A Dash of Vietnamese Spice History

By: Zoe Osborne

Herbs and spices are an everyday staple for any kitchen cupboard, in homes all around the world. Without them the myriad of intricate flavours and aromas that distinguish between cuisines today would be lost, leaving everyone with the same, bland bunch of vegetables, proteins and complex carbohydrates. I love plain vegetables, don’t get me wrong, but pair a humble potato with garlic, salt and a spot of chili and it suddenly becomes something far more exciting. Herbs and spices elevate and diversify our food, and for that they are completely invaluable.

Different cuisines around the world are defined by the herbs and spices they use, and how they are prepared. Vietnam’s own national cuisine is one of the most unique in the globe, partly because of the way it is eaten, but largely because of its huge emphasis on herbs, spices and strong, salty sauces. In particular fish sauce, which has to be one of the most pungent and yet most delicious acquired tastes out there.

There are a range of factors that have influenced the use of spices and herbs in Vietnamese food, from geography to religion and foreign settlement. But to truly understand it all, we will first go back to the very beginning.

A Brief History of Spices

Spices are an everyday product now - just little bits of dusty plant that sit in our cupboard, on our shelves, and disappear into our pots and pans. But the spice trade was once comparable, in terms of importance, to that of gold or precious stones. Did you know that nutmeg was once worth more in weight than gold?

The spice trade originated in the Middle East over 4,000 years ago. It was initially controlled by Arabic spice merchants, bringing spices back from China and India to the West over land on a route now known by historians as the Silk Road. This trade road connected Asia with the Mediterranean world, via North Africa and Europe, enabling the development of some of the greatest civilisations in history, from Rome to the ancient Chinese Empire.

Silk Road Map

At the turn of the European Age of Discovery in about 1500, colonising nations such as Portugal, France and England began to expand the spice trade around the globe, setting up companies and trade centers on Asian coasts. The Portuguese were the first to successfully find their way through Africa to India, and the Spanish, English, Dutch and French followed.

With the rise of the middle class over the Renaissance period came a similar rise in the demand for spices and herbs, and the growing competition among empires to produce and trade these spices sparked bloody conflicts over the control of the spice trade. Wars over the spice industry lasted for several centuries from 1500 to 1700, and by the time the U.S. entered the industry in 1800 the spice trade was in need of a change. The U.S. began to work directly with Asian growers rather than with European companies, establishing their own businesses around Asia and contributing their own spices - from chili powder to dried onions and garlic.

Eventually, as is the way with any commodity, the supply of spices began to outgrow the demand and with that the value of spices fell. People began trading not only the spices but the spice plants themselves, and these aromatic essentials of any fine dish became not only widely available, but widely used among the top and bottom tiers of society alike. Today, spices are valuable not as a commodity but as an agent to individuality. Without them our food would be very mundane!

How Did the Use of Herbs and Spices Develop in Vietnam?

Vietnamese cuisine is a product of a number of cultural, historical and religious factors, but the country’s nation-wide focus on fresh herbs and vegetables, delicate balance and clean aromas was there from the start. It all comes down to geography.

Both the availability and therefore the use of spices in North Vietnam are limited, due to its colder climate. Northern Vietnamese tend to use black pepper, a locally grown spice, to season their dishes rather than chili which requires a warmer climate. Chili, brought to Asia originally by the Portuguese, is not native to Vietnam but now holds a very significant position in southern Vietnamese cooking.

Central Vietnamese cuisine is notable for its fragrance, and for the abundance of spices that grow in the area due to its mountainous, humid terrain. The warm weather and rich soil in the South allow for an even wider range of crops, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and it is this area of Vietnam that is responsible for Vietnamese curries.

The influence of various cultures on Vietnamese food is also a key factor in the use of spices around the country. The South of Vietnam is known for being the most widely affected by the spice trade, with its convenient coastal location making it a perfect trading spot, and its warm climate making it perfect for growing key imports such as chili from the Americas and spices from India. The South is perhaps the most diversified in terms of cuisine given its involvement in trade, and the influence of nearby Cambodian culinary tradition1. The middle regions2 of Vietnam are perhaps the most interesting examples of this, with the royal culinary traditions of the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th Century leaving its mark on the area, with colourful, rich, almost regal foods still around today. Hue was originally the citadel of the Nguyen Dynasty. It was a cultural hub for the nation, bringing together intellectuals, Confucians and creatives, and it was the area in which the idea of “Royal Food” for Vietnam originates.

Vietnamese food is also heavily influenced by its various periods of foreign settlement, from Chinese settlement in 111 to French colonisation in the mid 1800s3. When the Chinese incorporated Vietnam under the Han Empire, they brought both Buddhist and Confucian beliefs and culture into the country. With this came the idea of yin and yang - the balance of opposites - and the concept of applying this principle to cookery4. The Vietnamese apply the idea of balancing the five elements (metal, wood, earth, fire, water) using colours and spices that correlate to an element.

