Fish Sauce, Nuoc Mam and Sea Ghost Fingers
The National Dish Is a Soup — Even at Breakfast
“Only the French imposed their own cuisine upon their Asiatic possessions.” — David Dodge 
“He was not yet Ho Chi Minh. It was 1917 and he was Nguyen Ai Quoc and he was a pastry cook under the great Escoffier.” — Robert Olen Butler 
Vietnamese cooking is light and delicate, healthy, and remarkably varied. Its famous dishes can be very unusual and even have poetic names, like one for Crab Claws called Sea Ghost Fingers.
Other unusually named dishes include Shaking Beef and Sound Crepes.
The national dish is considered to be Pho, which is a soup, which can appear at any timne of day, even breakfast.
Vietnamese cooking has Fusion aspects, from the presence of Baguettes and French Coffee with Chicory to major Chinese and Indian inputs in many of the dishes.
Traditional Vietnamese cooking shows a strong Chinese influence in the use of Soy Sauce, Bean Curd and Noodles as well as the techniques of stir-frying and deep-frying in a wok.
Curried dishes show the influence of India.In the 16th century contact with the West changed Vietnamese cuisine. New World ingredients were put to use —
- Maize (Indian Corn)
Snow Peas came from the Netherlands; Asparagus, from France.
France ruled Vietnam directly from 1859 to 1954 and French cooking left a lasting mark. For example, the passion of Vietnamese for Cafe au Lait and milk products including yogurt, butter, ice cream and custard tarts. And of course, Baguette Bread.
And the French technique of sautéing in a skillet replaced stir-frying in a wok as the method of choice.
Vietnamese added their own touches to French concepts: They made French Coffee with condensed milk and serve it in glasses, not cups. They add Tomato to Egg Drop soup. They serve fried Potato patties with Nuoc Mam, the Vietnamese Fish Sauce.
Vietnamese made soups with canned White Asparagus with Crab and Chicken Soup with Creamed Corn.
Since the 1960s, when large numbers of Vietnamese people began migrating to France, Vietnamese cuisine has influenced French cuisine. Many of the tenets of nouvelle cuisine have their roots in Asian techniques, especially from Vietnam,
Ingredients: Rice, both ordinary and glutinous, is the main staple. There are a number of noodle and pasta dishes, and a category of dishes prepared in rice paper wrappers. Baguette Bread early became acclimated to Vietnam; it was later combined with local ingredients to create a whole category of Vietnamese Sandwiches, called Banh Mi.
Cooks in Vietnam also use a variety of vegetables, fruits and local seafoods and shell fish, including the famous Swai Fish. And also with meats and poultry such as Beef, Pork, Duck and Chicken. 
“Beans and peas and carrots, tomatoes and salad greens. At that elevation you could grow all kinds of things that normally wouldn’t take the tropical heat.” — Michael Wolfe 
Vegetables include — Artichokes, Asparagus, Bamboo Shoots, Carrots. Also —
There are a wide range of fruits, including Guava, Ambarella or Otaheite Apple, Jackfruit, Mango, Papaya
, Pineapple and Pomelo. Sugarcane is a popular snack and features in a number of dishes.
Seasonings & Aromatics: Some of the major ones are Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce, Hoisin Sauce and Shrimp Sauce.
- Black Pepper
- Coconut Milk and Fresh Coconut
- Ginger — which appears in a number of guises sic as Ginger Soda
- Lime Leaves
- Chili Peppers
- Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce
- Nuoc Cham, a flavored version of Nuoc Mam that appears as a table sauce at almost all meals.
Cooking Techniques: Some major techniques —
- Dry-frying — frying without oil
- Grilling, including skewering and grilling over charcoal
Vietnamese cuisine includes a category of dishes wrapped in rice paper.
