Gluten-free blogger shares her tips on Việt Nam

June 27, 2024 - 07:33
After may years living in Hà Nội, Klair Simpson has launched a blog highlighting Vietnamese cuisine worldwide, while also sharing valuable insights to help gluten-intolerant individuals enjoy fantastic culinary experiences.

Quỳnh Anh

After a long time in Hà Nội, Klair Simpson has launched a blog highlighting Vietnamese cuisine worldwide, while also sharing valuable insights to help gluten-intolerant individuals so they can enjoy fantastic culinary experiences when they visit Việt Nam.

Klair Simpson (right) loves Vietnamese food and loves reviewing it. Photo courtesy of Klair Simpson

Inspired by her passion for Hà Nội's rich culture and cuisine, Simpson launched an Instagram blog in 2021 dedicated to showcasing the city's culinary offerings while providing valuable guidance for travellers who are gluten intolerant.

Before that, she was a pioneer in establishing Hà Nội's first Facebook forum for gluten-free information exchange since 2018, attracting numerous members.

“I have lived in Hà Nội since 2016. I was feeling a little lost or stuck back in the UK due to various aspects of life. I had travelled around Việt Nam for three weeks and decided to come to work in a hostel for a six-month stint as a tour guide, showing backpackers around Hà Nội and Hạ Long Bay,” she told Việt Nam News.

"Eight years later I'm still here albeit with a very different lifestyle and job. While I came alone, I am now married with two cats and a baby on the way.

“A few years into my stint in Hà Nội, I started a Glutten-Free Hà Nội Community page at first just to have a place where people could share their favourite places, along with any tips then the Instagram page came a few years later. Honestly, it started as more of a side project to put my food pictures but then over COVID, I started taking it a bit more seriously.”

Klair Simpson (right) recently won 'Where in Hà Nội's Favourite Influencer' in the People's Pick Awards. Photo courtesy of Klair Simpson

Highlighting Hà Nội's prominent standing on Trip Advisor's list for its diverse culinary scene, Simpson emphasises the city's and Việt Nam's global recognition.

“I love getting among different people and cultures to learn and explore more outside of my comfort zone. That is why Hà Nội is such an amazing place to be, there is such a diverse food, drinks and cultural scene. Over the past eight years that has only become more apparent and diverse too with the introduction of more people and businesses from around the world with so much to offer.”

Her blog, Gluten Free Hà Nội, has garnered international interest through captivating visuals and immersive videos, resonating deeply with enthusiasts of Vietnamese cuisine worldwide.

One of her goals is to highlight some Vietnamese dishes that may not be recognised as much.

While many people are familiar with dishes like Phở, Bún Chả, and Bánh Mì, their knowledge often doesn't extend much further. I would love to see more exploration of Việt Nam's diverse food culture, introducing dishes like Bánh Xèo, Nem Nướng Nha Trang, Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, and many others," Simpson said.

"Styles of dining such as BBQ, Hotpot, and Cơm Bình Dân are integral to our community-based culture and deserve more attention from visitors.”

She has been gluten intolerant for nearly 20 years and explains that when she first arrived in Việt Nam, despite many Vietnamese dishes being naturally gluten-free, there was a significant lack of awareness in the local community.

Moreover, options for non-Vietnamese cuisine catering to gluten-free diets were limited. Initially, there was considerable confusion among local business owners about what gluten entails.

“For example, a lot of people think anything starchy including rice contains gluten which is not the case. Restaurant owners don’t always understand that things like soy sauce and seasonings such as Knorr contain gluten. Also, from what I know there is no direct translation for gluten so having to explain each aspect can get tiresome,” Simpson said.

"On the other hand, there are a lot more business owners both local and foreign who are realising that there has been a gap in the market for a while now and are offering labelled menus as well as gluten-free alternatives to pizza, waffles, bread, cakes and so much more."

She still wants to live in the country more and spend more time exploring the cuisine here. Photos courtesy of Klair Simpson

Looking forward, Simpson plans to expand her blog's influence beyond Hà Nội to various cities across Việt Nam, promising to enhance culinary exploration nationwide.

“In the last six months or so, things have started taking off with a couple of collaborations under my belt, plans to expand the 'empire' across Việt Nam including reps in different cities, a possible food festival and translation cards all hopefully coming this year,” she said.

In the future, Simpson also aims to launch specialised gluten-free cooking courses and regular food festivals showcasing authentic Vietnamese cuisine without gluten.

She also hopes to collaborate more extensively with restaurants to raise awareness about allergens, recognising their global significance, particularly with the burgeoning tourism industry. VNS