Sunday, March 5, 2017

Learning Vietnam through Food with Grain by Luke Nguyen

Getting lost is an art, or at least that is what they say. Art is not a perfect study as there is no perfect way of getting lost, of discovering new things in the journey and being part of the bigger whole instead of getting swallowed in an abyss. 

Because my industry of choice requires us to always be creative, I usually get the feeling of wanting to recharge and face the challenge to always update myself to new ideas. I mean, the creative process doesn’t just happen (do I hear an aye, aye?). From time to time, I would allow myself to get lost and open my mind to new experiences and culture. This year, my adventure brought me to the beautiful artistic city of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.

The warm city of HCM is a short plane ride from Manila. It’s a metropolitan filled with motorcycles (and I mean a lot of motorcycles) and coffee shops. You can smell freshly-brewed coffee even at the sidewalks and it’s a city alive even during past midnight. The foodie in me cant wait for the days ahead.

Learning Vietnam through Food

My very reason for choosing Vietnam for my next destination is Chef Luke Nguyen. You may find it very candid that I watched him during my birthday trip in Cebu. Without knowing, I booked the cooking class in a studio that he runs. The day before my scheduled class, I went to enrol myself to the studio to find a poster of Chef Luke hanging on the wall and it was from the very episode of his show that I watch. No way would I miss that!

Too bad he wasn’t around during my class but his team was nothing but very accommodating and approachable. I took the class with two other female Australians during Vietnam’s National Women’s Day. The three of us arrived with a beautiful flower in our table (how sweet was that?).

Welcome drinks: Jasmine tea with ginger and lemongrass

Pho Cuon - Fresh rice noodle filled with sauteed beef

Green mango salad with cinnamon prawns and lychee

Crusted tuna with crab claw herbs and nuoc nam cham

Almond and chia seeds for dessert

Grain by Luke Nguyen studio

The menu was simple but here are the things that became my take away during my cooking class in Grain.

  • Secret to Vietnamese cuisine is fresh ingredients and locally available ingredients. No fancy additives but ingredients that can be sourced out from your backyard garden.
  • Vietnam is known for their fishing villages, thus fish sauce plays a vital role in their dish. No fish sauce, its not a Viet food. Their basic dressing/ sauce Nuoc Mam Cham’s vital ingredient is (you guessed it right) fish sauce!
  • Vietnamese food explores your senses so taste is not only crucial but also texture, presentation, smell and their food carries their history too!
  • They have huuuuuuge French influence in their art and food.
  • Their culinary scene has acknowledged vegetarian requirements so they have made vegetarian alternatives available.
Here are more of the photos I took from the trip. Enjoy!

Colorful sidewalks filled with street vendors selling colorful artworks, souvenir items or paintings

Ho Chi Minh City Hall showing the statue of Ho Chi Minh

  An ordinary coffee shop sitting side-by-side bars and restos.

Of course, Vietnamese iced coffee with milk and banh mi (baguette)

Notre Dame chapel


Street food prepared right in front of you. This is a crispy pancake prepared on a mobile griddle.

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