by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
It was a brief autumn, and the moon calendar has told us that winter in the north of Việt Nam has come. A long hot summer followed by a short-lived autumn and no sooner than the monsoon comes sweeping through the Red River Delta, and tropical storms have come roaring over our eastern shores.
Winter can be dangerous time of year for putting on weight. All your hard workouts and running over the summer for a picture-perfect body can be threatened in a mere month of winter eating.
“Is this caramel pudding?” asked my family when I purchased vegan caramel pudding instead of its milk and egg sister.
“This is not caramel. What have you tricked us into eating,” they asked.
I had purchased the caramel from a vegetarian group selling food.
Vegan Tâm Anh, owned by accredited chef Quang Anh, makes food to order including mushroom-based pate (VNĐ120,000 per 200g box), dried shredded mushroom (VNĐ80,000 per 200g box) and vegan spring rolls (VNĐ70,000 for a box of 10).
The spring rolls were crispy and delicious. When you fry them at home and serve them right there and then they taste fantastic. The rolls come with a ready mix dipping sauce. If you want some fresh lettuce and aromatic herbs, you need to order them.
In winter, we tend to eat more as the weather permits. I also bought some vegan “pork” paste, which was delicious (VNĐ100,000 per kilo) and is made of mung beans. They are very popular at vegetarian feasts.
When I added it into our usual caramel pork stew at home, everyone loved it.
“This is not the usual pork paste is it?” My daughter asked.
It’s not just about buying more food, the cooler weather can easily make you feel content at every meal, and make you take a few more bites than needed.
The average meal of urban Vietnamese families has changed quite drastically over the past 10 to 20 years, according to recent research by the National Institute for Nutrition.
The research revealed an unwanted truth about Vietnamese dietary habits: “An adult Vietnamese consumes a meal that has too much meat, saturated fat and salt.”
The amount of meat one person used to consume was 24.4g per day; it is now 62g per day. Fat consumption has risen from 3g per day to 15.2g per day.
Vegetable consumption has gone down, while seafood consumption, which adds minerals and protein to the human body, has stayed at 50g per day consistently over the past 20 years.
The general Vietnamese population has changed from having vegetables as the staple source of nutrition to having more red meat, saturated fat and fast food.
The study also showed that the average Vietnamese now tends to consume more processed food instead of having a balanced diet. The traditional Vietnamese diet, which is made up of mostly vegetables, some rice and a small amount of meat in the form of poultry, seafood and fish sauce, has become more meat-heavy.
The World Health Organization recommends that each adult person has 300g of vegetables, 100-200g of seafood and salt intake of 6g per day, but the average Vietnamese now consumes only 100g vegetables, 50g of seafood and more than 20g salt each day.
Before 1995, nearly 10 years after the renewal policy changed the economic landscape of the country, obesity was something we heard of that happened in developed countries. But soon after, it became a concern in Việt Nam too.
Being an agriculture-based society, Vietnamese farmers plant rice, vegetables and fruits for export, but they need to bring more into Vietnamese households.
We Vietnamese grew up with delicious food so we tend to be spoiled when it comes to food. Most of the time, we eat with the call of the palate, instead of a well-balanced nutritious intake for health.
They say “you are what you eat,” so on one hand, we need to be careful and picky about what we take in, but we don't need to mercilessly go about filling ourselves with healthy food that doesn't taste very good. Far from it.
By adding some vegan paste slices to our usual meat-based stew, I hope our family meal can be more balanced and nutritious, yet maintain the delicious flavour everyone loves.
Last, but not least, traditional Vietnamese puddings or other desserts are heavy on sweetness, but it is not just have to be from sugar.
Take ash steamed puddings for instance. This is sliced small and dipped into sugar cane molasses, and they make a perfect ending to a family meal. Furthermore, the ash minerals even help the digestive system.
It’s delicious, and good for your health, but again, consume with moderation.
A healthier diet doesn’t mean you need to just go fully vegetarian, but the addition of some extra vegetables in substitute for a little meat can bring our bodies closer to ideal dietary health. VNS
Cỗ chay Tâm Anh
Full vegetarian feast for six costs between VNĐ600,000 – 1.2 million
Tel: 0913315339 Quang Anh
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