The colour white represents metal, as does a touch of heat/spiciness; a sour taste and the colour green represents wood; yellow and a sweet taste is for earth; the colour red and bitterness symbolises fire; and salty flavour and black colouring represents water. It is the balance between these tastes, colours and hence elements that underpins Vietnamese cooking5. The North of Vietnam remains the most heavily Chinese-influenced area of the nation, and rich, fried food and ingredients similar to those in Chinese cooking are more common here.

This idea of balance was elaborated and altered by the French when they settled in the nation many centuries later. Bringing their own range of European standards, delicacies and principles to Vietnam, the French left the Vietnamese people with some of their modern staples - banh mi baguettes with pate and cold roast pork, baked croissant-like cakes and the Vietnamese sponge cake. The French also brought some key European products to the region, such as potatoes and asparagus.

How Are Herbs and Spices Used in Vietnamese Food Today?

In the modern world, Vietnamese cuisine is known for its delicate aromas and huge base of fresh vegetables and herbs - it’s like a garden on a plate! As an export, it is gaining a reputation around the globe as the next big healthy but delicious alternative, while Vietnamese cuisine in Vietnam remains just as aromatic and herb-filled as ever.

A number of locally grown herbs and spices are considered staples to the Vietnamese diet, as well as a number of imported elements such as chili and turmeric. Thai basil and Vietnamese mint are some staple examples of this, used in noodle soups and broths such as sour canh chua and sweet canh ngot. Lime leaf is another example, and lemongrass, perilla leaf and black pepper are all staples for a range of Vietnamese foods, from bo kho to the various types of hu tieu6.

Vietnam is also now an active member in the spice export trade, adding a range of spices, most prominently black and white pepper, to their already flourishing global trade in arabica and robusta coffee. Before the 1990’s the nation barely made enough pepper to use domestically, but with a stagnant domestic market and a growing international demand, Vietnam’s pepper exports are through the roof7.


Experience Australian Food Culture in Vietnam with Taste of Australia

By: Molly Headley

Taste of Australia, the much-anticipated celebration of Australian food, drinks and culture in Vietnam, officially got a running start on April 23rd with a Media Launch hosted by Australian Consul-General Julianne Cowley.

The festival spans the month of May with events in Hanoi, Danang, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City to share the diversity of Australian food culture with North, Central and Southern Vietnam. A partnership between the Australian Government and numerous sponsors, producers, restaurants and distributors, Taste of Australia will embark upon 20 official events while many Australian owned businesses throughout the country will create their own Taste of Australia inspired menus and promotions.

Taste of Australia Launches in Saigon with Chef Ngo Thanh Hoa

Participants at the Media Launch were treated to a Master cooking class with Vietnamese-Australian, Celebrity Chef Ngo Thanh Hoa at GRAIN Cooking Studio in Saigon’s District 1. The menu included three courses, which showcased a fusion of Australian ingredients and wine pairings with Vietnamese twists. Each course—Father Land, Mother Sea and Southeast Moment—brought to light some of Australia’s most well-known imports like beef and king prawns.

Taste of AustraliaAt Grain Cooking Studio with Chef Ngo Thanh Hoa

Chef Ngo Thanh Hoa’s dual roots inspired the first course entitled “Father Land”, which was an Australian beef salad with beetroot, Australian grapes, cherry tomatoes, red radish, roasted rice-lemongrass, galangal, ginger and chili-garlic, palm sugar dressing. The dish, prepared by participants per the Chef’s instructions, was an explosion of Vietnamese and Australian flavours; an excellent display of how the cuisines of the two countries can interact with aplomb.

Taste of AustraliaThe author preparing Australian Beef Salad

Andy Wall and Jackie Lam, the couple behind RADA wines, were on hand to explain their choice of pairing a white Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon from Hunter Valley, Australia with the beef.

“Most people are surprised to see a white paired with beef rather than a red”, Wall said. “But we chose this wine to show that it is also possible for a white wine to bring out the beautiful sweet and sour flavours of the meat.”

Taste of AustraliaChef Ngo Thanh Hoa showing how to properly simmer the Australian beef

Safe and Sustainable Australian Products in Vietnam

RADA, which stands for Really Affordable, Deliciously Australian, is one of the key wine sponsors of Taste of Australia. Their wines, available at https://www.ilovewines.vn/, feature varietals from all regions of Australia. Some of the more interesting references that will be used during Taste of Australia events are the organic and bio-dynamic wines.

