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Compare: Japanese and Vietnamese Cuisine

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I'm writing a high school paper on the differences and similarities between Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine. I love eating and learning about both of them but only have a reasonable amount of knowledge. The paper can only be around 2-3 pages long, which I know is not enough, so I have to highlight the main differences.

I didn't come to this board for people to write a paper for me, just for some knowledge on how they differ. I know how they are dissimilar in aspects such as ingredients and the way they both serve their food, but what I have trouble writing about is their main differences in preparation.

Thank you in advance.

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  1. I'm no expert - especially on the Vietnamese side, but a few thoughts come to mind.

    1) The main and obvious difference is the use of fish sauce vs. soy sauce. These are fundamental elements in each cooking that determine a lot of subsequent methods and techniques.

    2) The fish to meat (pork, chicken, beef) ratio is much higher in Japan. That drives cooking techniques that favor fish, including raw (sashimi), salt-broiled (shio yaki), charcoal grilled, etc. Fish is dried and used as stock in Japan, (dashi is extremely important in all Japanese cooking), but is an adjunct to soy sauce, where the fish sauce itself is a main flavor in Vietnamese cooking. Dashi and other fish base preparations are generally not fermented like Vietnamese fish sauce. Of course, soy sauce is also fermented.

    The fish I see in Vietnamese foods are either freshwater or close-in tidal or brackish water fish, where Japan has been deep sea fishing for centuries - they are an island, after all.

    3) Both cultures eat rice and some noodles - the noodles in Japan follow either the earlier imported Chinese tradition (ramen noodles) or later home grown traditions (soba, udon), and are almost always wheat, (soba is buckwheat) although there is some use of rice noodles (shirataki). Vietnamese cooking seems to be much more based on rice noodles.

    4) External influences have had a very divergent influence in the two countries. Both had strong French influences (pho/fer in Vietnam, the Japanese word for bread is Pan). There is the whole tradition of French style curry in Japan - as far as I know nothing like that in Vietnam. Japan had Portuguese (tempura).

    5) Other little items I can think of include that both seem to enjoy tofu in various forms, but that miso is exclusive to Japan. Japanese make a lot of fish cakes from the otherwise wasted fish, while Vietnamese have lots of beef tendon balls, pork meat balls, etc - items made from the lesser cuts of beef and pork.

    When Vietnamese restaurants opened up here (US, east coast) in the 80's, my Japanese mother became very fond of a couple of local places - and always preferred it to Chinese - especially the American-Chinese places. I think that the lighter quality, use of fresh vegetables really appealed to her.

    Not at all scientific or researched, but just some thoughts - hope they help.

    Also - there have been several Pho Vs. Ramen threads here. Most are opinions - I like this, I like that... but some have good info on ingredients, and real differences. Here's one link I found. If you search using 'ramen pho' you'll find others.

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/403782

    1. how about utensils? I think vietnamese use fork and spoon for eating rice, but use chopsticks for noodles. Japanese of course use chopsticks for pretty much everything (right?)

      2 Replies
      1. re: bitsubeats

        utensil wise for the vietnamese, i know that in my family we use chopsticks to eat rice with. but that is at home. i know that in restaurants it is different.

        1. re: bitsubeats

          Almost, but not 100%. The Japanese use chopsticks for all native cuisines, and fork/spoon/knife for exotic cuisines. The same goes for plateware; Japanese plateware for native cuisines, western style plates for exotic. Also for menus, where exotic dishes will be in a separate location on the menu vs. the native dishes, which are normally organized by cooking technique.

          In this way a good cultural test of how incorporated some formally exotic cuisine is is how it is served, plated, and even noted on a menu. Tempura almost always is treated as a native dish, while curry almost always is treated as an exotic dish.

        2. You can't. :) Unless you consider this board as "an interview" with someone with particular knowledge...but you can't even prove that. You might be able to get some keywords and phrases here and there, like "Tempura, Portuguese origin", or various dishes that are mentioned here. Then you can do your own research with those terms or ideas, so that you're not just copying what people are saying here. Then you should write the paper in your own words and cite proper sources you found as necessary.

