Before setting up my restaurant Vietnamese Foodies in Dubai, I grew up in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. There, the temperatures ranged between 31°C and 35°C all year round and we had little to no access to air conditioning.
As a result, I learnt early on that when trying to beat the heat, the food you eat matters. As the sweltering summer arrives in the UAE, one top tip for staying cool this summer is to embrace yin foods.
In Vietnam, our culture embraces balance through the concept of yin and yang. This applies to all facets of life including the food we eat, with certain food and drink believed to have yin properties, which are static, hydrating and cooling, and others yang, with their active and warming qualities. Think iceberg lettuce (yin) as opposed to steak (yang).
Here are some others from the former category you could include in your diet this summer.
Tofu features prominently and regularly in Vietnamese cuisine, with many of our dishes being naturally vegan. A favourite dish of mine that embraces the ingredient’s yin properties is bun dau sa ot.
Those who love Vietnamese cuisine will know that this is a cold noodle salad of sorts, featuring cold rice noodles with protein, nuoc cham sauce and a range of fresh vegetables and herb, such as lemongrass tofu, lettuce, mint, basil and coriander. It's cool, refreshing and utterly delicious.
Looking at other traditionally warmer climates, it's not hard to see how seafood is yin. It’s the perfect dish when dining al fresco on a warm summer evening, for example. With strong yin qualities, seafood, including shellfish, is always found on Vietnamese tables.
A signature dish in our culture is goi cuon tom (shrimp rolls), which is made from rice paper rolls, cooked shrimp, lettuce and herbs, and served cold with nuoc cham dipping sauce.
Another popular dish I love in the summer is ca chem nuong la chuoi, baked seabass with shimeji mushrooms in banana leaf. It’s light, tasty and nourishing.
Pho is known globally as the quintessential representation of Vietnamese cuisine. With a 14-hour broth prepared lovingly, with tender and seasoned protein or tofu, perfectly cooked noodles, and a variety of fresh sprouts and aromatic herbs to top it off, it is a common dish across the country even on the hottest of days.
Why, you ask? It has been a long-held belief in many cultures that hot drinks cool you in hot temperatures. Now, science backs it up with many studies highlighting how warm soups and drinks like tea raise your core temperature, causing you to perspire more and, in turn, cool down.
Lily Hoa Nguyen is the founder and executive chef of Vietnamese Foodies