Australia has a long-standing reputation for health-conscious products and wines are no exception. For those unfamiliar with the term, biodynamic is a form of agriculture that goes a step further than organic. It includes techniques for soil regeneration, ethical farming practices and holistic composting.

One of the pillars of the Taste of Australia event is to “Reinforce Australia’s international reputation as a supplier of food and beverages that are high-quality, safe and sustainable.

Australian Consul-General in Vietnam Julianne Cowley said “Australia and Vietnam are natural food partners because of proximity. We are able to import food directly from Paddock to Plate.” She explained that the idea behind this concept is that the faster growers are able to get the products to consumers the fresher the food will be. This is part of what gives Australia an upper hand in its reputation as being safe, clean and trusted.

Australia’s top imports into Vietnam are barley, malt and beef. The first two speak to the strong craft beer scene at play between the two countries, many of which will be available for consumption at the Taste of Australia events. Wheat is another strong contender, with as much as 70 percent of the wheat in any given banh mi coming from Australia, according to Consul-General Cowley.

Consul-General Cowley finished off the Media Launch with this statement: “It’s a very important part of our culture to invite friends and family to enjoy food together and this is also an important part of Vietnamese culture.”

This is certainly something that Taste of Australia Ambassadors such as Celebrity Chefs Luke Nguyen and Ngo Thanh Hoa have taken to heart with their smart-casual style of dining that makes their cuisine accessible and enjoyable in both Australia and Vietnam.

We, at City Pass Guide, are certainly looking forward to seeing how the Australian foodie month plays out while preparing our appetites for the gastronomic revelry to come!

Taste of AustraliaMedia participants at the Taste of Australia Launch with Australian Consul-General in Vietnam Julianne Cowley

Taste of Australia Event Schedule

For a full schedule of events, including special menus at participating restaurants and Australian business promotions, and booking information, go to Taste of Australia’s official Facebook page.

05 May
The 2019 festival kicks off on the beaches of Danang with the Taste of Australia Community BBQ at The Ocean Villas.

09 May
Australia’s finest do black-tie at the Taste of Australia Gala in Hanoi at Melia Hotel, Hanoi.

10 May
Travellers can enjoy a Taste of Australia Themed Jetstar Flight between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

10 May

The Gala comes to Ho Chi Minh City at Park Hyatt Saigon. We’ve heard rumours that a Perfetto Cafe Cocktail will be served.

11 May
Register now for this epic Taste of Australia NOSH Supperclub Dinner at Luke Nguyen’s GRAIN Cooking Studio. Only 70 available places for this celebration of all things Australian.

17 (HCMC), 21 (Danang), 23 (Hanoi) May
Wine Masterclass with Australian Master Wine Trainer Virginia Jacobs.

18 May
Taste of Australia Twilight Cinema at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi.

19 May
Australian Wine and Food Journey at Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City.

21 May
Taste of Australia’s Culinary Competition heats up with the preliminary competitions in HCMC, Hanoi, Danang and Nha Trang. What’s at stake here? Two Vietnamese culinary students will have the chance to win a scholarship to study at a famous hospitality and culinary institute in Australia.

24 May
Taste of Australia Culinary Competition Final at Le Méridien Saigon hotel.

1 June
Showcase in Hanoi with Adam Liaw, winner of MasterChef Australia 2010.

Image source: Taste of Australia


Five Indispensable Vietnamese Ingredients

By: Tran Thi Minh Hieu

As in other Southeast Asian countries, the amazing diversity of regional cuisines in Vietnam depend greatly on the different flavours used in each location. Vietnamese cooks use a lot of fresh spices, herbs and locally grown vegetables. As the climate, soil and culinary customs change throughout the country, the additives also vary. However, here are five of the most ubiquitous and essential ingredients that you can use to make a proper Vietnamese meal at home.

1. Scallion

Scallion (hành lá), also known as spring onion or green onion, has tubular green leaves that can be chopped and added to soups, noodles, porridges, and stir-fries during the last cooking stage, or as a garnish. However, some Vietnamese people don’t like it in their phở.

vietnamese ingredientsImage source: photos.demandstudios.com

Scallion pairs well with tomato-based broths and sauces. Chopped scallions can also be mixed into omelettes and meatballs.

Scallion oil (mỡ hành), which is chopped scallions lightly cooked in vegetable oil, is found in dishes such as cơm tấm and bánh hỏi in Central and Southern parts of Vietnam

Video: Scallion oil

Video source: RunAwayRice

The small white bulbs of spring onions are traditionally pickled to serve during Tet in the North, while in the South, pickled Chinese onions (kiệu) are more common.

