A family meal is one of the unique Vietnamese traditions, which emblematizes the beauty and longevity of Vietnamese culture. It carries the meaning of reunion and creates strong bonds among generations in the family.
The image of a woman preparing dishes and the joyful atmosphere in family gatherings will always be the most beautiful and unforgettable memory of every Vietnamese away from home.
What Do We Have On The Table
In a traditional family meal, people usually sit around a round tray symbolising the equality and attachment among family members. The picture of a family having meals together also shows that no matter what happens, the family will always give help, support and protection for its members. Unlike in the Western culture, from the ancient time up to now, the Vietnamese always bring up all the dishes onto the tray and eat with small bowls and pairs of chopsticks. A lot of Western people find it hard to use chopsticks but if you fall in love with Asian cuisine, it is not something unfamiliar.
As you may know, traditional Vietnamese meals often have fluffy rice, sliced meat and vegetable dishes. In order to pick up food conveniently, we use chopsticks. Don’t feel sad if you fail to use them for the first time because many Vietnamese people also take a long time to learn how to use them.
Like in some Asian countries such as China, Korea and Japan, rice is the main dish in Vietnamese meals. In the past, meals were very simple and frugal. Besides rice, there were vegetable dishes such as vegetable soup (“canh rau”), vegetable pickles (“dưa muối“,) and sometimes they only had rice and vegetable broth (“nước luộc rau”). Nowadays, due to the improved quality of life, the standard meal has significantly changed in the way of increasing animal products which are nutritious.
Some families spend time together to make special dishes at weekend, the only time they don’t get busy with work. This helps them relieve stress at work or school and refresh their mind for a new upcoming week.
Traditional Vietnamese families usually have multiple generations. Some have three or even four generations. In Vietnam, we have an idiom “kính trên nhường dưới”, which means showing your respect for the elderly and love for the younger. Delicious foods should be invited to the eldest in the family or given to the youngest.
The Etiquette On The Table
You have also to be aware of the suitable position and polite behaviour in the meal, for example, not talking while chewing food, not drinking in the meal, etc. The invitation at the beginning of the meal is an indispensable custom. Before picking up their bowls and chopsticks, children must invite their grandparents and parents first then invite other people based on their age. They begin to eat only when the older pick up the first piece of food. When you see there is only one slice or piece of food left on the dish, remember to ask if anyone wants to eat it. They will certainly say no but you should still show the right etiquette.
In traditional Vietnamese family meals, the important thing is not preparing hearty appetite but the heart-warming union with family members. Altogether, they talk about their working day, stories of the past and share their thoughts, emotions as well as beautiful memories. This is also the time for family members to congratulate others’ success as well as to help them overcome obstacles in life.
Nowadays, in the rough and tumble life, people are always busy with their work, forgetting about family meals. More and more people tend to use fast food or order food, which results in fewer family gatherings. However, looking back at the traditional culture, understanding the deep and beautiful meanings associated with daily life, I believe that there are still many Vietnamese families that remember about this beautiful cultural feature and try to maintain it.
We hope that the given information in this post will help you to understand more about our traditional culture, and make you feel comfortable and less strange to some customs when you have a chance to join in Vietnamese meal.