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Vietnamese cooking, understand Vietnamese table
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.
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.
Meat, fish, poultry, tofu or eggs - a source of protein.
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.
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.