2. Shallot

Shallots (hành tím) refer to small onion bulbs, often red or purple in color, that are used in a similar way to garlic in stir-fries, stews and soups. They can be sliced or finely chopped, and used to flavour marinades before cooking, or fried with oil before adding other ingredients to the pan.

vietnamese ingredientsImage source: huangkitchen.com

Crispy fried shallots (hành phi), made from sliced shallots deep-fried until golden brown, are also a favorite garnish for noodles, porridges, sticky rice, fried rice, and steamed rice rolls.

Video: How to make crispy fried shallots

Video source: Van's Kitchen | Vietnamese Home Cooking

3. Garlic

Garlic (tỏi) is an essential ingredient in the Vietnamese pantry, often accompanied by chili (ớt). Chopped garlic and chili are used in the versatile Vietnamese dipping sauce, nước chấm.

vietnamese ingredientsImage source: apnapunjabinusa.com

Garlic and chili can also be pickled in vinegar to make a type of condiment called giấm tỏi ớt, which is often added to noodles before serving.

Video: How to make Vietnamese chilli garlic fish sauce

Video source: Cooky TV

Garlic can be added to stir-fried vegetables to bring out a distinct taste in the originally bland vegetables. This recipe is common in Vietnamese cuisine, as well as Chinese and Thai cuisines. The aroma of garlic also complements different types of meat when stir-fried, especially beef.

4. Lemongrass

Lemongrass (sả) is another herb that can be paired with chili, more commonly in Southern Vietnam.

vietnamese ingredientsImage source: images.wagwalkingweb.com

It has a citrus scent, resembling that of lemons, though much stronger. It can be used to marinate stir-fried beef, grilled pork, fried chicken and everything in between. For these dishes, the lemongrass stem is finely chopped and mixed well with the meat before cooking.

Video: Vietnamese beef noodle salad

Video source: Honeysuckle

Lemongrass can also be used to enhance the flavor of fish soup (canh chua), beef noodle soup (bún bò Huế), or added to steamed seafood dishes; its strong aroma helps subdue the smell of fresh seafood.

5. Chili

Chili is one of the oldest and most widely used spices in the world, dating back to 7500 BCE on the American continent, then spreading to European countries, such as Portugal and eventually Asia, through ancient trade routes.

vietnamese ingredientsImage source: ariesfresh.com

In Vietnam, chili comes in many forms, freshly chopped chili, dried chili, chili powder or flakes, chili oil, and chili sauce. Central and Southern cooks use more chillies than their Northern neighbours, but in the North chilies are still available as an optional condiment for serving.

Chillies not only add an addictive, spicy taste to any dish, they also add a bright-red color that pairs nicely with green scallion, white garlic or yellow lemongrass. Chili powder is probably the most convenient way to use chili in cooking and garnishing, and it is also the least spicy.

Banner Image source: saveur.com


Become a Vietnamese Food Master with these 5 Cookbooks!

By: Molly Headley

Whether you’ve been in Vietnam for years, or are just finding your feet, there is one thing we can all agree on. This country is a dream destination for food lovers! On every street corner your can grab a delicious banh mi, sip a cà phê sữa đá, or tuck into a piping hot bowl of phở at any hour of the day. Or at least we could until the dreaded ‘C Word’ forced our favourite street food sellers, restaurants and cafes to close their doors. 

So now what do we do? If you’re anything like me, you’ll be wondering how you can transform a bunch of wilting cilantro and a pack of rice noodles into a delicious meal that not only fills your belly, but satisfies your cravings for a serving of Vietnamese cuisine. Also like me, you might be wondering ‘how’ to cook Vietnamese food, seeing as I usually nip down to the street and pick up something so tasty and affordable that I’ve never really bothered to learn how to cook Vietnamese food before now. 

Luckily for us all, Vietnamese cuisine is the perfect place to start for the novice chef. Versatile and often simple to make, the flavours of Vietnamese food gain complexity through the expert combining of fresh herbs, sauces and spices rather than difficult cooking processes or the use of a million ingredients. 

With a quick peek inside this selection of the best Vietnamese cookbooks around (each one is available as an e-book too!) you’ll be sure to find inspiration to try these easy recipes that are destined to make your palate sing!


Christine Ha’s, “Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food from the Winner of MasterChef” will tell you everything you’ve wanted to know about The Blind Cook’s life and cooking style.

Is the author legit? Yes! Christine Ha wowed the world in Season 3 of MasterChef America by beating out the competition with her Vietnamese-American influenced dishes, despite being legally blind. Ha became a symbol of strength and inspiration in both Vietnam and America after her surprise win, but don’t be fooled into thinking she became famous just for overcoming great odds. According to the back cover of the cookbook, Chef Gordon Ramsey says, “The lady has an extraordinary palate, a palate of incredible finesse.” Judging from Ramsey’s famously televised temper tantrums, this type of compliment doesn’t come easily.

cook bookImage source: vietlifemagazine.com

Skill level? Basic to moderate cooking aptitude is required depending on the recipe. Home cooks living in Asia may find some of the American ingredients hard to find and vice versa. However, Ha does a great job of describing the techniques needed to successfully craft a delicious meal.

