How is Vietnamese Food Different from Chinese Food and Japanese Food?
I get asked this question a lot.
And I mean a lot.
I know it’s confusing. Look, when I first started eating Asian food when I was a teenager the only difference I could make out was buffet or not buffet.
Of course, I’ve learned a lot since then!
Pictured here is a Gastonia Favorite, Golden Palace. I think we’ve all been here at least once.
(It was sad to see them close).
Personal note: My dad first taught me how to use chopsticks eating at a Chinese restaurant just like this one.
Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai…the list could go on…all have their own elements that make them unique.
But I’m going to tell you about these foods in America.
You see, Asian food in America and Asian food in Asia are two different things.
(I bet you know which is which…)
There are some obvious reasons why food is different in America vs in Asia.
Supply is one big one.
There are just some things you can’t get in America at a price that makes sense to the consumer.
That means that when you go to your local favorite Asian restaurant, they’re typically going to serve only those items that they know they can get ingredients for.
(There are some exceptions, like Bep-pa’s LTO Menu)
That makes sense right? I mean, you don’t want to go to a restaurant expecting a repeat of some amazing dish only to find that they couldn’t get the key ingredient…
…what a bummer.
Restaurant owners hate disappointing their guests. So they avoid that by simplifying their offerings.
But there’s another element too.
You see, American restaurants have to serve Americans.
Now, you may be one of those die-hard, love to try new things, open to anything type of people…
So you would naturally gravitate toward a restaurant that offers a bold, exotic menu like Bep-pa offers.
But most people would prefer to take smaller steps into the unknown.
I completely get that. Heck, most days I eat the same thing.
Not because I don’t want to try something new,
But because I know I like it and I want something easy.
And a lot of other people are that way too. When they go out to eat, they want something predictable.
And that means that restaurants here in America have to curate their menu based on the desires and tastes of their customers—Americans.
Look we’ve all had and enjoyed hamburgers, pizza, french fries, and all the other classically American foods out there.
And this is a big but…
I’ve also noticed something else.
People absolutely LOVE Vietnamese food…once they try it.
Examples of Vietnamese Food You Can Find in Gastonia
That second part is the kicker. It can be a big hurdle to jump for someone that’s new to authentic Asian food.
But what they find is this:
Vietnamese food just isn’t like Chinese or Japanese food.
You see, Vietnamese food has an assortment of flavors that all work together.
There’s the mouthwatering seasonings that are completely unlike anything other restaurants have to offer.
They’re so different I can’t make a good comparison.
But they come together in this way that is fresh, unique, and will have you craving more.
Take the lemongrass for example.
When I first started eating Vietnamese food I had no idea what lemongrass was…
I didn’t know it was part of what I was tasting.
I just knew it tasted good.
The best I can tell you is that it gives the food a ‘fresh’ zing. Almost citric, but not.
(looks can be deceiving)
And then there’s the Thai basil.
People that normally eat basil tell me that Thai basil is the best they’ve ever had after they try it.
Then there’s the hearty-broth of the Pho…it’s full, aromatic, and has a little extra something.
Maybe the best thing to say about Vietnamese food is that there’s variety.
It’s not just all brown sauce or shrimp sauce. (I’m not against those…I know I’ve eat my fare share over the years!)
But when I discovered Vietnamese food I realized there was so much more to taste than just salt and sugar.
Maybe one of the best things about Vietnamese food is that you’ll find all your favorite types of Asian foods…from noodles to fried rice to sauteed beef or shrimp or chicken.
It’s just done in a different way.
A better way.
So, now what?
Now you have two options: