Today, we are telling you more about Vietnamese cuisine's origins and the way it evolved since the French times.
And if you want to explore and discover modern Vietnamese cuisine, head to Xu Restaurant Lounge on 75 Hai Ba Trung – Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam!
Austerity in Vietnamese cuisine during the wars (1945 – 1988)
This is a dark period in Vietnam's culinary tradition. The country went through several successive wars:
The Indochina war
The American war
The conflict against the Khmer Rouge
The Sino-Vietnamese war
War often leads to famine.
Therefore, it is difficult for any culinary culture to emancipate itself from the art of the table. The Vietnamese people had to tighten their belts to feed the soldiers. However, war is not the only factor explaining Vietnamese cuisine's austerity. Vietnamese cuisine The war forced the Vietnamese people to tighten their belts to feed the army.
The communist regime contributes something to this. Following the American war, Vietnam was plunged further into social crisis because of the Soviet-style subsidized economy. For most Vietnamese at that time, we ate to survive. "Eating well" was a luxury.
Vietnamese cuisine achievements suffered a sharp decline because no one dared to eat in the pre-war (i.e., pre-1945) way. Vietnamese cuisine, the subsidized economy of the 70s, wants an equitable distribution of wealth.
As a result, everyone has to line up in front of distribution points to collect food. No surplus to invent the cuisine, The only highlight of this phase is related to the post-U.S. war period (1975-1988). Vietnam sank into misery. Because of the U.S. embargo and diplomatic isolation from the Western world, it was practically agricultural autarky.
The Vietnamese people had to persevere in the face of the Bao Câp regime, a "subsidized economy" in Vietnamese. Equipped with ration coupons, households rushed to state distribution points to receive a fixed amount of food.
This was mainly insufficient to feed the mouths. In such a situation, the Vietnamese had to develop creativity to create dishes within their modest means. Despite the simplicity, these dishes are surprisingly delicious. Unfortunately, few tangible traces are left of this period, as most Vietnamese wish to forget this painful historical passage.
Vietnamese cuisine from this period is too marked by poverty.
Renewal of Vietnamese cuisine from 1994
Why did I choose 1994 as the beginning of this phase? Because it is the end of the American embargo. The agreement signed by Bill Clinton's administration allowed Vietnam to re-establish diplomatic and economic ties with the outside world. Vietnam has successively joined different trade blocs such as ASEAN and WTO.
The country is moving towards modernity, and Vietnamese cuisine is also evolving. Once living conditions improve, the Vietnamese consider their eating habits seriously. The existing base of culinary tradition, including the contribution of French colonization, is taken, and new touches are added. It is really from 1994 that Vietnamese cuisine takes the form closest to what we know today.
In the following chapters, I will regularly come back to this 1994 notion to explain the origin of the contemporary Vietnamese table. Vietnamese cuisine In the era of globalization, Vietnamese people willingly adopt trends from elsewhere like Mc Donald, KFC, and Burger King. One can easily spot Starbucks, Domino's, and Japanese-Korean chains like Loteria and BBQ.
Retail chains are sprouting up like mushrooms in big cities, changing city dwellers' buying behavior.
Thus, traditional grocery stores rub shoulders with department stores. Vietnamese cuisine Despite modernity, Vietnamese people place a lot of importance on the freshness of food. Therefore, they usually shop daily in local grocery stores or use street vendors.
However, thanks to its thousand-year-old tradition, Vietnamese cuisine still dominates in households' daily lives. If our cuisine can resist the breakthrough of fast food, it is because Vietnamese cuisine is our identity.
It reflects our social and family values. But unfortunately, the day McDonald's replaces our daily meals is when the Vietnamese completely lose their cultural identity.
It is doubtful that this will happen. It is often said that the Vietnamese are the warriors defending their homeland.
So, we are also warriors in preserving our culinary tradition.
To conclude this chapter, I quote Winston Churchill's famous phrase: "A people that forgets its past has no future. Vietnamese cuisine is as rich as its turbulent past. Understanding the historical past allows you to understand the present and future Vietnamese table.