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Vietnamese cuisine & sugar?

I've been peeking at various Vietnamese, and just Southeast Asian in general, cookbooks and recipes and notice that many, many of the recipes call for sugar--I'm drawn to the fresh vegetables and lean meats typical of most Vietnamese dishes and was thinking it would be fun to explore during my "healthy eating" kick. Is sugar a fairly typical ingredient in Vietnamese cooking or am I looking at the wrong cookbooks? I am very sensitive to sugar and try to avoid cooking with it, if at all possible. Am I exploring the wrong cuisine?

Thank you,

~TDQ

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  1. Occasionally I just leave the sugar out, and I have also sometimes used a tad of Splenda and not noticed a difference.

    1. The Vietnamese cooking tradition is a combination of Chinese, ethnic Viet cuisine (there are many ethnicities within the country), and much of the sugar you are referring to is a tradition coming from Vietnam's first colonizer China. They have a tradition of combining sweet, sour, spicy, salty, and the fish sauce which is a 5th flavor element....to convey harmony in your mouth. Sugar and the use of it is an integral part of their culinary expression. To do away with it or limit it would render the food anything but Vietnamese. Stick to their soups Pho Bo......not so much sugar.....or stay away from dipping sauce....

      1. A common theme in both Vietnamese and Thai food is the combination of hot, sour, salty and sweet. Palm sugar is more flavorful compared to white sugar but a little Splenda will work without a tremendous compromise

        1. Thanks, all. At least I wasn't imagining it and it does make sense from a balance perspective. You do want the sweet to balance the spicy and sour.

          ~TDQ

          1. I also have a little sugar issue. I generally use a less processed sugar or even a fruit product (homemade jam for example) Adds a little something and at least mentally makes me feel better. The amount of sweetener versus the vegetables and other good stuff is minimal and I find it a really "healthy" option.