A Short Culinary History of Vietnam

Vietnam's history is complicated and fascinating. It involves emperors, colonisation, revolutions, and wars. You can quickly appreciate the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine by going back in time and looking at how these historical occurrences influenced the nation as we know it today.

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Vietnam's indigenous people survived through rice harvesting and hunting as far back as 12,000 BC. Modern agriculture only became apparent 6,000 years later. Long ago, the fertile lands of Vietnam offered ideal conditions for the cultivation of rice, herbs, plants, and animals, while its rivers and coastline offered local seafood and fresh fish. The foundation of Vietnamese cuisine is still these basic foods. 

Vietnam was largely regarded as an extended Chinese province in the second century BC. Noodles made their debut in Vietnamese cuisine as a byproduct of the dynasties that ruled Vietnam for more than a millennium. One of Vietnam's most well-known dishes, pho, was only developed in the 20th century in Northern Vietnam.

Vietnam was a part of French Indochina from 1887 to 1954. It was during this time that Vietnamese cuisine first began to show pronounced French influences.

It is likely that pho originated from the Vietnamese noodles and herbs combined with the French love of a hearty broth. However, Vietnamese cuisine expanded the French influence with dishes like banh mi (pain de mie), a French baguette stuffed with specialty meats, pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, and pate.

Its lands experienced significant poverty, devastation, and famine as a result of the American war in Vietnam, but proved nimble and underwent a remarkable transformation, emerging as one of the world's major rice exporters. Today, the nation leads the world in many popular cuisines.