Before you hit the streets, here’s a quick overview of Vietnamese eating culture:
Vietnamese food is extremely varied. It’s helpful to think of the country as three Vietnams; just as there are distinct northern, central and southern accents, there are clear regional differences in flavor. You have salty bún chả in Hanoi and super-sweet cà phê sữa đá in Saigon, but central Vietnam is known for it’s spice. Not only are there regional differences, but each province or even city has it’s own specialties as well, from goat in Ninh Binh, soft bánh xèo in Tuy Hoa and bún mắm in Da Nang.
What’s Special about Da Nang?
Da Nang is a great middle ground, both geographically and culturally. Because it’s not really close to either Saigon or Hanoi, it’s cuisine has evolved unfettered by these two powerhouses. That means you have food in Da Nang that you won’t find in either the north or the south. That also means that things like phở, the quintessential northern dish, are almost nowhere to be found here. Instead, you have lots of fish soups (bánh canh, bún chả cá) along with great BBQ. Also, things like southern spring rolls are given a Da Nang twist (literally) in the form of ram cuốn cải, which are spring rolls, rolled up in leaves and dipped in fish sauce. Seafood is a dietary staple for many Da Nang residents, though there are so many amazing local dishes it would be impossible to sample them all in one tour.
Vietnamese Eating Culture
Eating in Vietnam is a communal event. Typically one person will order for the table and dishes are meant for sharing. Freshness is everything, which is why food is brought to the table as soon as it’s cooked, regardless of what you ordered first, second, etc. or whether the dish is a ‘starter’ or a ‘main’. When the meal is finished, holler for the bill; bringing the bill unprompted would be extremely rude.
Vietnamese people love to play with their food, from rolling up fish in rice paper, to nibbling on watermelon seeds,to sucking snails out of shells, and peeling little quail eggs, so be sure to have fun when you’re eating. As a general rule, never eat anything exactly the way it comes out. You either gotta dip it in a sauce, or squeeze some lime on top, or add chili; maybe even all three!
You’ll want to give your chopsticks a cursory wipe-down before digging in, just for appearances. All those peanut and clam shells? Toss them on the floor under the table, no problem. The table is for clean things, and the ground is for dirty things. They’ll sweep up when we leave.
Ready to check out Vietnamese eating culture for yourself?