More and more Vietnamese are trying foreign food and a gastronomic cultural mix is being established.
Restaurants serving foreign dishes have long been thriving in Vietnam, owned by Vietnamese and foreigners alike in major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and elsewhere. But they’re not just populated by tourists and expats; Vietnamese people are increasingly sampling foreign food and being influenced by foreign cuisine.
Mr Gerard Gastel, from France, has opened French restaurants in Vietnam since 1998 and also has a Vietnamese wife. After 12 years he has several restaurants, including Café de Arts and Stop Café in Hanoi, which serve both Vietnamese and French food and beverages to foreigners and Vietnamese people. He said that most of his Vietnamese customers order French food. “They don’t order Vietnamese food at our restaurants, preferring instead to try French food,” he said. “For example,” he continued, pointing to some customers, “this couple just came in and the man ordered a piece of French cake and the woman ordered a French juice. The three people sitting over there all ordered French food and drinks.”
Alan, the boss of an Italian restaurant in Hanoi, said that his restaurant opened some years ago and Vietnamese customers have started to come in larger numbers. It serves both Vietnamese and Italian food, but Vietnamese customers mainly prefer to have Italian.
Mr Gastel said that when he first came to Hanoi he saw the potential in opening a French restaurant. He has been very successful and now has several restaurants. “My restaurants used to have about 5 to 8 per cent of customers being Vietnamese, but now it’s about 30 to 40 per cent,” he said. Especially young people, he said, have become interested in foreign food.
According to Ms Nguyen Thi Hoa, an accountant with a joint stock company in Hanoi, her family enjoys foreign food. “I eat Vietnamese food every day and like it very much, but I also like to try foreign food to enjoy the differences,” she said. “We usually go to different restaurants on the weekend to enjoy different foreign food, such as Chinese, Thai, French, Japanese, and South Korean.”
“Beside Vietnamese food, two of my children like foreign food very much,” said Ms Mai Thuan, a bank manager in Hanoi. “They usually ask me to take them to eat pizza, pasta, and French food. We usually do it on the weekends.” She also takes her customers to international restaurants to enjoy foreign food. “My customers are both foreigners and Vietnamese,” she explained. “The reason I take them to foreign restaurants is because I like the food and the service is normally very good. It’s a comfortable setting.”
Most Pepperonis restaurants in Hanoi are always crowded, with many Vietnamese customers enjoying pizza, pasta and salads. Although they tend to not be large, it’s normally wall-to-wall customers. Hang, one of the customers, said: “I like Pepperonis because of its delicious taste and good service.” On the weekends or when she and her friends meet up, they usually eat pizza or other Italian food at Pepperonis.
“It is perfectly normal for Vietnamese people like to taste foreign food,” said Mr Gastel. “I am French, so I like French food, but I also go to Vietnamese restaurants to enjoy Vietnamese food or food from other countries. The more foreign restaurants that open, the more choice there is for Vietnamese customers. My wife is Hanoian and she likes Vietnamese food very much. But now she also likes French food just as much as I do.”
From Alan’s point of view, Vietnamese people nowadays are used to eating foreign food and like it very much. “It’s true that there has been a blending of cuisine culture between Vietnamese and foreign,” he believes. “Vietnamese people are now much more inclined to go to foreign restaurants or Vietnamese restaurants serving international food. This is a good thing, because Vietnam is integrating into the international community and living standards are better, so people should enjoy foreign food to improve their knowledge of foreign cuisine.” Many of his customers are regulars. “They do no need to see menu, but simply order their favourite dishes,” he said.
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