COOKING – A SUBTLE WAY TO EXPLORE VIETNAMESE CUISINE
Whenever we talk about culture, we may relate that notion to other disciplines such as political, social, ecological, religious and communal identities; and those fields are all intimately linked to foods, which are not merely sustenance but also reflective of each nation’s culture and history. Upon that perspective, holding a cooking event for our beloved interns on a regular basis has become a part and parcel of ABROADER’s mission of leading foreign students to explore Vietnamese cuisine.
REGIONAL DIFFERENCES IN VIETNAMESE CUISINE
Vietnam is made up of about 54 provinces scattering around three distinct areas – the North, the Central Highlands and the South – each of which has its own climate, culture and food traditions. Northern area, generally speaking, is more influenced by neighbouring China and the food tends to reflect its colder climate; the South draws more upon Khmer and Thai influences and its hotter climate means more emphasis on salads, and so-called “cooling foods and drinks”; whereas Central Highlands is more of a harmonious mixture of the two styles.
The key ingredients used in Vietnamese cooking (fish sauce, sugar and rice) are pretty similar to other South-Eastern countries, yet Vietnamese cooking has a distinct style all of its own. It tends to be less spicy, lighter, and fresh. A typical meal may include a soup, rice, grilled or steamed meats, a vegetable dish, fresh fruit and salad, all placed on the table at once.
ABROADER IN HO CHI MINH – A COLORFUL PARTY
In the two continuous weekends of July, both ABROADER’s bases organize cooking events to engage local buddies and students coming from various universities around the globe in the journey of exploring Vietnamese cuisine. To start off, ABROADER in Ho Chi Minh city cordially hosted a cooking show. The picture below from self-acclaimed “master chiefs” from University of Pennsylvania, Republic Polytechnic and other part has sum up their preference in dishes and flavors.
The dishes that have been served here are chicken salads, goi cuon – summer rolls (with shrimps as main ingredients), kimbap (actually this dish come from Korea), flan cakes, and other fresh fruits. Besides, foregin students have chance to try durian – a kind of fruit that has a very strong flavor. Some may fall in love with it at first sight and some don’t! However, the cooking event has strengthened the bonds between students from all walks of life thanks to their open-mindedness and willingness to try new things!
ABROADER IN HANOI – A COMPETITION OR A CHILL-OUT GATHERING?
Whereas, with the aim of promoting cultural exchange, especially providing students with a broader view on different speciality in three main regions, ABROADER’s TABLE – a cooking competition among Northwestern students, and some individual ones, that are Valeria & Ali was born on a sunny Saturday. Nevertheless, the format of this competition is less …. intense and bloody. Local buddies and students were randomly divided into 3 teams to sail through numerous stages from wandering around supermarkets to buy ingredients in an eco-friendly way (no plastic used!), dividing tasks among members for preparation to fighting for cooking tools with other teams to finish their dishes! Some students confessed that they often cooked for themselves but for a total number of 15 people, that’s crazy!
The space might be a little bit like a hole in the wall, yet the laughter and chatting almost exploded the whole apartment. The chit-chats here and there, some random songs were turned on and lured people into chill-out modes. ABROADER was so stunned with how well our interns made and decorated all the food. It was impressive and thoughtful of Fresh spring rolls team did modify some rolls into vegetarian ones all of us enjoyed the meal together in the list of lofi hip-hop chill songs.
In general, food has become a part of who each of us are and it ties us to our families, holding a special and personal value for us. On a larger scale, food is an important part of culture as it is passed down from one generation to the next and demonstrates as an expression of cultural identity. When tourists come to Vietnam, they often mention the popular bánh mỳ, a classic example that mixes historical cultural influences with the native cuisine or mouth-watering pho, which is found all over Vietnam where Vietnamese cuisine is rich in flavors, diversity to offer for foodie souls. We, ABROADER is truly happy to see students opening their hearts to discover and seeking for new experience!
More illustration for a recently-held cooking event in Hanoi:
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