Imagine your friends walking into the dining room you have lit with red paper lanterns and candles. The sound of traditional Vietnamese string music playing softly in the background and the smell of some Vietnamese aloes wood incense or another fragrance that touches your senses without being too over powering – a subtle fragrance but one that makes you feel you’re in another far off part of the world. A warm and peaceful atmosphere.
It’s not hard to understand why the Vietnamese food experience has become hugely popular therefore making a great dinner party theme. By this I suggest that the theme of the evening’s meal focuses solely on Vietnamese flavors. A dinner party where a selection of Vietnamese dishes sit at the center of your table and which are shared with your guests.
The vitality of Vietnamese cuisine revolves around fresh produce. The food is light, delicious and easy to digest. It has a “clean” feel. A typical meal for the average Vietnamese family usually consists of bowls of rice for each person and a selection of other dishes that are shared communally around the table.
This selection of dishes generally includes a roasted meat or fish dish and a stir fried vegetable dish. Prepared fish sauce and/or soy sauce dipping sauces always accompany these meals. Vietnamese cuisine also boasts a huge variety of noodle soups and rice paper rolls (that your guests can roll for themselves). The rolls offer a large variety of fillings and are served with a delicious dipping sauce.
So, the food is perfect for Winter and Summer!
In Winter you could host a pho soup party! The lovely thing is that you serve individuals the delicious soup in their own bowl but centrally place a selection of fresh Vietnamese mint, regular mint, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro (coriander), chillies and lime or lemon wedges around a serving platter. Guests select whatever takes their fancy and add to their pho soup finally squeezing in the citrus juice before the delicious taste experience even hits their mouth.
You can pick up Asian soup spoons inexpensively from Chinese stores along with chopsticks which can be used to select the herbs they’d like to add to their soup (as opposed to using their fingers).
For Summer, try the roll your own Vietnamese Banh Hoi rice paper rolls. Again, at the center of the table is a plate presented with softened vermicelli rice noodles, thinly sliced carrot sticks, cucumber slices, basil, Vietnamese mint, regular mint, cilantro and sprouts and a dish of rice-paper wrappers.
A small bowl filled with warm water allows your guests to soften their burrito-sized rice paper sheet before they start adding the ingredients and roll their own roll. This is really a great and fun experience to share with your friends.
Apart from these ingredients you serve the amazing flavors of grilled shrimp paste on sugarcane prawns or grilled flat beef, chicken or pork or grilled cleaned shrimp and squid just cooked on a skillet. Or tofu if you want a completely vegetarian meal. Then there’s the lovely sweet dipping sauce that tops off the flavors. Also Summery is the famous green papaya salad, Goi Du Du.
The sweet, salty, and spicy, nuoc cham is the indispensable sauce of Vietnam’s cuisine. Here’s a recipe:
The famous nuoc cham Vietnamese Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fermented fish sauce
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chili with seeds
Stir all the ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves. Let the sauce stand for at least half an hour. You can make this sauce a day ahead so the flavors really blend together if you like and serve slightly chilled.
There’s a huge selection of other dishes you can serve if you want to serve the traditional meal I spoke of earlier.
For dessert you could serve a tropical fruit platter, banana fritters with ice cream or a sticky rice with mango. Again, there is a large variety to choose from.