Viet Nam News
What do you think about the potential of making use of Hà Nội’s cuisine to promote the city’s tourism?
Hà Nội enjoys very plentiful and delicious dishes. Some of them have earned international recognition, such as phở (noodle soup), bún chả (fresh rice vermicelli and grilled pork), nem (fried spring-rolls), chả cá (fried fish cake), among others. It can be said the food here is the quintessence of the simplest things and is “the key to win the hearts and minds of tourists”. Vietnamese food, especially that of Hà Nội, tends to keep the natural flavors of the ingredients, which is one of the reasons why it is increasingly loved by foreigners. Dishes like bún chả and cốm Mễ Trì (Mễ Trì green rice flakes) have also drawn great media attention after being tasted by US President Barack Obama during his recent visit to Việt Nam. This is an opportunity and a challenge to develop cuisine-based tourism products, which haven’t received adequate and comprehensive investments so far. The fact that Việt Nam doesn’t have a cuisine brand name in the world is really a deficiency.
As you just said, Hà Nội’s cuisine is regarded as “the key to win the hearts and minds of tourists”. So how can we make the most use of this key?
The Hà Nội tourism sector always aims at using this “key” effectively to attract tourists. In recent years, the city focused on developing gastronomical tourism. An increasing number of food streets were established, such as Tống Duy Tân and Cấm Chỉ. Several streets and restaurants in the Old Quarter have also been attracting a lot of tourists, like Tạ Hiện, Mã Mây, Đồng Xuân, Lý Quốc Sư, Cầu Gỗ, to name a few. All high-end hotels in the city have Asian restaurants to introduce the quintessence of Hà Nội’s food. International travel companies have attached importance to bringing tourists to restaurants famous for local specialties during their tours. They are also willing to organize cooking classes with famous chefs on request.
An expert in modern marketing once said Việt Nam should build the brand name “The World’s Kitchen” to promote tourism. What is your take on this idea?
This is a good suggestion and poses a much different viewpoint compared to that of many foreign tourists visiting Việt Nam recently. What tourists often know about Việt Nam are the country’s beautiful landscapes and age-old cultural traditions, not her culinary arts. The brand name “The World’s Kitchen” seems to be attractive and stimulating, which potentially gives tourist a different point of view about Việt Nam. I don’t see it as a vague slogan, but a good hint to develop tourism. It can also be developed into a full-fledged tourism product. Tourists coming to Việt Nam will have a chance to experience the liveliness of kitchens and culinary spirits through authentic dishes. The tourism industry is tasked with realizing these ideas in tourism products and delivering them to tourists. This is in line with the government’s "Strategy on Việt Nam’s tourism development to 2020, with a vision to 2030".
So, what will Hà Nội have to offer to tourists in the future, in terms of gastronomical tourism?
With the goal of turning Vietnamese culinary treasures into a special tourism product of the city, the Department of Tourism has been focusing on organizing various events, such as street food festivals scheduled every week in the West Lake area and a festival showcasing traditional Hà Nội crafts villages every October. These events will help introduce Hà Nội’s excellent culinary arts and will feature cooking exchange activities led by chefs from Hà Nội, other regions and foreign countries. The city will continue to pick the delicious dishes of certain restaurants to introduce and advertise at cultural exchange events or international tourism cooperation and promotion programmes. We will also organize cooking contests and food festivals to bring Hà Nội’s food to domestic and foreign tourists. — VNS