Vietnamese cuisine comes closer to the world

Published:  23:25 Thursday - December 27, 2012

Vietnamese cuisine comes closer to the world

2012 marks a year in which Vietnamese cuisine has been widely introduced to the world, after a number of local street foods have been ranked on lists of the world’s best foods and visually-impaired home cook Christine Ha, of Vietnamese origin, was crowned US MasterChef of season 3.<br><br>

In January, Ho Chi Minh City was ranked among the world’s top ten cities for street food by the US’s monthly culinary magazine Food & Wine.

“Saigon's street foods range from the savory soup known as pho and the French colonial–influenced banh mi (pâté sandwiches on French bread) to regional southern specialties like banh xeo (stuffed pancakes),” the magazine wrote on its website

Banh xeo 

The other cities are Austin, Los Angeles and Chicago in America, Bangkok in Thailand, Berlin in Germany, Istanbul in Turkey, Mexico City in Mexico, Hong Kong and Marrakech in Morocco.

Two months later, CNN Go, CNN’s travel website, published its top ten list that saw Hanoi as one of Asia's most impressive cities catering to street food lovers.

According to the site, Hanoi is also a street-eater's paradise, with a plethora of options for those who want to eat like a local. “In fact, many swear that the best food in Hanoi is found on the sidewalk, with dishes that often feature fish sauce, lemongrass, chilies, and cilantro and other fresh herbs,” it writes.

Other places mentioned on the site include Penang of Malaysia, Seoul of South Korea, Bangkok of Thailand, Fukuoka of Japan, Taipei of Taiwan, Singapore, Manila of Philippines, Phnom Penh of Cambodia and Xian of China.

Furthermore, in June famous travel guide book company Lonely Planet listed Vietnamese banh mi as one of the most lip-smacking street foods in the world.

“As you cruise the elegant French colonial vestiges of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), stop off at a streetside stall for the Vietnamese take on its former colonisers’ simple salad sandwich – heavenly banh mi is a piece of history wrapped in a baguette,” the book writes in an introduction to banh mi.

Banh mi

Other dishes to make the cut were chouriços from India, kushari from Egypt, dosas from America, and arepas from Colombia.

The most recent recognition of Vietnamese street food went to HCMC, again. In July, the city was ranked among the world’s top ten cities for street food in a list compiled by travel website It was also recommended in Reuters’ Travel Picks column.

“Vietnamese cuisine has received some major street cred in recent memory (Anthony Bourdain's praise comes to mind), and a quick visit to Ho Chi Minh City's Ben Thanh or Binh Tay Markets explains why,” the travel site said of Vietnamese food.

In their recommendation of street food in the city, the site mentions famous dishes including pho, banh mi, bo la lot (seasoned beef in a leaf), spring rolls and com tam (cooked broken rice with a fried egg on top), and also offers an explanation of fish sauce.

Other cities in the list include Bangkok, Singapore, Penang, Marrakech, Palermo, Istanbul, Mexico City, Brussels and Ambergris Caye.

In addition, the news that Christine Ha, a visually-impaired American woman of Vietnamese origin won Gordon Ramsay’s US MasterChef in September has also excited local fans, as well as people who love Vietnamese cuisine.

At the qualifying round, Ha stunned the show’s jury and audiences with the Vietnamese dish ca kho to (catfish braised in a clay pot with caramel, coconut juice, garlic, and fish sauce, served with pickled vegetables and rice). While other chefs spotted and grabbed the ingredients they needed, Ha smelled and tasted them, all while introducing traditional Vietnamese dishes to the judges and viewers.

The 33-year-old woman then continued to beat out 30,000 contestants to advance into the finale of the show, where she reached her victory after competing with 24-year-old Josh Marks. Christine finally won the title of MasterChef, a cookbook deal and a US$250,000 grand prize.


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