Vietnamese family dinner is more than just a meal; it is a beloved tradition that transcends generations. This time-honored tradition showcases the richness of Vietnamese customs and the deep bond that exists among family members. In this article, we will delve into the customs, typical dinners of regions, and etiquette you really need to know in Vietnamese culture.
1. Quick facts about Vietnamese family dinner
Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its delicious and diverse flavors, with family dinners being an integral part of Vietnamese culture. Here are some quick facts about Vietnamese family dinner:
- Vietnamese family dinners typically consist of three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is early in the morning, lunch is around 11 o'clock, and dinner is usually around 6-7 o'clock.
- Rice is a staple in Vietnamese family meals, making it the main component of every meal. It is customary for Vietnamese people to ask if you have eaten rather than specifically asking about dinner due to the prevalence of rice in their meals.
- Form of presentation: Unlike Western dining customs, Vietnamese people serve all dishes at the same time to be eaten with rice. This communal style of sharing food fosters a sense of solidarity and togetherness among family members.
- The round shape of the Vietnamese family-style dinner tray symbolizes fullness and unity, creating a sense of togetherness during meals.
- Chopsticks are commonly used in Vietnamese dining, and proper chopstick etiquette includes holding chopsticks gently and picking up food carefully.
- Bowl of sauce: The Vietnamese family dinner always includes a bowl of sauce, which adds flavor and is considered the soul of Vietnamese cuisine.
- Etiquette of eating: During the Vietnamese dinner, it is important to eat attentively, not too fast or too slow, and not leave any food behind. Eating manners can reflect a person's personality.
- Rice portion: Vietnamese people believe in eating rice in moderation—not too much or too little. The person near the rice cooker is responsible for serving others, ensuring delicate portions without spilling grains.
- Talking while eating: Vietnamese family culture encourages conversation and storytelling during meals, creating opportunities for bonding and connection among family members.
2. Dishes in a typical Vietnamese family dinner
In Vietnam, a typical Vietnamese family dinner consists of a variety of dishes, including rice, meat, fish, cooked vegetables, soup, sauces, and raw vegetables. Each region in Vietnam has its own traditional food with unique flavors.
The Northern Vietnamese dinner menu offers dishes with a moderate taste and seasoning—not too spicy or too sweet. The preferred dipping sauce is diluted fish sauce or shrimp paste. Popular dishes include crocodile soup cooked with pork ribs, boiled water spinach, and Vietnamese braised pork.
Central Vietnamese cuisine is known for its bold and pungent flavors. The highlight is shrimp paste, particularly sour shrimp paste. The use of ingredients is richer and more diverse compared to other regions.
Southern cuisine tends to be sweet, spicy, and fatty, with dishes often cooked with coconut water and a preference for seafood, especially fish.
>>> Read more: Vietnamese food: The TOP 10 must-try dishes in 2023
3. Vietnamese family dinner etiquettes foreigners really need to know
In Vietnamese family traditions, etiquette plays a significant role in their culture, especially at dinner. Here are some important rules to follow:
- Sitting position: Elderly family members are given priority seating, often in a wide position with multiple main dishes, while younger children are taken care of and served delicious portions.
- Using a large spoon for soups: Avoid using chopsticks in the soup bowl to maintain cleanliness. After scooping the soup, turn the spoon upside down.
- Proper dipping etiquette: When dipping food, it is important to avoid letting chopsticks touch the dipping sauce. Bringing your bowl close to the plate of food or sauce helps prevent food from falling or dripping sauce.
- Proper placement of chopsticks: In Vietnamese family dinners, lay chopsticks across the rice bowl when not in use. Do not stick them into your bowl as this resembles incense burned in Buddhist ceremonies.
- Hold your rice bowl up to your mouth for convenience.
- Avoid eating directly from shared dishes and instead transfer a small amount of food to your rice bowl before eating.
- If you are not confident using chopsticks, don't hesitate to ask for a fork and spoon.
- Take your time while dining, as it is a slower affair in Vietnam compared to western countries.
- Use both hands when passing dishes, and try to sample every dish on the table.
- You can rest your elbows on the table; this is not considered rude.
- Avoid stuffing your mouth with too much food or talking while chewing.
- Try your best to leave no excess food or grains of rice in your bowl after finishing the meal.
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Vietnamese family dinners are a cherished tradition that brings loved ones together over a sumptuous feast. The vibrant flavors, rich cultural significance, and warmth of shared stories make these gatherings truly special. Plan your own family dinner and make it a night to remember. Your loved ones will surely cherish the experience, just as you will!