Are the recipes traditional or westernised? Ha was born and raised in Los Angeles after her parents immigrated to the US from Vietnam. The recipes in the book reflect Ha’s dual heritage. Within the pages of the cookbook you’ll find all types of comfort foods ranging from catfish cooked in claypot to American-style fried chicken. This is a cookbook for those who love food of all types and want to invigorate dishes with new twists on the classics.

What’s special about this book? “Recipes from My Home Kitchen” will appeal to both Asian and Western aspiring cooks. Christine Ha became an icon in both Vietnam and the US with her astonishing rise to fame. Ha has a degree in creative writing and her skillful essays about her life will inspire, as much as her recipes excite.

cook bookImage source: img.zanda.com

Where can you get it? “Recipes from My Home Kitchen” is available through Ha’s website The Blind Cook, or you can get the Kindle edition here. You can also follow Ha on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


Australia’s most famous Vietnamese chef, Luke Nguyen, will take you on a culinary journey from the street food of Saigon to the seafood specialities of the Vietnamese coast, all while giving the reader an intimate peek into Nguyen’s unique life and heritage in “The Food of Vietnam”.

Is the author legit? Definitely! Luke Nguyen’s parents were part of the wave of “boat-people” who fled Saigon in 1978. They landed in Sydney, where Nguyen’s parents opened up a restaurant in Cabramatta, a Sydney suburb mainly populated with Vietnamese immigrants. Nguyen’s parents were obsessed with food and they passed that quality on to two of their children. Pauline and Luke Nguyen opened up the Red Lantern in South Sydney in 2002, and it quickly took the culinary world by storm. According to the website, the Red Lantern is “the world’s most awarded Vietnamese restaurant”.

cook bookImage source: thedealguys.com

Following his restaurant’s success, Luke Nguyen became a household name due to his television series “Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam”, “Luke Nguyen’s France” and “Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia” as well as his eight subsequent cookbooks.

Skill level? Moderate. Nguyen sometimes refers to ingredients by their Australian names, so you may need to Google a few words. However, Nguyen takes care to mostly include ingredients that can be found in your local market.

Are the recipes traditional or westernised? Traditional. The cookbook is separated into sections based on different locations in Vietnam. Nguyen shares a short anecdote about each area and then dives into telling the reader how to prepare the region-specific dishes.

What’s special about this book? More than just a cookbook, “The Food of Vietnam” is also a travelogue about the country that influenced Sydney’s culinary movement towards high-class Vietnamese cuisine. Full-colour, National Geographic-style photographs will seduce you to try your hand at the recipes.

cook bookImage source: cdn.vox-cdn.com

Where can you get it? “The Food of Vietnam” is available with free shipping worldwide at The Book Depository, or you can get the Kindle edition here. You can also watch Nguyen’s culinary adventures in “Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam” on his YouTube Channel, or follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


Travel vicariously through the traditional food markets of Vietnam with British-Vietnamese chefs Anh Vu and Vanh Tran in “Vietnamese Market Cookbook - Spicy, Sour, Sweet”.

Are the authors legit? Yes. Despite having no formal chef training, Vu and Tran are definitely the real deal. The duo became famous after opening their bánh mì stand, Bánh mì 11, in East London’s Broadway market. The Oxford educated grads had originally gone into the corporate world of finance but ended up scrapping all that stress for a foray into street eats. What could have been a misadventure in less capable hands has turned into a success story.

Skill level? Easy. This cookbook is perfect for the home chef who wants to try his/her hand at Vietnamese cooking but doesn’t want to delve into specially ordered ingredients and hard to find spices. The recipes are praised for being easy to follow and delightful in their simplicity. Each section is divided into three sections: everyday cooking, festive cooking, and social cooking.

Are the recipes traditional or westernised? The recipes remain traditional despite some added panache in the preparation. The bánh mì recipes, such as “pork massaged in lemongrass”, are not the only stars of the book. Be prepared for more than 70 other recipes that are sure to inspire.

cook bookImage source: format-com-cld-res.cloudinary.com

What’s special about this book? Due to the exodus after the American War, many of the Vietnamese chefs who have become famous outside of Vietnam hail from the South, and their cooking styles reflect that. Anh Vu and Vanh Tran grew up in Hanoi and they bring their signature flare to the tastes of Northern Vietnam. Each chapter explores one of the five essential Vietnamese flavours: spicy, sour, sweet, salty and bitter.

Where can you get it? “Vietnamese Market Cookbook” is available with free shipping worldwide at The Book Depository, or you can get the ebook here.