          One word of advice to the high school student. You need a narrower focus than "similarities and differences between Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine", because on such a vast subject, you can probably write a book. You need a thesis that is concise and arguable, and focuses on a specific aspect of these two cuisines. You should probably start out with theme of the paper by picking what aspect of cuisines are you interested? I can think of a few: the relationship between their climate and food, the relationship between their history and food, the relationship between their location and food, the relationship between their geography and food, the relationship between the influences (similar to history) and the food, religion and food, culture and food, etc. Once you've chosen a topic, you should try to find an arguable point, "While both cuisines exhibit elements of Chinese cuisine due to the historical Chinese cultural dominance in Asia, the geography of these nations played a crucial role in the variation of that adoption. Japan, an island nation throughout its history, ..., whereas Vietnam, a peninsula connected to China, developed much more directly related...blah blah blah.

          2 Replies
          1. re: baekster

            yes i agree w. baekster it would be too hard to compare two vastly different cuisines that do have some similarities but are otherwise different. It would be like saying let's compare VN cuisine to say, Turkish. There would be some similarities, but many differences. Anywayz, that doesn't help you out much. But I would go with the Chinese influences on both cuisines spelled out by applehome and baekster. The soups and noodle uses are Chinese influenced.

            The differences, that could take you ages to write about cuz they are inherent. To simplify, JN don't use fish sauce in the same way as VN. (but JN cuisine actually has fish sauces, too) JN uses a lot of preservedand fermented ingredients. (but VN cuisine also has preserved ingredients, and also preserved snacks and stuff)

            I don't know that much about JN cuisine in depth, but I remember seeing something once that JNese consider rice as a side dish accompanying the meal. For VN rice is essential and mixed directly with the main dish (like Southern Chinese) Rice is so essential, it is reflected in the language (as in an com---literally to eat rice means to eat---I think em co biet noi tieng viet, phai khong?---your name is VN) like, a VNese would ask have you eaten as in "have you eaten rice? Not just "have you eaten?" And all dishes except noodle dishes and french bread dishes or pancakes are served with rice in a bowl with the other dish on top of it. Not eaten out of a side bowl like in what I saw on TV about JN cuisine. Maybe someone who knows JN cuisine well can clarify about this.

            Um, I think the shape of the VN chopstick is also different from the JN one, too.

            VN ppl do eat rice and everything else with chopsticks. The flat Chinese spoon is only used for soups. Since Western cuisine isn't pervasive in VN (beyond the French influence) as it is in JN, I have only seen VN ppl eating Western food in the US and I have seen them using two forks at once, one in the left hand and one in the right, or a fork and a spoon together. But only with recent immigrants and I think that is cuz it is hard to eat stuff with a fork of you are use to chopsticks...I don't think that is a cultural phenomenon or anything.

            1. re: luckyfatima

              Just FYI, rice is not considered a side dish in traditional Japanese cuisine, but a staple. Even in many bento boxes today, rice is half of the meal. In fact, as you gave an example in Vietnamese, a generic colloquial Japanese term for any hot meal is "gohan" which means steamed rice. There are some dishes, like "donburi" where food is topped on rice, but usually it is in a separate bowl.

              Your comment about preserving is accurate though as pickling the use of vinegar is a major part of Japanese cuisine and certainly has its' influence on everything from daily consumption of "oshinko" pickles, umeboshi, and of course the origins of sushi.

          2. I have no source on this, so don't take my word, but I've heard that Japanese food and beer were both influenced by German masters who visited Japan. Might be interesting to look into.

            1. The French influence would also be interesting: So strong in Vietnamese because of the colonization (Bahn mi, for example) but also quite present in Japan, simply by cultural dispertion.

              1. Japanese food was influenced by the Dutch.

                I think Vietnamese has a more varied use of pungent herbs, including herbs that remain. I don't think I've ever observed that in Japanese food, which tends to be more subtly flavored from seaweed/fish/miso.

