The food of the north is heavily influenced by China with its stir-fries and noodle-based soups. People there tend to use more soy sauce than other parts, where fish sauce is more usual. As you move south, there's more flavor-blending with nearby Thailand and Cambodia. Common ingredients in Vietnamese cooking include black pepper (mainly in the north), hot chili, coconut milk, limes, lemon grass, tamarind and cane sugar, supplemented by asparagus and potatoes, courtesy of the French influence.
Methods of cooking vary from simmering or boiling to frying or grilling. The French colonization can also be seen in many dishes such as banh mi, a crusty French baguette with a range of local fillings including chicken grilled pork, fish patties, sardines, cilantro (coriander), chili-spiked pickled carrots and more.
Stir-frying using a wok and chopsticks is common. Many European influences can be found including sauces, meats, cold roast pork, patés and baguettes. Traditional cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables. Known for its balance of five elements, many Vietnamese dishes include five fundamental taste senses: spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet.
Rice is eaten at the main meals of the day (lunch and dinner). Rice is eaten together with a variety of different dishes, typically fragrant rice is used. An ordinary meal may consist of boiled rice and the following:” Mon an kho” (meal without soup) consists of dishes of pork, fish, shrimp, and vegetable cooked in oil, as well as vegetables, pickles, etc; “Mon canh” (meal with soup) consists of a soup made with pork or spare-ribs, crab meat, and fish. Try visiting the many food stalls to sample these traditional dishes. It is safe and inexpensive.
There seems an unlimited range of food available in Vietnam ranging from tropical fruits, vegetables (both local and European), all kinds of fresh seafood and meat, Duck and pork are particularly popular. The food tends to be not as spicy as Thai. Fresh salads either as a side dish or as a main meal with meat or sea foods are well worth trying.