“Vegetarian Viet Nam” by Cameron Stauch is a must for those who want healthy, delicious, and environmentally friendly food. The recipes within the book are adapted from centuries of research into the vegetarian cuisine of the Mahayana Buddhist monks.

Is the author legit? Yes! Even though Cameron Stauch is the only non-Vietnamese chef on this list, he knows his stuff. Former member of the cooking staff for the Governor General, Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Canada, Stauch has also worked in restaurants all over Asia.

cook bookImage source: thestar.com

Skill level? Easy. Most of the difficulty will stem from trying to find specific ingredients but once that is done recipes such as, “curried vegetable stew with baguette”, are both simple enough for the home cook to recreate and hearty enough to satisfy even the largest appetites. It isn’t hard to eat well when the food is both delectable and sustainable.

Are the recipes traditional or westernised? The book focuses on traditional Vietnamese recipes for cơm cháy (vegetarian food).

What’s special about this book? The only vegetarian book on our list, “Vegetarian Viet Nam” is also beautiful to look at. 70 full-colour photographs sit alongside an easy-going writing style. Plus, this is the only cookbook that has a glowing review from the first fully ordained monastic disciple of Vietnamese Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Sister Chan Khong writes, “This beautiful book of delicious Vietnamese vegetarian cuisine shows how we can all contribute to protecting and healing ourselves and our precious planet by eating vegan. Being vegan is a simple, non-violent and effective way to bring about change for our world”.

Where can you get it? “Vegetarian Viet Nam” is available with free shipping worldwide at The Book Depository, or you can get the eBook here. To learn more about Stauch check out his website here, Twitter here, or Instagram here.


The last cookbook on the list is a culinary love letter to Vietnam. Andrea Nguyen’s, “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors” dives headfirst into the nostalgia Nguyen feels for the classic recipes of her late mother, and the cultural heritage her parents brought with them when they immigrated to America in 1975.

Is the author legit? Definitely. This book is probably the most decorated of all of the cookbooks on our list. “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen” was a finalist for the 2007 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence, which is America’s top culinary award. In addition, Nguyen’s cookbook was awarded two International Association of Culinary Professional prizes for best first book and best international cookbook. The Chicago Tribune goes so far as to say that “Andrea Nguyen may be to Vietnamese food what Julia Child was to French fare and Barbara Tropp to Chinese cuisine”.

cook bookImage source: pbs.twimg.com

Skill level? Easy to Difficult. There is something for everyone in this opus. With more than 175 recipes ranging from Master Chef level to the tier just above pack-o’-ramen, aspiring cooks just have to sift through the recipes and full-color photographs to find their pleasure.

Are the recipes traditional or westernised? Traditional. To make these classic Vietnamese dishes, Nguyen also directs readers on how to shop for important ingredients, which are surprisingly easy to find if you know where to look.

What’s special about this book? On her website, Nguyen writes that “When my family was airlifted out of Saigon in 1975, one of the few belongings that my mother hurriedly packed for the journey was her small orange notebook of recipes.”

More than 30 years later, Nguyen has added to that treasured culinary heritage. Part cookbook, part memoir, part encyclopedia of Vietnam’s diverse food traditions, “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen” is a creation that is as enjoyable as a stunning coffee table book as it is a cooking manual. With recipes such as, “Beef Flank and Ginger Simmered in Caramel Sauce” and “Grilled Bananas with Coconut Sticky Rice and Lemongrass Ice Cream”, the content will inspire and educate the reader about the culinary mecca that is Vietnam.

cook bookImage source: hotpotdc.files.wordpress.com

Where can you get it? “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen” is available with free shipping worldwide at The Book Depository, or you can get the eBook here. To learn more about Andrea Nguyen check out her website here, Facebook here, Twitter here, Pinterest here, or Instagram here.

Banner Image source: saveur.com


2016 Valentine’s Day Deals in Vietnam

By: Trung Vo

Love is everywhere this season! Valentine’s Day is approaching fast - do you know what you’ll be doing for you special someone? Check out our lovely Vietnamese Valentine’s Day deals below - we chose the most romantic venues and the best offers so you won’t be running around like mad this February 14th. Moreover, for local insight and extra information about great dining places, lovely sights and cool drinks, see the rest of our website, where you can always find some places to fit you and your partner. Put on your best suit/dress and impress your loved ones with your marvelous preparation.


SHERATON HANOI HOTEL

Time: 6th - 14th February

Oven D’or Restaurant

  • VND1,300,000 ++/ set, includes 01 glass of Rose sparkling wine, free flow of beer, wine and soft drinks.

