Except pho, it seems most Vietnamese soups and similar dishes feature meat that is already cut up into bite-sized pieces. It would seem that this is a very nice way to have meat served because you can simply eat each piece without having to cut it up yourself. However, many times there's a bone in that piece of meat.

I just don't understand why someone would cut the meat up into small pieces without cutting around the bone. Cutting through beef and even chicken bones isn't a trivial task so it must be a decision that is made because of the bone, not in spite of it. Personally, it ruins a meal that might otherwise taste good (especially when it's soup) to have to try to bite around the bone in a piece of meat. Is the bone left in the meat simply to preserve flavor?


2 Answers 2


Yes, those bones make a huge difference for flavor. If you just cook meat in water, you won't have anywhere near the rich meatiness that you get from a good bone broth.

Sure, you could get similar flavor by deboning the meat, then cooking with the bones and removing them before serving. But that's definitely more work, and in some cases it's pretty much impossible. (Want to try deboning a chicken neck?) Note that cutting through bones is not actually that hard; a sharp cleaver goes through a lot. It's one simple action, easier than deboning even for simple cuts of meat.

As for eating, you can just put the whole piece of meat (with the bone) in your mouth, then spit it out once you've gotten all the meat off. It's a lot easier than trying to hold onto the bone and bite it all off. That may not be common etiquette in Western cultures, but with cuisines that serve all kinds of food with small bones in it, I believe it's pretty normal.

In the end, there's of course still room for personal preference. Pieces of bone-in meat is easy for the cook (cleavers go through bones pretty well), and may or may not be pleasant for the eaters. If you don't like it, don't cook that way, just make a good bone broth instead. But it doesn't ruin the dish for everyone, and it's possible that if you just eat bone-in meat for a while you'll get used to it.

  • @FrankSchmrank You don't have to delete that comment if you don't want to; letting people know if there's something you'd like addressed in their answers is totally fine.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 20:10
  • I think the answer is a good attempt to cover many angles, but for Viet food, it's pretty simple. Only two reasons are needed. The bones contribute to taste & flavors, but more importantly, as part of culinary culture, Viets love texture & chewing in their food. Just look at a wide sampling of Viet dishes, you'll find plently of crunchy, chewy, and often a combination of textures. Personally, I think that's a good part of healthy eating. Food cultures that adopt overly processed food to a comfortable softness seem to have more health problems because of it. Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 22:09
  • Let's not get into health here; it's off-topic on this site.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 22:16

It's the culture/tradition. When traveling in China ( not tourist spots) I never found a piece of chicken or pork that was a recognizable ( ie, western) cut. In Chengdu I watched two cooks cut chickens for a BIG pot at a restaurant. They each chopped up several chickens with cleavers in a couple minutes. Addition: I did get to recognize pork ears and kidneys, I think both were whole. We were there 3 weeks in the 90's. No menus, all family style with "lazy susans" . After the first few days we stopped asking what was in the dishes : Definately a different culture.

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