The Road Ahead : December 2013
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 31 MAIN IMAGE: TERRACED RICE FIELD, HOI AN RICE FIELD, SUNRISE, 'BUN BO HUE' SPICY BEEF NOODLE SOUP, DEPARTURE INTERNATIONAL | TRAVEL DEC 2013/JAN 2014 THE ROAD AHEAD FROM NORTH TO south, Vietnam's diverse landscapes -- from forest- covered mountains to terraced rice paddies to long stretches of coastline -- serve up a unique range of styles, ingredients, tastes and cooking techniques, each reflecting the history, culture and geography of the individual region. THE SECRET NUMBER Traditional Vietnamese food, with its delicate balance of meats, fresh herbs and spices, is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. One of the secrets underlying it is the number five. Meals are designed to appeal to the five senses: their arrangement should please the eyes, sound comes from the crunch of crisp ingredients, the tongue should taste five spices, aromatic herbs stimulate the nose, and meals that are enjoyed with the fingers appeal to the sense of touch. The principle of yin and yang is said to be applied to each dish to create a balanced meal that benefits the body and soul. Vietnamese dishes also include five fundamental taste senses and five colours which correspond to the five elements: sour (wood/green), bitter (fire/red), salty (water/ black), spicy (metal/white) and sweet (Earth/yellow). These, in turn, match five major organs in the body. NORTHERN HIGHLIGHTS Northern Vietnamese cuisine has a strong Chinese influence and its iconic dish is pho. Foods are often less spicy in the north than the other two regions. Black pepper is often used instead of chillies. While rice is a staple in the southern Vietnamese diet, the north has a preference for noodles. Seafood features widely, including another of the country's signature dishes: Bún riêu, a crab, tomato and rice noodle soup. ROYAL FARE The once imperial city of Hue is renowned for its royal cuisine. Legend tells how the best chefs from around the kingdom were chosen to prepare a special banquet for the king. In all, around 78 dishes were to be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including desserts. Royal banquets in this region comprise many dishes served in small portions, so prepare yourself for a long feast. The dishes of central Vietnam are noted for their bold flavours and are spicier than in the other regions. One of the signature dishes is Bún bò Hue, a spicy, beef noodle soup. Hoi An is particularly famous for a rice noodle dish called cao lau. Its secret is in the water, as authentic cao lau uses only water from a special well in the city. The noodles are topped with roast pork, dough fritters, fresh herbs and vegetables. After trying all the delicacies in this region, you may need to have a new suit or dress measured up by one of Hoi An's many tailors. Work off the extra kilos on a walking tour of the ancient cities; or a bicycle tour of the surrounding countryside. The principle of yin and yang is said to be applied to each dish to create a balanced meal that benefits the body and soul.
February March 2014