Experts have identified Vietnam’s distinctive cuisine as one of the major strengths of the country’s tourism, and said that this should be tapped more as an attraction alongside Vietnam’s beautiful landscapes and valuable heritage.
Vietnamese food varies vibrantly from region to region, due to the different customs, conditions, condiments and culture across the country.
For decades, Vietnamese food has been cited as one of the world’s most delicious cuisines by foreign press.
In 2006, MSN’s travel website selected Hanoi as the third best city in the world for delicious dishes. Later, Vietnamese “pho” (noodle soup) and “goi cuon” (spring rolls) were listed among the globe’s top 50 delicious meals by CNN.
Though gastronomic culture is evaluated as one of the key factors to draw visitors to Vietnam, the tourism sector has not done enough to take advantage of this natural asset, tourism specialists have argued.
Most foreign visitors say they know about Vietnamese food through their friends or relatives. Only a few tourist companies, hotels and restaurants actively come forward to organise food tours for overseas vacationers.
Very few promotional activities have been organised systematically, with most merely integrated into broader tourism promotion programmes, such as trade fairs.
Nguyen Van My, a travel agency manager, said it is high time to feature cuisine more in tourism development. He suggested selecting typical foods to introduce to visitors, along with information on their origin, history, ingredients and cooking instructions.
Director of the Vietnam Institute of Culinary Research, Dr. Han Nguyen Nguyen Nha, who launched a ‘Vietnamese Kitchen’ project to bring the nation’s cuisine to the world in 2009, said Vietnamese food is fresh and healthy for tourists, as it has less fat and meat and more vegetables that food they are perhaps more accustomed to.
However, he acknowledged that food hygiene and safety violation issues occur at an alarming level, adding that if this problem can be solved, Vietnamese food will be more popular throughout the world.
He said he was very optimistic about the country’s cuisine because numerous Vietnamese dishes appear at luxury restaurants and hotels – not only in Vietnam but also in foreign countries.
His project aims to standardise Vietnamese foods and restaurants, and establish culinary development enterprises like the Thai Royal Company which operates 8,000 restaurants around the world.