Richard from Toronto recently asked about how to set a Viet-style table and how to time the serving of a Viet meal. He and his wife are cooking their way through Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and planning a Christmas Eve feast of Viet fare from the book. He wants to impress his parents (who I assume is tight with Viet traditions) with an appropriate table setting, dishware, etc. Also, he wants to execute the serving well.
I totally understand because it can be extremely confusing. All those little dishes, lettuce and herbs, rice bowls, Eastern and Western fare melding at the table. Oy, it's enought to give you a headache. On the other hand, I've learned to deal with it with an open mind. Like my dad, my husband sets our table, and on a regular basis, we discuss what kind of dishware and utensils to use. My mom and I always discuss how to serve things at formal meals.
Bo Me Gia (a shortcut combo of Old Daddy and Mommy that essentially means “Mom and Dad” in Vietnamese) and I got to talking about table settings and concluded the following: It varies on the situation and how you were raised. Some options to consider: