Famous for its lively, fresh flavours and artfully composed meals, Vietnamese food and cooking is the true ‘light cuisine’ of Asia.
One thing you will notice after awhile of being in Viet Nam is that right after greeting the person; he is going to ask you if you have eaten yet. Most of the times this question is being ask is the moment you arrived at the house (if you got an invitation), business meetings, or just hanging out with the natives.
Usually there will seven courses such as soup (unlike Chinese banquet), pickled vegetables and shrimp chips, deli meat, hot pot, fried vegetables, roasted pork or duck, fish (steamed or fried), and fruit to end the meal.
On the bright side of eating Vietnamese food is that you won’t gain that much weight or anything at all really. The reason is that most of the foods are not greasy and the meals balance each other out.
When dining the Vietnamese always sit in a circle (usually on the floor) so everyone gets fair access to the shared dishes in the middle.
The eldest man at any sitting is handed chop sticks & bowl first as a mark of respect. While we say ‘Dig in!’, the Vietnamese speak volumes in their silence. The sound of chewing is the way to show thanks in Vietnam.
When it comes to drinking – get ready to keep up with a fast pace of “Mot Hai Ba YO!” Or “Tram phan tram” (means “Empty your glass, 100%) and “Chuc suc khoe” (Good health). After a toast is made then everyone can start drinking so do not start taking the beer before that.
Drinking is very common in Viet Nam so here are a few drinks you should be aware: the “333” , “Bia Hoi” or fresh beer in the cities, wines (from Australia and France), and “Ruou De” (it is similar to the Japanese’s sake).
By now the food should be arriving but before you dive in you should noticed a few things first. Before picking up those chopsticks you should wait for everyone to be seated, especially the eldest person there. Next, wait until the eldest person to pick up his chopsticks and begin the meal.
Once everyone begins to pick up his chopsticks, you simply say “Moi… (fill in person’s name).” You should start with the eldest person first though. The purpose of saying this is asking the people around you to eat and to recognize each person at your table. This show that you respect each person at the meal and hope he will enjoy the meal. The benefit of doing a simple asking for everyone to start eating will earn you a lot of respect, because this will come across as you being considerate. If you are here for business then even though these casual meals do not involve work but you are still being judge so impressions count.
Throughout the meal, it is also considerate to notice when other people’s glasses are empty. If the glass is empty then fill it for the person because this will show that you are aware and able to take care of people around you.
This will not consider as impolite to ask for seconds, it actually might be the best way to show the natives of your satisfactions with the food. To the Vietnamese, by asking more means you are enjoying the food. Complement as each dish is coming out is not a bad thing to do. Be lively. Ask questions about the dish, how it is prepared and if it is a specialty in the region. Another way to put it is show interest in the food since it is part of the culture.