by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford
Vietnamese cuisine can be divided into three distinctive regional cuisines: southern, central, and northern. You'll most likely have eaten southern-style food, with its wide variety of fresh herbs and complex tropical flavors. Food from the center tends to have more chile heat; shrimp paste is also used extensively. As you move north, the food has more of a Chinese feel, with greater use of preserved vegetables, tree fungus, and dried mushrooms, and fewer fresh herbs and greens. There are more stir fries, and black pepper is used instead of chiles. People from the north will tell you southern food is flamboyant and unsubtle, while those from the south say northern food lacks taste and freshness. We find it all delicious.
Excerpted from"Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Handbook," by Moon Publications, Inc.