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Vietnamese feast takes UNH on a delicious journey

Vietnamese iced-coffee and avocado shakes were served in addition to the usual snacks and refreshments during Hieu Nguyen’s Cultural Connections presentation: “Vietnamese Cuisine: A Delicious Journey.” 

Nguyen, an international student from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, started his presentation Friday evening in the MUB Entertainment Center by explaining why Vietnamese food is considered to be one of the healthiest cuisines in the world.

“Vietnamese cuisine has a combination of five fundamental tastes,” Nguyen said. These are: bitter, salty, sour, spicy, and sweet.

The presentation was split into six sections, which included: classic Vietnamese food, comfort dishes, street food, drinks, dessert, and unique fruits.

All of the sections were presented with explanations and pictures of the food, along with some fun-facts.

According to Nguyen, Pho is the most popular classic Vietnamese food. Banh Chung, or sticky rice cakes, are another classic, and are usually eaten during Lunar New Year.

Rice, noted Nguyen, is a Vietnamese comfort food. “Everything can be eaten with rice and I’m not kidding. I’ve had it with banana and mango,” Nguyen said. He also referred to caramelized catfish in a clay pot as a “must try.”

Braised pork with eggs cooked in coconut water and stir-fried morning glory with garlic are other comfort foods in Vietnam culture. Morning glory is also known as water spinach or Ong Choy. “It’s extremely easy to grow, but it’s very expensive in the US,” Nguyen noted.

The Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich, of French influence because of the baguette it’s served on, is a very popular street food according to Nguyen.

Spring rolls, broken rice, sizzling rice pancakes, Hue beef noodle soup, and chargrilled pork with vermicelli are other popular street foods.

Hue beef noodle soup, or Bun Bo Hue is a “cousin of Pho” said Nguyen. The difference is that is contains a stronger flavor because its more spicy and is made with a thicker type of noodle.

As for drinks, Nguyen focused mainly on Vietnamese iced-coffee because it was served at the event. It was French-roasted coffee poured over condensed milk and served with ice. Sugar cane juice is another popular beverage noted in the presentation.

Fruit-based desserts are popular and include unique foods such as: mangosteen, rambutan, star apples, and durian, which Nguyen referred to as “the kind of fruits.” Sweet, sugar-based water or coconut milk soup with fruits, seeds, jelly, and tapioca is a commonly eaten dessert. These soups can be served either hot or cold.

Nguyen identified his favorite food as broken rice, which received its name from the fact that the rice grained are literally beaten in order to be broken into small pieces before being cooked. As broken rice is a common street food, it can be purchased as a late-night snack after midnight.

The presentation received positive reactions from the audience. All of the cups of avocado shakes and iced-coffee were consumed and many people had questions for Nguyen about his own favorite foods, proper ways to eat certain foods, and the art of using chopsticks.

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