Regional Styles: Although there are common elements throughout the country, there are also at least three main regional styles:
“In blue shell with gold breastplate,
Borne like a palanquin by scuttling legs,
To learn the virtues of Boil and Bake.” — Ho Xuan Huong, “The Crab” 
- Northern — More use of Black Pepper as opposed to Chili Peppers. Emphasis on Crab. Balanced flavors. Pho soup originated here.
- Central — More spicy food; Chili Pepper and Shrimp Sauces. Cooking reflects cuisine of the former royal court.
- Southern — Emphasis on sweetness, from Coconut Milk and Sugar. Wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood. Foreign influences — Chinese, French, Indian, Thai and Cambodian — Saigon was a Cambodian city until the beginning of the 18th century.
Important Dishes:The hearty soup called Pho, which originated in the North and became popular nation-wide, has been called he national dish. It can appear on tables any time including breakfast.
These days Pho can even be seen in instant noodle package formats.
Some other notable dishes include Shaking Beef (Bo Luc Lac), Sound Pancakes, Banh Mi — Vietnamese Sandwiches based on Baguettes. And of course some Beef and Seafood specialties.
Shrimp cooked with Basil and a mild version of Beef Curry are other specialties.
Some other favorites —
- Pork and Shrimp-Filled Crepes
- Vietnamese Style Spring Rolls
- Pork and Lemongrass Meatballs in Lettuce Cups
- Beef and Shrimp Meatballs in Lettuce Cups
- Grilled Pork Meatballs
- Shrimp with Mint Wrapped in Rice Paper
- Grilled Curried Shrimp
- Steamed Sea Bass
- Asparagus and Crab Soup — some homesick Frenchman may have invented this
- Caramelized Shrimp
- Pomelo and Jicama Salad
- Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken
- Pork in Clay Pot
- Vietnamese Fried Bananas
- Soup with Cabbage Pork Rolls
- Fried Chicken with Lemongrass and Cayenne
- Chicken Stuffed with Lotus Seeds and so many more
- Shrimp on Crab Legs (aka Sea Ghost Fingers)
- Green Papaya Salad
- Mango and Papaya Salad
- Ginger Soda
- Watermelon Sorbet
For Further Information:
 David Dodge, The Poor Man’s Guide to the Orient (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965) — http://www.amazon.com/The-poor-mans-guide-Orient/dp/B0006BMURE
 Robert Olen Butler, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (New York: Penguin, 1992) — http://www.amazon.com/Good-Scent-Strange-Mou
 Vietnamese cuisine,” article, Wikipedia — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_cuisine
 Michael Wolfe, Man on a String (New York: Mentor Books, 1975) — http://www.amazon.com/Man-String-Michael-Wolfe/dp/B001MHIQ5Q
 Ho Xuan Huong, Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong, translated by John Balaban (Port Townsend, Wash.: Copper Canyon Press, 2000) — http://www.amazon.com/Spring-Essence-Ho-Xuan-Huong/dp/1556591489
 Bach Ngo and Gloria Zimmerman, The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam (Barron’s)
Nicole Routhier, The Foods of Vietnam (Stewart Tabori & Chang, 1989)
Pauline Nguyen, Secrets of the Red Lantern (Andrews McMeel) — http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Red-Lantern-Stories-Vietnamese/dp/0740777432
Diana My Tranh, The Vietnamese Cookbook (Capitol Books, 2000)
Charles Phan, Vietnamese Home Cooking — http://www.amazon.com/Vietnamese-Home-Cooking-Charles-Phan/dp/1607740532
Mai Pham, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table (HarperCollins, 2001)
Mai Pham, The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking (Prima, 1996)
Susan Hermann Loomis, Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin. Explains how foods from the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia have now become mainstream French fare.
Online Recipe Sources:Food.http://www.food.com/recipe-collection/vietnamese-main-dish?omnisource=SEM&c1=AsianRecipesComputer&c2=VietnameseMainDishRecipes&c3=Google&c4=vietnamese%20cooking%20recipes&s_kwcid=TC|24219|vietnamese%20cooking%20recipes||S|e|10949768688com Vietnamese recipes —