The first dish to list out in Serenity Kitchen Series is of course nothing else but Vietnamese boiled rice. Rice is ubiquitous, especially in East Asia countries. However, if someone says rice tastes the same everywhere, either because he or she is so oblivious to the dish or because his or her experience is dangerously too little. The differences in taste – however slightly – between Vietnam and other countries, even among different regions in Vietnam, manifests the differences in the cultures.
Cradle of Vietnam culture
The swampy ground in most regions of Vietnam provides ideal conditions for rice – the most remarkable member of the grass family which contributed vastly to the essence of Vietnam culture. Vietnamese people have been cultivating rice for thousands of years. It has transformed the landscape. The rice terraces are among the oldest human structure in Vietnam. These man-made landscapes are among the most amazing engineering feats of pre-industrial Vietnam. Every square inch of land has been pressed into cultivation.
In most regions of Vietnam nowadays, rice is still cultivated in the traditional way. When the late winter comes, farmers will be busy preparing for the age-old paddy fields ready for the coming rice growing season. At first, the seedlings are grown at home, in a nursery bed from mud. The strongest men of the family will wade down the pond with a bucket to take the mud. Women are in charge of carving the border of the nursery bed by hand and sprinkling the seed. Such ways of assignation existed for thousands years without questions, to make use of the strength of each member in a family.
After several weeks, seedlings are unrooted from the nursery bed and bundled up ready to be transported to their new paddy. Families in the hamlet will come to help each other with this process – many hands make light work. This collective way of treating other people is taught naturally and practically: children watched their parents get helped from their neighbors and vice versa; they grow up and follow the customs.
It is ingrained in theri upbringing and leads people towards the community spirit on every occasion possible. Such solidarity is what made Vietnamese people conquer hundreds of foreign invaders over more than 2000 years. The customs rooted in rice cultivation have become the fundamental feature of Vietnam culture, so that it is sometimes referred to as “Rice culture.”
It takes 6 months for the rice plants to be harvest. Families in the same hamlet will gather together and help each other the way they always do. It’s not only the way people do in cultivation but in almost any other colective activities: weddings, funerals, etc.
This culture is manifested in all aspects of life. If you pay enough attention, you will see the essence of it in each tiny grain of rice, in the wave of the local’s hand. Enjoy your visit to Vietnam!