FOOD & DRINK
Vietnamese food is a mixture of Vietnamese, Chinese and French traditions, with a plethora of regional specialties. Fish is plentiful throughout the country due to the long coast line. Each region, if not each city in Vietnam will boast they have the best cuisine and will invariably compare all others to theirs. Our own preference goes to the central cuisine, with its subtle sophisticated flavors. Northern dishes can be a little on the bland side, while the southern recipes are a bit heavy on sugary tastes. National specialties include rice or noodles that usually provide the basis of a meal. Breakfast is generally noodle soup (known as Pho). Baguettes are available throughout Vietnam. Nems are common and Banh Chung the glutinous rice, pork and onion snacks wrapped in leaves are to be eaten at any time. Nuoc Mam (fish sauce) or Mam Tom (shrimp sauce) is served with most dishes.
If it’s a unique culinary experiences you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to try some of these: Dog meat, duck’s blood soup, semi incubated duck’s eggs, aromatic juice squeezed from cockroach-like insects, beating snake’s heart in rice wine, roasted chicken feet after a night out. It's best to avoid endangered species such as bear meet, sea horse, turtles, shark fins and shark fin soup, tiger, pangolin, wild snake and wild dogs.
National drinks are green tea and strong coffee, it is available everywhere. Bia Hoi, a local draught beer is available at street stalls in Hanoi. It is not only cheap, but free of additives. Rice wine is also a favorite.
Tipping is not customary, but is becoming more usual in tourist areas, especially in the south. Keep your tip within the VND20,000 limit. Upscale restaurants and hotels may add service charge to the bill. Taxi drivers should not expect to be tipped but this is changing fast also.