Where Vietnamese cuisine differs from North American cooking is in the yin-yang balance. Comparatively, North American cuisine chooses to focus on using different ingredients to harmoniously blend together and create a single taste shared across a dish. In Vietnamese cuisine, foods are built a little differently. The principles of yin and yang are used throughout Vietnamese dishes, meaning that there’s a balance to every meal. Different ingredients are combined to create singular tastes in a meal that perfectly balances everything.
As an example, pho is Vietnam’s national dish. It’s able to be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. It can be created from a wide variety of different ingredients, with so many customizations and substitutions which can be made. In North America, some might look at pho and simply see soup. While there are similarities, the philosophies that go into creating pho is different from some general soup. The basics include meat like beef, pork, or chicken, mixed with herbs, spices, and tender rice noodles all in a broth. Everything that goes into pho is focused on establishing and maintaining balance. If you add something salty, sweet, bitter, sour, or spicy, it needs to be counterbalanced. Dishes like pho and others are always prepared with distinctive layers of textures and flavors which can be contrasted but which always need to be held together in harmony.