RICE - Vietnamese's main food: Rice is so important in Vietnamese society that it has been called the essence of its culture. It is almost impossible for Vietnamese to imagine a meal without rice.
Rice has many links to various aspects of Vietnamese life and culture ranging from folklore, festivals, and family rituals to the arts and specific rice-based foods such as rice wine (Ruou Nep) and rice cakes (Banh Chung, Banh U), as well as the actual grain and its stalks.
Historically, wet rice cultivation was a labor-intensive task that could not be accomplished easily. As a result, families pooled their labor. They also shared their water resources and irrigation facilities. Typically, irrigation arrangements called for water to run downhill, linking all the surrounding families in their shared destiny of communal resource usage. Further, people lived in houses clustered together and depended heavily upon each other since the rice was usually planted on the same day after several days of watering. This necessitated an emphasis on group interests, the enhancement of skills in group decision-making and the avoidance of friction between families who would be neighbors and workmates for generations.
This historic commitment to group harmony, a hallmark of the original culture of rice, echoes today and continues to shape group consciousness.