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Viet Nam eats up culinary tourism

Update: January, 16/2005 - 00:00

Viet Nam eats up culinary tourism

Going native: Visitors to the Mekong Delta village of My Khanh can spend an evening eating with a local family. VNA/VNS Photo Trang Duong

Floaters: Delta natives often buy fresh produce at floating markets in Phong Dien and have chefs prepare it for them. VNS Photo Anh Phuong

(16-01-2005)

by Do Ngoc

Mixing tourism and gastronomical pleasure, visitors have long-found Vietnamese cuisine to be world-class. Thanks to the popularity of Vietnamese restaurants and food festivals abroad, the country’s delicious dishes are one of the many reasons foreigners choose to spend their holidays here. Every year the number of tourists increases, and due to a surge in popularity, a new type of tourism is on the rise: gastronomical travel. The food tourism industry is set to take off, thanks to a few dedicated pioneers.

Tasty tours

Previously the Fiditour Company, working with the Saigontourist Agency, organised eco-tours that were combined with lessons and information on authentic Vietnamese cuisine during Tet (Lunar New Year festival). Tourists took part in preparing meals with the help of members of a Vietnamese family and then enjoyed the food they had just prepared. In response to an ever-increasing demand for Vietnamese cooking lessons, the Saigontourist Travel Agency recently started offering trans-Viet Nam journeys in combination with classes on Vietnamese gastronomy. The first one, a two-week long programme, occurred at the end of last September and the Australians who participated were full of rave reviews. Besides excursions to various cities and towns, they enjoyed food typical of the country’s three regions.

"In working out a tour that combines cooking, it’s necessary to know the characteristics of every dish," said Truong Hoang Phuong, head of the business section of the company. "This is an effective way to promote Vietnamese gastronomy. Tourists are given the chance to experience the lives of the locals: they stay with Vietnamese families, go to the market to choose suitable ingredients and cook dishes in the traditional way. This not only offers a unique experience, but encourages people to stay for a long time," he concluded.

Since 2002, Saigontourist has organised approximately twenty groups of foreigners for tours of Viet Nam. Some were able to combine sight-seeing with in-depth, hands-on cooking lessons. Upon completion of the cooking courses, participants received a certificate from the specialised school that they attended.

Home cooking

Nguyen Dzoan Cam Van, a well-known chef who teaches cooking on HCM City Television, has instructed many foreigners on how to cook Vietnamese food for the last 10 years. Her home (344/493, Cach Mang Thang Tam Road, Ward 5, Tan Binh District) has 25 stoves where she can teach as many as 35 learners at the same time. Every month on average she instructs 10 to 15 foreign groups, some with only two people and others as large as 30. She usually leads her students to different urban markets such as Ben Thanh, Binh Tay and An Dong to gather the necessary items for their lessons. This introduces them not only to the ingredients, but also the cultural features of the Vietnamese market. Thanks to her fluency in English, her lessons have been a great success.

"Vietnamese cuisine attracts many foreigners by virtue of its healthy qualities; little fat and numerous vegetables and spices," Van told us. "In particular, the clever and artistic presentation of the various ingredients on the plate is beautiful and appealing." — VNS

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