Ever wondered how the Vietnamese Banh Mi came into being? Or how about Vietnam’s obsession with iced coffee? Well, these French-accented delights became a part of Vietnam’s culinary and cultural fabric while it was under French colonial rule, from 1887 to 1954. From crunchy baguettes to crème caramel, discover five ways the French left their mark on Vietnamese cuisine.
Since the French introduced coffee to Vietnam in the 1800s, it has become an integral part of modern Vietnamese culture. Vietnam is now one of the world’s largest exporter of coffees, and its famed iced coffee made with condensed milk can be found in cafes and food courts across the world.
Without a doubt, one of the most important introductions to the Vietnamese culinary landscape was the arrival of the French baguette. The Vietnamese soon made these crusty, fluffy-centred buns their own, adding pork, fresh herbs and pickled vegetables to create the ubiquitous banh mi.
Another French classic that’s been given a Vietnamese makeover is the crème caramel, known as the bahn flan and made with coconut milk, milk, eggs and cream. This delectable dessert is often flavoured with local coffee.
When the French settle in Indochina, they brought a raft of vegetables and herbs with them, such as onions, cauliflower, lettuce, potatoes, tarragon, carrot, artichoke, asparagus and avocado.
The French inspired the Vietnamese to create more colourful and attractive dishes, increasing the use of garnishes.
Other French-inspired foods you’ll find in Vietnam include the liver pâté that’s commonly spread on bahn mi sandwiches; the crispy banh xeo crepe; café-style breakfasts of croissants, yoghurt and omelettes; rotisserie meats, luncheon meat, sausages and steaks; lashings of handmade butter; and cooking with wine.
The word ‘Pho’ is believed to be an adaptation of the French broth, pot au feu.
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