Vietnam, a land marked by great contrasts in both culture, politics, and history. As visitors to this exotic land, we are given access to a place that has seen so much over this last century, a country that has divided and then came together, healing in ways unimaginable from the atrocities of several wars. As with any culture we visit, there are bridging themes that resonate across landscapes, demographics, races, ethnicity, religions, and opinions. Culture is defined by the moments in our everyday lives that we share with those we love. In Vietnam, just as in Cuba, Peru, Thailand, and Morocco, as well as every other destination on the globe, sitting down to a meal defines not just the day’s beginning or end, but the cycle of life for those who live there.
Vietnamese cuisine is known for its delectable balance of spicy, salty, bitter, sour and sweet flavors and its use of fresh herbs and vegetables. On our Vietnamese culinary tour, you will learn to make some of the most delicious cuisines on earth. In hands-on cooking classes, our renowned chefs teach guests Vietnamese cooking techniques in traditional styles.
What’s important to know about Vietnam culinary traditions though, is just how varied they are depending on which part of the nation you visit. From Saigon to HoiAn, Hanoi, and Huế, each region boasts its own cuisine, and in that way, its own cultural identity.
The Cuisine of Huế
Until 1945, Huế served as Vietnam’s capital city. Ravaged by war more than once, Huế is a place of rebirth today and a region whose culinary practices have helped preserve what could have been torn apart by fighting, communism, and destruction. Instead, this land boasts a vibrancy and creativity unmatched in the culinary department, despite its ravaged city streets and time-worn palaces. But what caused Huế to become the center of Vietnamese imperial cuisine before, during and after years of war?
“We can thank Emperor Tu Duc (1829-1883) for the city’s great food. A notorious narcissist, along with having 104 wives, he reportedly demanded a different meal every day for a year. The result has led to creative and bold, spicy dishes, including many that are completely absent from Vietnamese restaurants back in New York. In particular, the city is known for bún bò Huế (a spicy beef noodle soup); cơm hến (spicy tiny clams with peanuts, rice or noodles, and clam broth); and bánh bèo (delicate rice cakes with a variety of toppings)” (NY Food Journal).
Today visitors will encounter a complex collection of time-scarred buildings, restored imperial residences, and kitschy modern tourist traps. New growth among old wounds. From street vendors to classic restaurants, Hue’s food will move you, of that we are sure. On our tour, we sample Huế favorites including com hen (mussel rice), banh beo, banh nam, banh loc (varieties of soft rice cakes), and banh uot (steamed rice pancake). We walk the local vibrant market and choose ingredients for our cooking class with a local celebrity chef and immerse ourselves in this local cuisine in ways most visitors never do.
Join us, won’t you?