                I wish I had a paper like that in high school! Why not check out some books and taste your way through some recipes.

                17 Replies
                1. re: willownt

                  "Japanese food was influenced by the Dutch."

                  Oh really? Share with us your theory regarding this statement.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    Honestly, I think you meant to say Portuguese...Didn't you?

                    Portugual sent priests to Japan in the 16th century to convert Japan to Christianity. While some did take the religion to heart, they REALLY took the idea of deep-fried food, hence TEMPURA. They also introduced bread (pan) to Japan.

                    (in reply to willownt)

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      The Portuguese may have been the first western culture to arrive in Japan; however, after they annoyed the Japanese with their colonization/missionary efforts, they were kicked out and for close to 200 years (ending mid 19th cent.), the Dutch were the only westerners allowed to maintain a presence in Japan itself or trade with Japan (Dutch East India Co--something like two ships per year traded). Not that there were a large number of Dutch residing in Japan, and in fact, they were very restricted as to where they were allowed to go.

                      I don't know how much influence these few Dutch may have had upon Japanese cuisine but it is not unrealistic to think there could have been some crossover.

                    2. re: willownt

                      I can't even think of any dutch foods that contributed to japanese cooking

                      1. re: bitsubeats

                        I just read that they introduced corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes to Japan. Also snuff (but that's obviously not food..) Also, the Dutch monopoly on trade/presence in Japan was ~230 years. The vast majority of western influence upon cooking happened after the Meiji Restoration (starting 1868 or thereabouts).

                        Incidentally, the only times I've ever eaten sweet potato in Japanese cooking is in tempura, so there you go.
                        ___________
                        Also, this won't help you with your research paper (not that the above would either), but when I think of Japanese food, I think of it tasting colors of blues (indigos, pale light blue), blacks, shades of tan and buff, like the colors of linens or burlap. Vietnamese food makes me think of bright oranges, green, yellow. Random I guess. (What sort of dork tastes food in color?)

                        1. re: TimeMachine

                          TimeMachine asks: What sort of dork tastes food in color?

                          The answer: A synesthete, or one who has synesthesia, which in more colloquial terms can be referred to as a crossing of the senses. (A good read on the subject is "The man who tasted shapes" by Richard Cytowic.)

                          I think that would make a good thread on its own, as I suspect that various degrees of synesthesia is quite common.

                          1. re: cgfan

                            TimeMachine
                            Wow, I thought I was the only real crazy one here...I totally followed your color thing. I SOOOooo, see those two (jp/vn) in the exact same color palate.
                            Whoa, bizarre. My friends make fun of me for that. I also think of some wines in a trebble/base ratio thing and still have to connect color to the wines too. Not the colors of the wine, but as in the brightness/darkness kind of color thing...like when I'm saying cloudy or foggy, it means more like the shade of grey it makes me feel/picture. Not the exact color.
                            wWhatever, I get it. You've just made me feel a little less odd for this.
                            thanks.

                            1. re: tatertotsrock

                              Vladimir Nabokov was also had synesthesia, as well as Franz Liszt, Nikola Tesla, and handful of other famous folks. For a general overview, it's worth checking out the Wikipedia entry.

                          2. re: TimeMachine

                            Stone baked sweet potatoes are a popular wintertime snack in Japan. They are called "ishi yaki imo". Trucks, with wood burning ovens, drive around neighborhoods selling them. Sweet potato is used in many desserts as well.

                            It's tough to make a case for simply introducing naturally grown foods as culturally influencing the cuisine.

                            And I have different color perceptions than you of Japanese food- much more green, orange, and especially silver.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              Oh, I know there is a huge difference between introducing a food item and influencing a cuisine (like saying the Peruvians influenced Italian cuisine by introducing the tomato or something); it was just mostly a "how interesting" sort of fact.

