Feb 13, 2019
Oxford, Waterstone Bookshop Café
I was enjoying reading an interesting book “Vietnam pocket guide” which is published by Berlitz. What draw my attention was, in a section called “Places to eat”, the book suggested many restaurants with names beginning with "Le" and "La": La Mancha, Da Fernando, Le Tonkin, Cafe de la Poste, etc. From my very best knowledge, I recognized that everything starts with “le” and “la” must come from France. Why they want to go to a French restaurant in the middle of Vietnam? Apparently, the book was written for international tourists, not for Vietnamese people.
Vietnamese food (Credit to @gavin liu)
The Vietnamese, generally, are not very enthusiastic for Western cuisine although they are indeed very curious foodies. They are simply so busy to discover their own tasty (and strange) Vietnamese food. Vietnam has 56 different provinces, and almost every area has their own local dish which is called "đặc sản".
"Đặc" is from the compound noun "Đặc biệt", meaning "unique". " Sản" is from the compound noun "sản phẩm", meaning "product, goods". When these two words "đặc sản" go together, it means: unique things, or local dishes.
A key success for anyone who wants to open a restaurant in Vietnam: Using a golden formula to name your Menu or even your restaurant: Food + Place
So the next time when you travel to Vietnam, pay attention on any restaurant or food stall that is named after the golden formula of “Food + Place”. A great chance authentic Vietnamese food would be served there. Also, make sure to look for the word “đặc sản” in the menu, because this is what Vietnamese people are after.
Are the Vietnamese fancy for Western food?
I once read an interesting article in FORBES
“When the first McDonald's restaurant in Ho Chi Minh city was opened on February 2014, a long queue of people waited outside. Estimately, during the first week, the restaurant welcomed more than 20,000 people a day”
Do you recognize any unusual thing in this article? Queuing. 20000 Vietnamese people are queuing!
Vietnamese people are queuing in front of McDonald's restaurant (Source: Internet)
Being a Vietnamese, I know for sure: Vietnamese people don't like queuing. The hospital is probably the only place in the world where the Vietnamese would (have to) stand patiently in line. So what made these 20,000 people suddenly love queuing that much? Curiosity. Of all people of all nations I have ever met, the Vietnamese is probably the most curious people. This curiosity is so great that it sends them completely insane when they spend hours and hours waiting to enter the first Starbuck, first KFC, first McDonald in VN. People suddenly seemed to respect the queuing system simply because it gratified their curiosity. Not surprisingly, a few weeks later, once this novelty has worn off, the Vietnamese quickly turn back to their loyalty. I feel a bit sad for McDonad, a burger can hardly defeat with a Bánh Mì (our much-loved baguette).
Although the Vietnamese are curious to try Western food, their fidelity for local food make it difficult for any Western restaurant manager to run a catering business in VN, unless they changed their menu 10 times a year to attract customer’s curiosity.
Meanwhile, the Vietnamese are also very creative for selling their gourmet food. Let’s take an example of pizza. Do we really have any record about eating pizza in our 4000-year-old history? We hardly know. But what we do know is that, very recently, our much-love street food “Bánh Tráng Nướng” (crispy and spicy roasted rice crackers topped with shredded pork, eggs) has been changed its name into “Vietnamese pizza”. Why going to Pizza Hut when our Vietnamese pizza is now the newest culinary food trend?
Vietnamese pizza (Credit to @ VinaBerry Man)
The diverse and variation of Vietnamese cuisine make the list of our new Vietnamese dishes longer and longer every single day, which makes it harder for any Western food chain to compete. People might go to a new Western restaurant to seek for new experience, but their heart would always turn back to local food.
"Objectively, I think Vietnamese food is probably the best food in the World" - said by a Vietnamese.