The power of sour

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A dish of nom made of banana flower and chicken

Sour flavors play an important role in Vietnamese cuisine.

In the summer time, appetites are lost due to heat and humidity. Yet naturally sour foods tend to refresh a meal.  

On special occasions such as Tet (Lunar new year) or other feasts, sour flavors tend to balance rich protein dishes.

My grandmother always told me that its impotant for every meal to contain multiple tastes including sour, spicy, sweet and salty.

For thousands of years, Vietnamese cooks have known how to create sour pickles or use naturally sour fruits and vegetables to balance their meals.

Nom and goi (traditional Vietnamese salad)

Nom is a northern dish made of green papaya or banana flower. To make nom, one must begin by thinly slicing the ingredients and rinsing to release their bitter taste. After squeezing them by hand, add lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, a bit of chili and fresh herb. Finally, add ground roasted nuts or sesame to provide a crunchy texture.

Nom du du bo kho (green papaya salad with dried beef) is a traditional Vietnamese dish with naturally sour flavor

Nom is an important dish, particularly on special occasions  in the North. Nowadays, in Hanoi, people can buy nom  as a snack in the Old quarter (nom bo kho, or green papaya salad with dried beef).

In the South, people make goi by shredding mango or pomelo and tossing the fruit in a mix of fish sauce, fresh chilies and lime juice. Shredded steamed shrimp or chicken and herbs give the dish multiple textures and flavors .

Dua (pickle)

Dua is a vegetable dish made of different kinds of cabbage, or bean sprouts.

It takes several days to make dua. First of all, the cabbage and sprouts must be washed and dried in the sun.

Dua may consist of whole or minced vegetables, depending on your taste. After rinsing and cutting the vegetable, place it in a ceramic pot filled with warm saltwater (enough to cover the vegetabe), a bit sugar and spring onion.

A clean bamboo fan should be set on top of the mixture to ensure the vegetable remains submerged. After some days, natural bacteria will give the vegetable a delicious yellow hue and sour taste. 

Dua is a popular dish for ordinary meals in northern Vietnam. Nowadays, one can buy this dish at any market.

Canh chua (sour soup)

Canh chua (sour soup) is a famous dish in both the North and South of Vietnam. Using sour vegetables and fruits, mothers and grandmothers cook simple but nice sour soups that accompany rice well.


During the summer in Hanoi, people like to boil morning glory and add sour flavor to the soup with lime juice or boiled sau (a summer sour fruit in north of Vietnam). 

Canh chua ca is a famous traditional sour soup made of fish and sour fruits such as green mango or pineapple, spring onions and fresh herbs.

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