VietnamCulture and HistoryVietnamese Family Meals - North, Central, South

Vietnamese Family Meals – North, Central, South

Family meals are the soul of Vietnamese culture and the glue to a strong family bond. At the dining table, we forget daily life’s hustles and get immersed in sharing the warmth of food and gathering. So, you become an endearing part of the family when they invite you to join their table.

What’s also so fascinating about Vietnamese family meals is that they can be incredibly different depending on the region. Below are some basic features about how families from North to South have their food together.

The Manners in Vietnamese Family Meals

It might be familiar to you that the Vietnamese use chopsticks to pick up food, and everyone has their own bowl of rice. This could be different from how Westerners have meals. Therefore, learning the table manners of an Eastern country like Vietnam could be a new experience.

In a Vietnamese family meal, the younger members have to respectfully invite the elders before eating. The youngest one will be the first to ask, and the rest of the younger ones will do the same, ascendingly from the youngest to the oldest. When you have finished eating, kindly inform others what you have done and tell them to keep enjoying the rest of their meals.

Also, offering and sharing food with the elders and other members shows you are cultured, polite, and considerate. Traditionally, the elderly and the children are the most cared for, and the best food should be reserved for them. One more critical thing regarding Vietnamese table manners is not to mention anger, quarrels, or criticism, and everyone has to try to keep the atmosphere cozy and comfortable.

The Vietnamese often use round trays and roundtables to keep the members intimate and make sharing easier. In that case, the elderly will sit where the best dishes are accessible and where they can easily converse with everyone.

Even though the above dining manners are not as strict as before, following them shows your courtesy and cultural knowledge. This is why family meals are among the best ways to preserve Vietnam’s moral values and traditions.

Vietnamese Family Meals in the North, Central, and South Vietnam

A typical Vietnamese meal consists of rice, dishes with meat, fish, and cooked vegetable soup. In addition, some sauces and raw vegetables accompany the main dishes. There is a range of traditional food with different flavors in Vietnam, varying among the regions.

Family Meals in Northern Vietnam

The Northerners often cook protein dishes with popular ingredients like fish and pork. They could be fried or cooked in a sauce with rice and soup. Some everyday dishes are sweet and sour pork ribs, clay pot caramelized fish or pork and eggs, crab soup, and sweet and sour fish soup (canh chua). The dipping sauce, like fish sauce, and the side dishes, like garden egg pickles, are also served along side the meat and vegetables.

Read more on What to Eat on Food Tours in Northern Vietnam

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A typical meal of the Northerners
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An example of a family meal in Northwest Vietnam

Family Meals in Central Vietnam

Besides featured foods like Bun Bo Hue and Mi Quang, traditional dishes in Central Vietnam meals reflect the soul of hard-working and straightforward people here. When it comes to flavor, people here tend to prefer spicy and salty flavors. Because most of the provinces in Central Vietnam are near the coastline, some popular dishes are from different kinds of seafood like crab, shrimp, snails, and fish. These ingredients could be steamed or made into salads. Moreover, the shrimp paste, which enhances the taste of dishes, is popular, especially in Hue.

Read more on What to Eat on Food Tours in Central Vietnam

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vietnam family meals central rice paper cracker
Most Central Vietnam families have salads in their meals, served with some rice paper crackers

Family Meals in Southern Vietnam

Southern dishes are the sweetest of all 3 regions. As a whole, Southern dishes have many ingredients, and people tend to prefer frying and cooking with the sauce. There are many traditional ones in every family meal, like stir-fried beef with celery, stir-fried water spinach with garlic, snakehead fish sour soup, and sour soup with tomatoes and beaten egg. The Southerners also like to eat fish and shrimp caught in rivers.

Read more on Vietnam Food Tour: Signature Dishes in Southern Vietnam

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A typical meal of the Southerners
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Canh chua (sweet and sour soup)

Conclusion on the Vietnamese Family Meals – North, Central, South

Home-cooked food is irreplaceable to the Vietnamese, and family meals perfectly reflect the soul and traditional Vietnamese culture. Regarding the dishes, you would expect to eat saltier foods in the North, spicier foods in the Central, and sweeter ones in the South.

But the kind of meal you will enjoy is not the only thing you should know. Besides chopstick skills, there are many table manners to master, like where to sit and how to invite the elderly at a Vietnamese family meal.

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