                              I've certainly heard of synesthesia, but always in the context of words and colors--like "the letter C is a soothing deep maroon to me" or "the name Billy radiates a strong mustard yellow." I never really thought much about it in connection to taste perceptions--it's just the way I've always been. Very curious! It makes sense though in that the word simply means sharing or blending of different senses--of course it would apply to all sorts of sensory perceptions. I bet a lot of people experience this in some way or another. The other way I experience it is with sounds (voices mostly)--I "hear" the voices as visual objects or products (like bleach or a handful of dried cashews or a smooth concave wooden surface). That's David Bowie by the way--essentially a blondwood salad bowl.

                              1. re: TimeMachine

                                Correction: The potato not the tomato(greatly different climate needs) was Peru/Bolivia's high altitude contribution to European cuisine. The Italians thought it fit only to feed pigs. God bless the Irish! The tomato, on the other hand, comes from nice sunny and warm Central America and was a perfect fit for the impoverished Sicilians. Hence tomato sauces in southern Italy. Two post-Columbian American foods that have become syneunomous w/ 2 European countries. So interesting. The Central American hot pepper and Thai cuisine?

                          3. re: bitsubeats

                            Dutch contribution to Japanese diet = Tempura.

                            http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?t...

                            http://www.rghk.com.hk/dining/inagiku...

                            http://web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/org/kicai...

                            http://www.cic.sfu.ca/tqj/GettingRigh...

                            1. re: willownt

                              I've eaten many times in Tokyo at the home shop of this restaurant that you linked, INAGIKU (Here is the main page- http://www.inagiku.jp/top.html). In that shop in Hanzomon, Tokyo, on the wall, there is a large English ornamental sign that explains the Portuguese origins of the dish. The Dutch are usually mentioned as they were simply around at the time.

                              How's your Japanese?

                              http://www.sayko.co.jp/article/res-ne...
                              This article discusses the Portuguese/Catholic European origin of tempura as a means to eat dubious fish on Fridays so as to adhere to the no meat on Friday's Catholic doctrine of the time.

                              http://iroha-japan.net/iroha/B02_food...
                              This articles discusses the origin of the term and the fact that cooking oil was expensive in the 17th century so that tempura was considered an expensive luxury item. It wasn't until the Edo-jidai that it become more popular.

                              Also, to quote the essay you linked to written by the Dutch guy- "Examples of popular fusion dishes include tempura and pan from the Portuguese, curry-rice from the English, and numerous dishes such as ramen noodles from the Chinese and Koreans. "

                              BTW, I'll be eating lunch at Inagiku twice next month as I usually get taken there by a client.

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                I think that the Japanese should revisit their culinary history given that supposedly the latest of their campaign of cultural purity has them trying to purge non-Japanese food (often Korean / Chinese ) from Japanese
                                restaurants ** all around the world**.

                                The reason I pointed out the Dutch/Portuguese connection was because people were detailing the Euro/Vietnamese fusion and wondering if there was a German connection.

                                1. re: willownt

                                  The effort to provide certification (purging of non-Japanese, as you call it) is not so much with regard to the food in terms of its history but the understanding of the skillsets required to produce it properly, and addressing, specifically, the American penchant for treating all Asian as Asian. When you have sushi prepared by a chinese prep chef that was making egg rolls yesterday, and compare it to the real experience of a sushiya that is serving Japanese salarymen every day, you begin to understand what the certification effort is all about. It's about the modern perversion of established tradition, not the historical significance of a source of food.

                                  There is, indeed, a portuguese connection - not dutch. (When did you last have rijstafel in Japan?) It's even written in the legends. (You don't think that Clavell made up all of that Shogun stuff, do you? And let's see you equal the obligato/arigato connection in dutch! ;)

                                  1. re: applehome

                                    Well, of course -- everything that happens in Japan, from the utter superiority of their rice to the uniqueness of their snow, to an emperor descended from the sun, stands apart from anything found in the rest of the world.

