Skip to Content

Page 8 A

Picture of boiling hotpot with noodles, mushrooms, and greens

Culinary observation #6

Napkins at all restaurants and street food cafes are 3” by 3”, bifold sheets, about the thickness of a facial tissue. They will be hidden somewhere on the table in a plastic square, with or without a lid with a slot. At restaurants, you are given a 2” by 6” package that contains a wet nap. If you use this, 5000 VND (~$0.25 USD) will be added to the bill for every opened wetnap package. All used napkins or bones, etc. are discretely tucked under the corner of a plate or placed in a small trash container under the table.

Culinary observation #7

If you are perceived to be the oldest person at the table, nobody will begin to eat until you serve yourself. Don’t expect to be told this. 

Culinary observation #8

Vietnamese food dishes do not come with serving utensils (the exception being hot pot, which comes with a ladle). This means that you will be expected to serve yourself directly from the dish using the business end of your chopsticks. Paradoxically, if your host serves you, which, is done frequently if you don’t keep serving yourself at a regular pace, they will use the non-business end of the chopsticks to pick up and place your portion into your bowl. That is, until you are friends, then they will serve you using the business end of their chopsticks. 

Culinary observation #9

It is Vietnamese custom to raise the bowl off the table and bring it to your face to eat. It is also customary to pick the bowl up by placing three or four fingers under the bowl and putting your thumb on the rim. I have picked the bowl up differently, and been gently reminded by a close friend, that the way I was picking up my bowl, was risking I would drop it. Finally, when serving yourself, always take the bowl to the platter and place your food into the bowl. Do not reach over, grab the food and return it to your bowl; to do so you  risk dropping it on the way (which may end up on the table or in another dish, or in someone else’s bowl). 

Culinary observation #10

If someone serves you tea. Drink it. To not drink it, is considered being rude.

Culinary observation #11

If you do not tell them in advance, Vietnamese will assume you eat meat. If you are allergic to shellfish, just say “I don’t eat shellfish” or “I don’t like shellfish” or “I can’t eat shellfish” or “I am allergic to shellfish” – all will work. That said, Vietnamese are very considerate and will ask you if you like a dish before they order it; especially if it is something like snail, beef/pork/fish entrails, stomach, eel, rat, dog, cat, goat, horse, or frog (Vietnamese eat the whole frog, not just the legs).




p.2, p.2 photos, p.3, p.4, p.5, p. 6, p. 7