Hemispheres Restaurant

  • VND3,000,000++/set (wine pairing set dinner)

Reservation and more


SOFITEL PLAZA HANOI

Summit Romance

A magnifique date with roses, flavorful cocktails, desserts with live entertainment under the star-studded sky.

- Venue: Summit Lounge, 20th floor

- Price: VND880,000++/couple

Romantic Dinner

A lovely dinner with Champagne Cocktail, Seafood and Carvery Buffet plus special gifts for the ladies and live violin performance.

- Venue: Brasserie Westlake Restaurant

- Price: VND2,250,000++/couple

Reservation and more


HOTEL DE L'OPERA HANOI - MGALLERY

Some Enchanted Evening

Venue: Cafe Lautrec

Price: VND1,400,000++/person, five-course menu and a glass of champagne.

Reservation and more


HILTON HANOI OPERA

Immersed in a truly romantic atmosphere, enjoy this special menu for Valentine’s Day with your loved one at Hilton Hanoi Opera.

Price: VND1,355,000++/couple (included 02 glasses of champagne/wine/beer)

Additional beverage packages:

- VND300,000++/person for free flow of champagne, house wine, beer, soft drink.

- VND200,000++/person for free flow of house wine, beer, soft drink.

Express your feeling to your sweetheart in a unique way and make this an unforgettable day for both of you.

Combo of Valentine cakes with tea/coffee: VND250,000++ at Lobby Lounge Hilton Hanoi Opera

Reservation and more


NOVOTEL DANANG PREMIER HAN RIVER

- Package 1: The Cupid's Arrow – Priced at VND 1,999,000++/couple 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. at The Square Restaurant (level 4)

- Package 2: Endless Love – Priced at VND 2,333,000++/couple 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Premier Executive Lounge (level 29)

Reservation and more


NOVOTEL NHA TRANG

Be my Valentine

Special dinner by the pool for VND 735,000++/ person, includes chocolate, 5 dishes with pairing wines and romantic live acoustic music.

Reservation and more


NEW WORLD SAIGON HOTEL

In the Mood for Love

Time: 14th February 2016

- Parkview: Lunch buffet for VND610,000++/person- Dinner buffet for VND910,000++/person, feature seafood including lobster, sparkling wine, chocolate, and a keepsake photo to mark the occasion.

- Dynasty: Set menu for two for VND1,500,000++/ couple, inclusive of complimentary sparkling wine, on-premise photos and a takeaway gift.

Reservation and more


LE MÉRIDIEN SAIGON

Valentine 2016 is coming along with the Lunar New Year, on this 14 February, choose out of the couple Romantic Valentine’s dinners at Le Méridien Saigon:

- Latest Recipe – Dinner Buffet from VND1,100,000++ per person

- Bamboo Chic – Set Menu from VND1,300,000++ per person

Complimentary a lovely rose and a glass of Champagne for couples.

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INTERCONTINENTAL ASIANA SAIGON

Romantic Valentine’s Day

February 14th from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

- Market 39: Buffet dinner from VDN1,688,000++/person, includes free flow of champagne, wine, beer and soft drinks.

- Residences: Romantic Set Menu for VND1,488,000++/person and VND2,800,000++/couple, includes two glasses of Bollinger Rose champagne, free flow of beer or house wine.

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EASTIN GRAND HOTEL

Sweet Indulgence, Sweet Valentine

Time: February 1st- 15th

Accommodation: VND1,800,000++/couple, inclusive of:

- Accommodation with an upgrade to Deluxe Room for an overnight stay or day use

- Breakfast Buffet for 2 persons

- Complimentary bottle of sparkling wine when dining at the Grand Buffet Dinner or enjoy 25% off our Grand Buffet Dinner

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THE LOG RESTAURANT AT ROOFTOP GEM CENTER

A Sweet Love Story on a “Tree - House”

A detectable candlelit night out filled with roses, indulge in the irresistible flavors of premium culinary cuisine at the unique rooftop dining space.

- Set Menu: VND1,400,000++/pax, 5 courses featuring Duck Breast Stuffed With Foie Gras Served With Melon Salad In Honey Sauce, Grilled Lobster In Orange Butter Sauce, Baked Tenderloin In Apple Sauce...

- Buffet dinner: VND1,600,000++/pax dinner with more than 120 amazingly delicious dishes. Full of choices from fresh seafood such as lobsters, oysters, crabs…to an array of mouthwatering international dishes, freshly made soups, salads and even dim sum.

Price includes free flow of soft drinks

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LA VILLA FRENCH RESTAURANT

Special Valentine Menu prepared by Chef Thierry Mounon

Price: VND1,990,000++/person (violin players during dinner)

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The Cantonese Influence on Vietnamese Cuisine

By: Tran Thi Minh Hieu

Noodles were first created in China as far back as the Han Dynasty, and thanks to the Chinese, we now have pasta, ramen and bánh phở. In many ways, there’s a Chinese influence on the Vietnamese cuisine, though this view is sometimes controversial.