                                    And to even serve Japanese food in the same restaurant as, say, Korean food, well, that's the ultimate indignity:

                                    >> On a recent business trip to Colorado, Japan's agriculture minister popped into an inviting Japanese restaurant with a hankering for a taste of back home. What Toshikatsu Matsuoka found instead was something he considered a high culinary crime -- sushi served on the same menu as Korean-style barbecued beef.<<

                                    (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                                    )

                                    Moreover, it seems that Japan is resisting anyone even being inspired by Japanese food. The Washington Post article says, "Vera's Burger Shack in Vancouver is offering tempura-battered onion rings" -- and I'd like to know, exactly what is wrong with that? I think it's neat that people are so inspired and excited by Japanese techniques or dishes.

                                    What's next, a ban on eating rice?

                                    >>Here I am suggesting that the demand for ’authentic’ food is a preposterous idea, I so wish other countries would follow Japan’s lead! Imagine a Japan filled with authentic Italian, Mexican and French restaurants. No more curry doughnuts or fried eggs covered with spaghetti!<<

                                    http://www.longcountdown.com/2006/11/...

                                    1. re: willownt

                                      Unfortunately, I think you've bought into a lot of the misinformation and reactionary commentary in your links. Maybe you don't know this about Japan, but you can find the best "authentic" Italian and French restaurants in the world there already (unfortunately, not Mexican though). I found some of the best Neapolitan pizza I've had anywhere in the world in Japan. And even before the top three star Michelin chefs thought about opening a branch of their restaurants in the US, they opened in Japan first. Why is that? I think it's because the Japanese have a deep respect for products made from long traditions. Washoku (Japanese cuisine) is based on centuries of tradition, and while many aspects of it are found in Japanese restaurants around the world, there's also a bastardization that is goes along with adapting it to local palates. The Japanese are certainly also capable of bastardizing on their own, as you suggest, but they are also quite adept at cross-fertilizing washoku techniques with western ingredients or likewise western techniques with Japanese ingredients (curry doughnuts fall into this category). From what I can tell, culinary training in Japan is a much more intensive and long process than simply getting a degree from a school. Training to be a sushi chef in Japan involves apprenticing for years, and I've heard that for the first few years, the apprentice doesn't even get to slice fish. Those first few years is dedicated mainly to knife skills and then eventually to flavoring techniques. I suppose this is the kind of training that the Japanese expect from those preparing Japanese food around the world. Maybe that's why I have yet to be impressed with western chefs trying to do incorporate Japanese fusion into their menus. Rarely do they have the training and developed palate to use the ingredients and techniques as meticulously as they can be.

                                      I'm not sure where you get the idea that the food police are looking to ban foods, rather they are trying to institute ways to ensure some minimum of quality and standards. Finding Korean BBQ and sushi in the same restaurant is akin to a "something-for-everyone" diner (or what's called a family restaurant in Japan). I wonder if Mexicans think Taco Bell is Mexican food?

                        2. My 5 cents about Japanese food. Japanese food is marked by its uses of seafood. Because of the abundant source for fresh seafood, it seemed as though they tried to get the natural flavor of the seafood they were able to get. Mainland countries would try to preserve the seafood by method of drying or salting (which was commonly used in Korea, for example). Even the flagship stock, dashi, is made with sea-kelp, as opposed to meat and bones (e.g. Vietnamese pho). On the other hand, vegetations appear as preserved through pickling process (such as pickled plums and Japanese cucumbers) as I suspect has been due to limited land to produce vegetation.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: baekster

                            You are way off on Japanese food. Have you been to a supermarket in Tokyo? How about a seaside Japanese village? Dried and preserved seafood is as big in Japan as anywhere else in Asia. And besides drying, marinating in soy sauce and miso are other common short term preservation methods. Regarding "vegetation", seasonal vegetables are an integral part of Japanese cuisine. Japan is a long stretching archipelago with several different climates and quite broad differences in local approaches to cuisine- both in terms of ingredients and techniques. For example, I have relatives from the north who do not eat much seafood, particularly sashimi and/ or sushi. They eat more of a mountain diet- rice, root vegetables, etc. And Japan grows plenty of fresh "vegetation" and also imports plenty from China. Preserved vegetables are eaten out of preference, not necessity.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              I stand corrected. :) Thanks for correcting me.

