More foreigners now find learning to cook Việt Nam’s signature dishes the fastest and most intriguing way to explore the country’s traditional culture.
In recent years, cooking classes and courses have been opened at major tourism hubs throughout the country to cater to the rising demand.
Rebecca Beaufour, 19, from France, opened with care a nylon bag containing a few “mắm cá linh” (salted fish) and quickly put them into a pot of boiling water.
However, the fish’s distinctive odor added a slight frown to her expression.
This is the 28th Vietnamese dish she has learned to cook at the Vietnam Cookery Center at 26 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
She said that “mam ca linh” has the strongest smell of all the dishes she has learned to cook.
One month ago, Beaufour’s parents came over to Vietnam from France, mainly to find a Vietnamese cuisine class for her.
They signed Beaufour, who has one year experience working in a restaurant in Paris, in for a two-week course at the center, which offers instructions on how to prepare 54 Vietnamese iconic dishes.
“I chose Vietnamese cuisine as it uses less oil and fat, while adopting a wide variety of spices and cooking methods which are similar to those adopted by French people, such as several snail dishes,” shared Beaufour, who plans to open a restaurant in Paris which offers Asian culinary delights, including Vietnamese specialties.
The chef added that she particularly loves chicken dishes from the course, including chicken curry, chicken stir-fried with mango, chicken wrapped in glutinous rice, and chicken wings fried with “nuoc mam” (fish sauce).
“At first glance, I thought Vietnamese dishes were quite easy to prepare, but I realized that isn’t so as soon as I started learning. It’s especially difficult with the dishes which are a mix of spices, as I must try to retain the distinctive smell of the main ingredients,” she revealed.
In another room of the Vietnam Cookery Center, Japanese girl Waka Takesue was relishing her own lunch, with rice steamed with ginger, “goi bo” (dish with beef and vegetables), “canh chua” (sour soup), and brined fish and green bean sweet soup.
Takesue shared that though it is her first trip to Vietnam, with so many things to be explored, she went to HCMC, set on learning to cook several of the country’s dishes.
“I’ll definitely tell my relatives and friends about cooking classes in Vietnam,” she said.
The power of cuisine
According to Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, tourism promotion activities always feature stalls introducing Vietnamese cuisine delights abroad.
The stalls are always crowded and the food always runs out fast.
“We hope there’ll be more activities to promote Vietnamese cuisine to potential markets, as many foreigners haven’t had the opportunity to try our appetizing, nutritious dishes. We also plan to turn cuisine tourism into one of our spearhead strengths to draw more inbound tourists, apart from our cultural, historical, island and sea strengths,” Tuan said.
Le Dang Khanh Linh, of the Vietnam Cookery Center, said that the center receives some 37-40 foreigners at peak times.
The center receives new students every day, with half of them learning of the classes on their own, while the remaining half is sent in by local tour providers.
“Most foreigners find Vietnamese dishes easy to digest, less fattening and rich in spices and seasonal herbs. Cooking them isn’t too difficult or complicated,” Linh explained.
Local tour providers reveal that the demand for learning to cook Vietnamese dishes from English-speaking markets is quite high.
Cookery classes have become increasingly popular in Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang, HCMC and have proved to become an increasingly magnetic draw.
The courses range from large-scale classes held by cookery schools or famed restaurants to smaller ones offered to groups of tourists by chefs themselves.
Saigontourist, a major local tour provider, said they are planning to send 45 European tourists to Vietnamese cookery classes at a center on Nguyen Trai Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Many tourists plan to take the classes well before arriving in Vietnam, but many of them decide to enroll only after a few days of enjoying Vietnamese culinary delights.
According to Lý Ngọc Minh, CEO of Minh Long 1 and chief organizer of the ongoing 2014 Golden Spoon Awards, which aims at seeking and honoring traditional dishes that represent the cultural specificities of each region across Vietnam and promotes the culinary culture of the Southeast Asian country to the world, the country’s cuisine is mainly characterized by diverse food created from fresh, nutritious and safe produce.
“Whenever they come to a new land, tourists love to experience the best signature dishes there.
I strongly believe that the most convincing and effective way to promote Việt Namm’s tourism is through its cuisine.”
Source: Tuổi Trẻ News