Vietnam-a paradise for Asian food lovers
For any destination, cuisine is one of the most significant factors attracting tourists. For Vietnam, the appeal lies in the wide range of delicious and cheap street food available such as banh mi (Vietnamese baguette), kebab rice noodles, spring rolls, pho and Quang style noodles.
In recent years, the inclusion of Vietnamese dishes on various food lists compiled by leading media channels has helped elevate the cuisine’s status. For example, Business Insider listed beef pho in its list of top ten must-try dishes, National Geographic named banh mi as one of the best street foods in the world, and Vietnamese pho was listed in the top 50 delicious dishes by CNN and top ten healthy dishes by the Times.
Moreover, popular travel magazine Lonely Planet listed a Hanoi street food tour amongst the top ten attractive street food tours, and the Telegraph ranked Hanoi second in its list of the top 18 cities with attractive culinary cultures.
Vietnamese cuisine is held in such high regard thanks to its harmony of fresh and subtle flavours and the unique tastes and specialities of different regions in the country. The cooking and seasoning methods differ from the butter-rich recipes of many European cuisines, the strong spices typical of Indian food, or the heavy frying techniques used to create many Chinese dishes.
The country is divided into three main areas, the north, south and the centre, and the cuisine is distinct between the three. Even for the same dish, each area has its own specific way of cooking it to create a uniquely different taste, which accounts for the diversity in cuisine found in Vietnam. For these reasons, many tourists view Vietnam as a food paradise.
A top destination for gastronomers
Vietnamese food is becoming well-known worldwide and reinforcing its position on the world food map. A wide range of Vietnamese restaurants have opened in different countries, with an estimated 15,000-20,000 Vietnamese restaurants serving the national cuisine overseas. Some of these have been very successful, such as Red Lantern in Sydney, Australia, a well-known restaurant operated by Vietnamese-Australian Luke Nguyen.
The cuisine has proved popular with many leading cuisine experts and famous chefs who are helping to spread its reputation and give it their support. This presents a major opportunity for the cuisine to develop globally, as well as a challenge in terms of reinforcing its position in the world.
The star of many food-related reality shows, chef Bobby Chinn has his own show where he talks about how he opened his Vietnamese restaurant Bobby Chinn, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has enthusiastically spread his favourite Vietnamese recipes on his website and YouTube channel. Anthony Bourdain, chef-cum-food expert, MC, and author of several culinary books, introduced Vietnamese kebab rice noodles on CNN channel. Similarly, with a passion for Vietnamese food, Didier Corlou, the French chef of Sofitel Metropole, has promoted Vietnamese dishes worldwide and has written a book about culinary art, as well as the unique flavours, herbs and spices found in Vietnamese dishes.
Across the world, many major hotel brands feature Vietnamese dishes in their daily menu. According to Saju Rajappan, head chef of New World Saigon, some international tourists prefer to eat pho for breakfast, choosing it over their traditional dishes of butter, eggs and bread.
Roxanne Castillo, head chef of Hilton Hanoi Opera and Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi, said, “We have a team of nearly 60 chefs, among which I am the only one from overseas. I have my Vietnamese chef head my Ba Mien kitchen and he leads the team in producing quality Vietnamese dishes. At Hilton Hanoi Opera, pho, Vietnamese baguette and spring rolls are offered at Ba Mien for our daily breakfast buffet and are favourites among our guests from overseas. In Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi, we have a menu named Taste of Vietnam, dedicated to offer local cuisine specialties, in which, kebab rice noodles and grilled fish are ordered most frequently.”
When sampling Vietnamese dishes, besides enjoying the taste and texture of the food, tourists are often told some facts or stories about the origins of the dishes, adding to the cuisine’s interest. According to Nguyen Quoc Ky, chairman of the Vietnam Cuisine Culture Association, this is a good way to understand more about Vietnamese people and their culture.