In Vietnamese, there can be different regional names for the same ingredient. This is particularly challenging for anyone who is new to the cuisine and does not understand the regional languages well. Even Vietnamese people regularly get confused by the names as well. For ease, I’ve included terms for the ingredients that we frequently reach for when cooking Vietnamese food. These terms are commonly used in speech and on food labels, which is particularly helpful when you’re trying a find an ingredient at a Vietnamese market. If there are two terms for an ingredient, the first one is used by southern and central Vietnamese, the second one is by northerners. Most of these ingredients can be found at a Vietnamese or Chinese market.

Spices:

Annatto seeds: hạt điều

Chilies: ớt

Chinese five spice powder: bột ngũ vị hương

Cinnamon (ground and sticks): bột quế and que quế, respectively

Curry powder: bột cà – ri

Dried red chilies: ớt khô

Fresh ginger: gừng

Galangal: riềng

Green onions: hành lá/hành hoa

Ground turmeric: bột nghệ

Limes: chanh

Lemongrass: sả

Star anise: đại hồi/hồi hương or cánh hồi

Whole cloves: đinh hương

Seasonings:

Caramel sauce: nước màu/nước hàng

Chicken broth: nước lèo gà/ nước dùng gà

Chicken Stock: nước lèo gà/nước dùng gà

Fish Sauce: nước mắm

Fine shrimp sauce: mắm ruốc/mắm tôm

Hoisin sauce: tương đen ăn phở

Maggi Seasoning sauce: nước tương Maggi

Oyster sauce: dầu hào

Sesame oil: dầu mè

Soy sauce: nước tương/xì dầu

Shaoxing Rice wine: rượu đế/rượu trắng

Tamarind juice: nước me

Toasted sesame seeds: mè rang/vừng rang

Vinegar (distilled white rice and Japanese rice): dấm

In the Freezer:

Dried shrimps: tôm khô

Banana leaves: lá chuối

In the Pantry:

Cellophane noodles: bún tàu/miến

Coconut milk: nước cốt dừa

Cornstarch: bột bắp

Glutinous rice flour: bột nếp

Flat rice noodles: bánh phở

Mung Beans: đậu xanh

Rice flour: bột gạo

Rice paper: bánh tráng

Shiitake musrooms: nấm đông cô/nấm hương

Sticky rice: gạo nếp

Straw mushroom: nấm rơm

Tapioca starch: bột năng

Unsalted roasted peanuts: đậu phụng rang/lạc rang

Wood ear mushroom: nấm mèo/mộc nhĩ

Finally, I don’t cook with monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is called bột ngọt in Vietnamese, an ingredient that is used by many Vietnamese cooks as a flavor enhancer. I believe if you have fresh, quality ingredients, you don’t need it.

All of these ingredients can be found at Vietnamese markets, or Chinese markets. If you have access to the them, the ingredients are usually cheaper than at a non-Asian market. Nowadays, many American supermarkets carry them as well, they are usually stored them under the Asian food session of the grocery.

P.S. We’d love to hear your comments about this article, so please feel free to share your comments on this blog. Don’t forget that my website is updated weekly and has lots of articles and free videos to help you master your Vietnamese cooking skills. Come back often and remember to sign up for the ‘VietChef Corner’ Newsletter to have our recipes and useful articles delivered directly to your mailbox. 

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1 Comment on Understand Vietnamese ingredients on food labels

  1. thanks, and keep up the good work

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