Vietnamese cuisine is well known for its freshness, uses of herbs and the complexity of flavors. We have a history of French colonization leading to the richness and diversity of dishes within the Vietnamese cuisine. There are a few key essentials that are used often in our cooking. This post will highlight the key essentials that we used in all of our recipes on this blog and the brands that we like. Amazingly, I was able to find majority of it on Amazon!
1. Fish sauce – This is the ingredient that is the foundation for Vietnamese cooking. Fish sauce is made from fermenting anchovies in sea salt over a period of 12-14 months. I was surprise that you can get this at Walmart. My family uses Viet Huong Three Crab brand fish sauce.
2. Soy Sauce – There are many different brands out there to choose. We do not have a specific one to recommend but my family tends to cook with Maggi or Knorr liquid seasoning in place of soy sauce.
Soy Sauce alternatives– My family uses regular soy sauce and also soy sauce alternative in our cooking. Maggi Arome is a cult favorite in Vietnam. It taste similar to soy sauce but with an extra punch of flavor. We also use Knorr seasoning as a substitute as it has more flavor than regular soy sauce.
3. Sesame oil – This fragrant oil is essential for majority of the dishes.
4. Oyster sauce – This sauce is good for stir fry. We tend to go for Panda brand oyster sauce.
5. Hoisin sauce – This is a condiment for pho.
6. Chili sauce / Hot Sauce – This sauce is used to add heat and flavor to many soups and as a table condiment. I usually have two versions in my pantry: Sriracha and Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce.
7. Mushroom Seasonings – This is a dry seasoning mix that enhances a vegetable dish.
8. Chicken Bouillon Powder – This is chicken powder that are added to many of the meat based dishes to give it an extra punch of flavor.
9. Vegetarian Soup Base / Cot Sup Chay – This vegetarian soup base help flavor the both for vegetarian soups.
10. Turmeric or Curry Powder – Tumeric or Curry Powder is use often to make curry and also to flavor many of the braising dishes as well.
11. Lemongrass (minced or fresh stalk) – We use this in many of our braised dishes and marinades.
12. Coco Rico Soda – This sweet coconut soda is the basis for many of the sweet and salty braised dishes. The sugar in the soda caramelizes perfectly with meat.
13. Rock sugar – This is used to add sweetness and extra depth in many broth and braising liquid. It is sweeter and denser than regular sugar.
14. Ground dried Annatto – This spice gives color and a hint of fragrance to many of the dishes without the heat.
15. Ground chili peppers – We use this to make chili oil to add flavor to certain dishes. There are a lot of variety that we use. Recently we have been using the Korean ground chili for our chili oil since it has a sweeter undertone.
16. Madras Curry Paste – We use this as a basis for our curry stew and curry base dishes. My family swears by the version made by Kim Tu Thap brand.
Author: Chau Hoang