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Vietnamese cooking, understand Vietnamese table

Updated on August 9, 2014
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Mâm cơmMâm cơm đồng mâm cơm
Mâm cơm
Mâm cơm | Source
Mâm cơm đồng
Mâm cơm đồng | Source
mâm cơm
mâm cơm | Source

To learn Vietnamese cooking and to plan a balance Vietnamese meal you need to understand a little about Vietnamese table - mâm cơm Việt.

Mâm original was a versatile round aluminium or copper big tray (pictures), used for several purposes though primarily used as a mobile dinning table. The aluminium one was used in daily life; The copper one,much heavier and classed higher, occasionally being used in family's events or festivals.

In the old day, our dinning place could be anywhere, bed, floor or backyard. Very often, you would spread a Chiếu (picture 3) then you place the Mâm on it. Everyone will sit around this centre, enjoying food and having conversation.

When we say mâm cơm, we mean a dinning table though we no longer use that object often.

Typical Vietnamese table
Typical Vietnamese table | Source

That is a typical Vietnamese dinning table: a balance of green, protein and starchy; a balance of texture and flavour. A meal consists of rice, green dish, red dish, canh, dipping sauce and very often table salad.


Plain white rice is the centre of Vietnamese food. We go for the best we could afford and are very picky when it comes to rice and rice cooking.

Green Dish

Vegetable dish

Red Dish

Meat, fish, poultry, tofu or eggs - a source of protein.

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Canh Ca - fish canhCanh Mang - bamboo shoot canhCanh rau thien ly
Canh Ca - fish canh
Canh Ca - fish canh | Source
Canh Mang - bamboo shoot canh
Canh Mang - bamboo shoot canh | Source
Canh rau thien ly
Canh rau thien ly | Source


Canh is Vietnamese soup.It's not always thick nor consistency. It can be light and simple as the chicken or vegetable broth. It can be thick and complicated and the fish soup or the jam soup.

People eat or drink canh. people have it at different points and in several ways. Some prefers a bowl at the beginning of the meal - other might have it now and then - some prefers to have it at then end of the meal.

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Typical dipping sauce, fish sauceMuối chấm Mắm tôm - fermented shrimp pasteNước thịt kho tương Dipping sauce for boil green mustard
Typical dipping sauce, fish sauce
Typical dipping sauce, fish sauce | Source
Muối chấm
Muối chấm | Source
Mắm tôm - fermented shrimp paste
Mắm tôm - fermented shrimp paste | Source
Nước thịt kho tương
Nước thịt kho tương | Source
Dipping sauce for boil green mustard
Dipping sauce for boil green mustard | Source

Dipping sauce

Fish sauce is the most popular dipping sauce. It goes on its own or with other herbs and condiments depending on the dish it accompanies.

Less popular and only goes with certain dish, we have several types of dipping sauce, some is on the pictures beside.

Table salad / fragrant herbs

It is a fresh herb dish, consists of lettuce and very often coriander with the choice of other herbs varying on main dishes. This is used mainly to accompany red dish and canh.


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    • huyenchi profile image

      huyenchi 5 years ago from London - Hanoi

      thank you ríadowski for your comments, I am glad that you found it helpful

    • rjsadowski profile image

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      Useful information. You are never too old to learn something new.