Vietnam Culture and Nightlife
Roughly 80 percent of the Vietnamese population live in rural areas, where people often work as farmers and fishermen, have a strong sense of community and tend to be more conservative than the country’s city-dwellers.
By comparison, life in urban areas is characterised by busy traffic, competitive job markets and colourful markets and nightlife. Despite first appearances, ancient traditions and temples survive in pockets, amidst the modern hustle and bustle.
Vietnamese food and drink
Fish sauce – made from fermented raw fish – is the quintessential ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine and served with most dishes. Vietnamese food also features a balance of spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet flavours. Cane sugar, tamarind, chillies and citrus fruit are among the flavourings used to achieve these attributes.
French colonisation, which lasted until 1954, has left a mark on Vietnamese cuisine. French baguettes are still widely available, usually with Vietnamese meat or vegetable fillings. Another example of how French influence has combined with local cuisine is Pho, a popular dish of Asian rice noodles and French- style meat broth.
Each of the three regions of Vietnam – north, south and central Vietnam – have distinct cuisines.
Food in the south is heavily influenced by Cambodian cuisine. The fertile Mekong Delta provides an abundance of tropical fruits such as mangoes and dragon fruit. Garlic, sugar, coconut milk, shallots and fresh herbs are often used in cooking here.
Central Vietnam is home to spicy dishes, due to the abundance of chillies grown here, and its cuisine has been strongly influenced by the Chinese.
Food in the north is less spicy. Seafood is common. Pork, beef and chicken have traditionally been harder to come by, but a wide range of “exotic” meats – such as snake, deer, soft-shell turtle and goat – is available instead.
Due to the influence of the French, coffee is a common beverage throughout Vietnam. It’s usually mixed with condensed milk. Jasmine tea, draft beer, sugar cane juice and fruit smoothies are also popular drinks.
Vietnam: Eating out
You’ll find a wide range of Vietnamese restaurants, serving traditional meals, in the major cities.
In Ho Chi Minh City, try Secret Garden Home-cooked Vietnamese Restaurant. The restaurant is set in a pretty rooftop garden and serves traditional, delicate Vietnamese cuisine. Com Nieu Sai Gon, also in Ho Chi Minh City, offers an extensive menu, including lots of fresh seafood.
In Hoi An, Nu Eatery is wildly popular. Located near the Japanese bridge, this restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese food such as steamed pork belly buns and pork with noodles. Miss Ly's is another popular eatery in Hoi An, and Miss Ly has been perfecting her wonton recipe for 20 years.
2T Quan Nuong, in Hue Province, is a god choice for traditional regional cuisine. Dishes include chicken with sticky rice, and crispy pork leg.
Restaurant 96 in Hanoi's Old Quarter is a quiet restaurant that serves authentic dishes such as sour soups and grilled duck.
Bobby Chinn is an award-winning restaurant in Hanoi, known for their fusion of traditional fare with modern touches. Signature dishes include spring rolls with a Fillet Mignon filling, and tamarind-glazed crab cakes.
Hanoi is known for its traditional theatres, karaoke bars, dance clubs and extremely cheap beer bars. The Bank Entertainment is the largest nightclub in Hanoi, with three dance floors. Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre is a must for captivating water puppetry performances.
Ho Chi Minh City centre is home to a huge number of bars, pubs, clubs and live music venues. Located on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower, Alto Heli Bar is an upmarket venue with DJs, cocktails and an amazing view. The International Tourist Club is a well-known entertainment complex located in the New World Hotel. Check out its Catwalk Club, a chic hi-tech karaoke lounge.
Nha Trang is the place to party. The drinks are cheap and there's a wide variety of venues to choose from. Sailing Club is an internationally renowned bar and club in Nha Trang, frequented by both tourists and locals.