Fresh herbs, lots of vegetables and seafood, and cooking techniques that use water or broth instead of oils-these are some of the standout qualities of Vietnamese food, our judges say. "This cuisine, prepared the traditional way, relies less on frying and heavy coconut-based sauces for flavor and more on herbs, which makes it lower in calories," Largeman-Roth explains. Traditional Vietnamese flavorings (including cilantro, mint, Thai basil, star anise, and red chili) have long been used as alternative remedies for all sorts of ailments, and cilantro and anise have actually been shown to aid digestion and fight disease-causing inflammation.
One of the healthiest and most delicious Vietnamese dishes is pho (pronounced "fuh"), an aromatic, broth-based noodle soup full of antioxidant-packed spices. (Check out judge Bittman's vegetarian take on it, at right.)
Danger zone: If you're watching your weight, avoid the fatty short ribs on many Vietnamese menus.
Try this recipe: Mark Bittman's Vietnamese Pho