mullet. One sweet spice that you must know is honey. Besides, there uses the pork fat, cheese, butter, and oyster oil.

Vietnamese fish sauce
Vietnamese fish sauce

Vietnamese Spices Made by Microbial Fermentation

For some certain dishes especially in the upscale restaurants, the chefs can also use the spices made by the microbial fermentation process namely vinegar and white wine. In particular, vinegar is the indispensable salad dressing to mix with the salad and make it sour.

Vietnamese banana vinegar
Vietnamese banana vinegar

Vietnamese Spices with Inorganic Origin

This kind of spices includes the acid citric (to make sour, can replace lemon), salt, sugar, MSG (monosodium glutamate), seasoning, soup powder, and more. Nowadays in the modern Vietnamese food culture, there are even the spice packages for the certain food such as the sweet-and-sour soup and braised pork or braised fish.

Spice packages help to cook the daily food easily
Spice packages help to cook the daily food easily

The Widely Accepted Usage of the Vietnamese Spices in Every Day

The spices hold the indispensable and critical roles to give flavor to the food, enhance the taste, stimulate digestion, and make the dish mouth-watering and eye-catching to the connoisseurs. Several spices are even used to create the culinary balance and elegance. Let’s take the La Vong Fish Sausage as an illustration. After fish is spiced with galangal and shrimp paste, it is grilled and then fried in the hot oil pan together with onions. The fish sausage is later eaten with rice vermicelli, shrimp paste, roasted peanuts, tomato essential oil, fermented onions, and basil.

In general, there is no fixed Vietnamese spice mix recipe for all dishes, and this is attached to the chefs’ culinary experiences. For example, the boiled chicken is often served with the sauce including salt, chili, and lemon. And the others can even add pepper and ginger to the ensemble. Furthermore, find the widely accepted usage of the spices in Vietnam below.

  • The stir-fried vegetables are usually combined with the fried garlic and shallot.
  • In Northern Vietnam, dill can be used to garnish the food, or added to most soups.
  • In Southern Vietnam, coconut water is popular in almost every stewed dishes.
  • Vietnamese hot chili peppers are required by most Vietnamese men in their daily family meals.
  • Cinnamon is widely added in the soups, stews, and desserts.
  • The Northern people taste their food saltier and less sweet than in the other regions. Note that the black pepper is often used to substitute the hot chili.
  • The Central people spice their food more spicy and colorful than elsewhere.
  • The Southern people prefer the sweet taste, so they use the sugar or coconut milk to create the sweet flavor of the dish. Also, they like the spicy flavor extracted from the red hot chili.
  • Chili powder is often put into food to give it color. The taste of this powder is not as strong as the fresh hot chili, so it does not influence the food quality much.
  • Ginger and fried onions can deodorize the fishy smell. For the steamed fish, the bottom layer of the onions makes the food fragrant and delicious.
  • Garlic is often ground and then added to pork, beef, and chicken during the processing stage. Do not use too much amount of garlic because its smell can overwhelm the ingredient’s smell. For the stir-fried vegetables, garlic should be put into the hot oil pan to deodorize and create the aroma.
  • Pepper not only offers aroma to the food, but it also enhances the succulent taste. While the ground pepper is to scatter over the soups, the pepper seeds are suitable for the stews.
  • Curry powder is the major spice of the curry dish. Also, it is proper to spice the pork, beef, and chicken to increase the smell and enhance the succulent flavor.
  • Soy sauce is quite common amongst the Vietnamese housewives who often add the sauce to the stir-fried vegetables. When stir-frying, the vegetables should be added first, and then soy sauce comes last.
  • Fish sauce is the typical item in the Vietnamese cuisine. Besides the good digestion effects, the Vietnamese fish sauce covers protein and vitamin A, D, and B12.

A guide to Vietnamese spices can make you much more interested in the Vietnamese food and cuisine, believably. Make it a point to savor the local dishes if you get there.