Luke Nguyen revisits his home country after 20 years and shares some of his favourite culinary escapades from the north and south.
Dalat, a municipality in Southern Vietnam, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, is a beautiful town with French colonial architecture. Founded in the 19th century and named after the Da River which runs through the town, and the Lat population, Dalat was developed by the French as a hill station or resort town.
In my television series for Food Network Asia, Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam, I discovered unusual produce like pumpkin flowers and deep-fried them with a stuffing of prawn and dill. There’s also a very addictive local coffee called ‘Cafe Chon’ which is made from coffee beans that have been eaten then regurgitated by the weasel animal.
Once I decided to seek out a very popular place selling only pho. Hanoi has over 40 streets and narrow lanes, and I get lost every time, so I knew that finding this shop was not going to be easy.
When I reached, the queue was already curling out of the doors of the restaurant. The noodle stand was in the front of the shop and a large 300 litre stock pot was simmering with chunks of onion and garlic floating on top, fragrant with ginger and cassia bark.
We secured a spot at a low wooden communal table, which was dressed with plates of fresh chilli and lime. No chilli paste, no hoisin sauce, no fish sauce, no sugar, no bean sprouts, no fresh basil or sawtooth herb. No accompaniments—just a clean bowl of fragrant beef broth, uncomplicated and delicious.
Excerpt from the September issue of epicure.