Many of these ingredients are available in the produce and ethnic food aisles at large supermarkets. You can also find them at Asian specialty markets.
Chiles ( ot; pronounced ut) vary widely in size and color. Very hot Thai or bird's-eye chiles are the most common.
Fish sauce ( nuoc mam; nyuk maam) is an indispensable seasoning made of anchovies. A good quality fish sauce really makes a difference; we like Three Crabs.
Lemongrass ( xa; sa) adds tangy flavor to stir-fries, stews, and sauces. Remove the outer leaves and dark-green leafy tops to reveal the creamy bulb, which can be chopped, crushed, sliced, or grated.
Mung bean sprouts ( gia; zia) have yellow tips and white stems, and add crunch to salads and soups.
Rice vermicelli ( banh hoai; baan hoy) are thin rice noodles that are used in Vietnamese table salads.
Thai basil ( rau que; rao keh) is among the herbs that traditionally accompany Vietnamese dishes. The stems have a subtle purple hue.
Cilantro ( rau mui; rao moy) leaves are used in finished dishes. Use the stems to flavor stock and rice.
Ginger ( gung; guh ng), an important flavoring, is often used in stocks and braised dishes.
Pearl tapioca ( bot bang; but baang) is used primarily in sweets with coconut milk.
Rice ( gao te; gao teh) is a staple for nearly half the world's population. Use jasmine rice for tender, separate, and fragrant cooked grains.
Rice sticks ( banh pho; baan phuh), dried, flat rice noodles, are used in stir-fries and soups.