During my recent trip to Hong Kong, a fellow former colony that wonderfully blends its traditional Cantonese roots with its modern British influences, I got a closer look at how Hong Kong’s “East meets West” cuisine is both similar and different from that of Vietnam, from dim sum to suckling pig to wontons.

Discovering Dim Sum and Egg Tarts

My culinary experience in Hong Kong started off with none other than the acclaimed Cantonese dim sum at the Tim Ho Wan chain. In Vietnam there is only one Tim Ho Wan, a high-end restaurant located on the 36th floor of Lotte Hotel in Hanoi.

That’s why I was intrigued by the relatively small and simple Tim Ho Wan in the basement of Hong Kong’s central train station. The long queue outside and the crowd inside this seemingly modest dim sum house shocked me.

foodImage source: Wikimedia Commons

However, I was no longer surprised once I tasted the food. Being so close to Guangzhou, the home of dim sum, Hong Kong is the gateway of this sumptuous dining experience to the rest of the world.

First, my group had the braised chicken feet, which were very soft and fatty compared to Vietnam’s preference for chewy, crunchy chicken feet. We found it a bit unusual, but it made for a good starter since we were all hungry.

Next was the signature baked cha siu bao (BBQ pork-filled buns), a distant cousin of bánh bao, a steamed bun filled with minced pork, wood-ear mushroom and boiled egg.

foodImage source: Jenny Ly

After that, we were presented with a plethora of dumplings, such as ha gow (Vietnamese: há cảo) and shumai (Vietnamese: xíu mại). There were also rice noodle rolls with a variety of fillings, similar to the Northern Vietnamese bánh cuốn, but with a thicker, oilier steamed rice noodle wrapper.

For dessert, we headed to the Star Ferry Pier in Kowloon, where a small shop of the famous Tai Cheong Bakery is located. The bakery is known for its egg tarts, with a smooth custard filling and a buttery, crumbly crust. Grabbing the last egg tarts of the day to enjoy on the boat back to Hong Kong Island was indeed a sweet memory.

foodImage source: Hieu Tran

The popularity of this Western-influenced dessert in Hong Kong reminded me of Vietnam’s ubiquitous bánh flan (known as caramen in Hanoi), an occasionally caffeinated variety of the French crème caramel.

Exploring Suckling Pig and Beef Brisket

On our second day on Hong Kong’s streets, we went to a locally known eatery for roasted duck and suckling pig. These are just as popular in Hong Kong and other regions of China as grilled pork in Vietnam.

The meat was served with rice on a dish; the rice was drier and less warm than you would expect from a Vietnamese restaurant, but the duck meat was soft, with crunchy skin.

foodImage source: mywoklife.com

The roasted suckling pig was the star of the show, with its special crackling skin, melting fat and soft meat, dipped in the sweet hoisin sauce for enhanced flavours. I also tried the lean BBQ pork, or char siu (Vietnamese: xá xíu), which was, in contrast, very thick in texture.

Our dinner on the second day was at Supreme Beef Brisket Soup, a famous store featuring many pictures of Hong Kong’s television stars as patrons, and serving everything from its signature beef brisket noodle soup to Vietnamese and Thai-inspired dishes.

foodImage source: foodolicious.wordpress.com

The braised beef brisket, served with Chinese flat rice noodles in a clear, sweet broth, with the additional aroma from a fat chunk of well-cooked daikon radish and a dash of chili sauce, would fill any heart with warmth. This is one of Hong Kong’s favourite comfort foods.

However, being Vietnamese, we could not help but give our national pride, phở, the upper vote. The abundance of herbs and the thinness of beef cuts are what set phở apart from any other beef noodles.

Comparing Wonton Noodles

Our culinary expedition came to an end as we had lunch at Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop. Wonton noodle soup is another typical dish of Cantonese cuisine.

The simple bowl contained egg noodles, shrimp wontons, and spring onions in a clear broth. Vietnam also has its own version of wonton noodles, known as mì vằn thắn in Hanoi and mì hoành thánh in Saigon, with more ingredients such as pork liver, BBQ pork, boiled egg, and chives.

foodImage source: nomss.com

As I sampled Hong Kong’s best Cantonese cuisine, I also learned more about the influences it has on Vietnamese food. Vietnam is geographically close to China’s southern provinces, and home to almost a million ethnic Chinese, half of them with Cantonese origins. Looking at the similarities between some of the dishes I tried, it was clear that over centuries, some of their cooking methods were adapted with remarkable creativity to enrich our national cuisine.

Banner image source: edition.cnn.com

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