                              1. re: baekster

                                When I read your response again, it really is hard to define what the cuisine is exactly like. One can only generalize. Even small countries like Korea (what I know best) has so many varieties of food that it's hard to pinpoint characteristics of the entire cuisine since there is going to be exceptions. How would I characterize Korean food? I have no f**king clue cause whatever I come up with, there are going to be exceptions to that. Yes, of course, I understand that there is seafood in Vietnamese food and vegetables and meat in Japanese (in your writing you make me sound like such a dumbass). But wouldn't you generalize Japanese to have clean flavor (compared to other cuisines)?

                            2. re: baekster

                              Vietnam has a huge coastline and sea food is a mainstay for coastal people and loved by all VNese. Pho is one (internationally famous) type of food with a specifically beefy broth, but it doesn't represent the entire national cuisine. there are so many seafood dishes it is countless. VN also has salted and preserved versions of seafood like squid, prawns, and fish, like you say. But so does island Japan. Fish sauce and also prawn paste are used in many many dishes. So are tiny dried prawns. Plus there are an abundance of fresh seafood dishes. I think the seafood comparison is off because both nations love seafood and add ingredients that can give non-seafood based dishes a "fishy" undertaste.

                            3. since i know you're near MSP, David Minh, you have a lot of local resources. i'd cruise around and see if you could talk to some local chefs about key cuisine differences--that would make your paper so interesting & would impress your teacher! for vietnamese, the chef at ngon vietnamese bistro, Hai, is pretty insightful. smart guy from a vietnamese restaurant family, but he's studied other types of cuisines as well--super busy, you'd want to maybe arrange a time during his slower afternoons to talk to him. you could hit several sushi bars, also during the slow times, and see if you could pique one of the chefs into talking at length. chefs love to talk about food, but don't forget how busy they can get!

                              on difference: don't overlook 2 biggies: sweet beans & seaweed

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: soupkitten

                                I don't know if MSP is very different from other places (I don't know why it would be), but make sure that when you are talking to a sushi chef that he is, indeed, Japanese. The popularity of Sushi (and other Japanese foods) has brought about a huge influx of Chinese and other Asians making and serving sushi, and while they may or may not have learned the making of a specific product, they would have little knowledge of the food as a whole. A real, trained Japanese chef that understands ryori would be wonderful, but even a Japanese housewife that knows the basic family recipes would serve you better than a non-Japanese sushiya that until yesterday, was making brown glop to serve with egg foo young.

                              2. Interviews and these posts can be informative, but you need some difinitive sources for a school paper. As a good source of info on Japanese cooking, I would recommend Elizabeth Andoh's book _Washoku_. The introduction is full of good info on what the Washoku tradition means - it is the traditional Japanese cooking, as opposed to Yoshoku, which is the cooking methods and ingredients that were brought in by foreigners. I would imagine that your library would carry it, but you might even consider buying it, as it is a great Japanese cookbook.

                                1. Thank you all very much for the awesome responses, they've really helped a bunch. I've gotten the rough draft done so far, and I think it's alright. What I ended up doing for my main thesis was to specify two different dishes: pho and ramen. I thought that they were both very popular and relatively similar it would be easier to compare and contrast in a 2-3 page paper, which ended up being around 2 and 3/4 pages.

                                  Tomorrow, once I revise the paper a little more, I'll paste the draft here.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: David_Minh

                                    I totally forgot about this post! I have the final paper, and with only a week to work on it I think I did a pretty good job. I'll just post the whole thing.

