Vietnamese food that contains a wide selection of tastes and textures is actually rather simple to cook. The whole meal is easily prepared using just one sauté pan or a wok. While the preparation process were regarded as extremely time-consuming in the past. Modern conveniences like a food processor make the preparation process easier and much faster.
The age old saying “the fresher the ingredients the better” is particularly true when it comes to Vietnamese cooking. The wide selection of lettuces and herbs are generally served raw and the salads are in no way overdressed, to ensure the maximum flavors are always present. Fish and vegetables make up the majority of a Vietnamese diet. The food is always lightly seasoned and always cooked in a gentle manner. These cooking methods allow the flavors of each dish to come through.
The essential and ubiquitous fish sauce known as nuoc mam is now readily available just about everywhere. In addition, there are a number of other key ingredients that all require significant preparation. Ingredients like ginger, garlic, roasted peanuts, shallots, lemongrass, and chili were first traditionally prepared using a mortar-and-pestle. Today these preparation techniques are much easier with the help of a blender or food processor. However, the most effective results are achieved when you use an incredibly sharp knife.
Ingredients such as the Asian shallots are generally deep-fried and then used with a garnish. French shallots are typically sliced extremely thin, sprinkled with salt and then pressed using a towel before the frying process.
Monosodium glutamate better known as MSG is present in nearly all Vietnamese food. Today, due to a number of health concerns surrounding MSG’s, fried shallots, sugar, pepper, garlic, Nuoc mam and salt are used in place of MSG to compensate for the flavors.
When preparing a salad, the lettuce should always be dry, clean and fresh. The salad should only receive a light dressing just prior to serving. Dried out, rice-paper wrappers are utilized to wrap numerous rolls and are available in most Asian food stores or markets. In order to prepare fresh wrappers, many of the modern chefs or cooks improvise the traditional method by using a taut and fine cloth over a large pot of steaming hot water. The mixture of salt, water, and rice flour is spooned over this surface and smoothed out into a round shape. After steaming for a couple of minutes, the pancake can be lifted using a utensil with a soft edge. This pancake can be set aside for later use.
Rice noodles can be prepared using a large pot. The water should be almost to the top and bought to the boil. The dry noodles are then put into a very large sieve and then submerged into the rapidly boiling water until they turn soft.
Typically, once all the ingredients are prepared, they will be arranged on a platter or into individual bowls. Then as you start to cook the ingredients are available for an easier method of cooking.
The most common methods used for Vietnamese cooking include grilling, deep-frying and stir-frying. The recipes that include stir frying involve cooking the food in a large wok with pork fat or oil over an extremely hot flame for a very short time. Sautéing is an alternative method using a skillet. When stir-frying the oil or pork fat must be added to the wok to heat up before the ingredients hit the pan. Vietnamese cooking methods, in general, will only take a few short minutes to ensure the food does not have a chance to absorb excess oil. Long chopsticks or a curved traditional spatula are used to handle the hot food.
Deep frying methods can also be conducted in the wok or a deep saucepan and peanut oil is preferable. The optimal temperature is around 10 to 200 degrees Celsius. For best results food should be cooked in smaller amounts in very hot oil. The oil should not smoke.
Grilling is also considered a popular modern and traditional way of cooking Vietnamese food. The barbecue is one of the simplest methods in this regard. Grilling using an open flame imparts essential and distinctive flavors that many of these recipes depend on.