                                    When an average American thinks of “Asian” food they imagine heaping portions of Kung Pao chicken on fried rice with a side of cream cheese wontons served on a paper plate. Although this is a popular staple amongst mall rats and buffet regulars, the former dish is as authentic is the American invention: the fortune cookie. Asia, which covers around one third of the earth’s landmass, is the home of a variety of unique cuisines. Two nations in particular, Vietnam and Japan, are proof of the range that true Asian cuisine covers.
                                    Before anyone can attempt to compare two different culinary styles they must first understand the core of cuisine: ingredients. Ingredients that highlight the distinctiveness of Japanese cooking are the extensive selections of seafood, vegetables, select grains, and certain beans. Since Japan is surrounded by ocean, some form of seafood is included in pretty much every Japanese meal. Fish frequently found in the nets of a proficient Japanese fisherman are tuna, flounder, mackerel and salmon. Other more unusual sea creatures that don’t escape the eyes of hungry Japanese are eels, sea urchins, sharks and poisonous puffer fish. Being the resourceful people that the Japanese are, they incorporate other unorthodox things like seaweed and fish caviar into their diet. Although vegetables are usually upstaged by heavier parts of Japanese cooking, they are a common staple in Japanese fare. Examples include a broad range of cucumbers, eggplants, cabbages, radishes and other roots. Rice (which is ubiquitous in all East Asian cuisine) in Japan is a special short grain variety that is generally found exclusively. A grain besides rice that is used in Japan is wheat, which is mainly made into wheat gluten and is sequentially turned into noodles.
                                    Dishes in Vietnam are much more straightforward in comparison to the complex courses that the Japanese serve, but are not limited to a small selection. Distinguishing factors of Vietnamese cuisine is their vegetables, certain meats, fruits and herbs paired with spices. Popular vegetables cultivated in the vast fields of Vietnam are water spinach, bok choy, carrots, bitter melon and cabbage. Vietnam holds countless exotic animals in their tropical jungles, but humdrum proteins such as pork, beef, prawns, and shellfish are still prevalent. Although the former may sound like the usual meats many East Asians feast one, what makes Vietnamese different is the fact that snakes, half born chicken eggs, and scorpions are delicacies. Fruits in Vietnamese cuisine are of the tropical variety, and include lychee, mango, longan, star fruit and the notorious durian, which smells like the severed foot of a wet dog. The herbs and spices utilized in Vietnamese cuisine are used to create complex flavors in simple matters. Mints, cilantro, basil, and a wide selection of the hottest peppers available are commonly found in the large, ceramic bowls and plates of a Vietnamese meal.
                                    After learning the disparities between the ingredients used in both countries, we can take a closer look at their differences by comparing dishes that the average American would confuse as the same thing. Japan and Vietnam are both famous for their derivatives of a Chinese bowl of noodle soup: pho in Vietnam and ramen in Japan. Pho, pronounced as f-uh, has a stock that consists of simmered beef bones, ox-tails, various indigenous spices, and charred onions, ginger and scallions. The broth in authentic ramen, the variety found in a bowl and not in a plastic cup, is much lighter and consists of beef stock, kelp, dried fish mushrooms and a soy based paste called miso. The noodles in pho are clear rice noodles, while ramen uses wheat as their starch.

                                    1. re: David_Minh

                                      Thanks for the follow-up. Not bad for a short high school paper. What grade did you get? You clearly had more Vietnamese information than Japanese, but you did ok. One bone to pick would be that ramen is most often chicken or pork, or even a mixture, not beef. Also, miso is one type of ramen, but there are many others. If you get a chance, maybe from Netflix or whatever, rent the film Tampopo. Despite being a parody, it will do more to show you what goes into ramen and the whole culture of Japanese eating (although, don't take it too seriously). I know that the paper is long since done, but the movie is funny as hell and well worth the watch anyway. Also, check out the wiki page:

                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramen#Soup

                                      1. re: applehome

                                        Tampopo... is that like Tanpopo? Because there is this great Japanese soba and udon place called Tanpopo just 15 minutes from my house. Do you have any idea what it means?

                                        By the way, I received an A on the paper. Thanks for the feedback, and you're right, I do know more about Vietnamese cuisine, even though I've been to Japan twice (I guess it shouldn't count because I went when I was nine and thirteen and didn't eat much there).

                                        1. re: David_Minh

                                          Tampopo means dandelion. Tanpopo is a derivative and a name of a J-pop girls band. The movie Tampopo, released in 1985, made the name famous for noodle houses, and many ramen places have named themselves after the movie - including one in the Boston area.

                                          Just rent it - you'll be laughing for days.