You have been invited by CNN to make a television programme about Vietnamese cuisine. What will you do in the programme to promote Vietnamesecuisine to the world?
I will invite CNN to make the programme at InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, Premier Village Danang Resort, where I teach chefs to make pho (Vietnamese noodle) and xoi (sticky rice) and many other traditional Vietnamese dishes. I want them to see with their own eyes how delicately traditional Vietnamese dishes are prepared in luxury resort like InterContinental Da Nang Sun Peninsula Resort.
I will also invite them to try the most traditional Vietnamese dishes which I am trying to preserve for the next generations, to appreciate the exceptional taste of Vietnamese cuisine.
You have a deep passion for traditional cuisine. How do you manage to keep the soul of Vietnamese cuisine alive, especially Hanoian food?
I was lucky to be born into a royal family. When I was nine, my grandmother taught me how to choose the best ingredients and how to prepare quality healthy food. I don’t know exactly when the passion for traditional cuisine absorbed into my blood. It takes me a lot of time and effort to prepare and present a dish. If you want to prepare authentic Hanoian pho, you must know how to choose and stew bones until you have a very fresh and aromatic soup. To make the best spring rolls the Hanoian way, you must know which is the best rice paper. All this requires specific knowledge. Traditional food should be presented in the traditional way. In the past, dishes served to royal families had to be put into dragon bowls. The method of cooking and presenting the food must complement the way it is enjoyes: serve guests at the table, talk to guests and show them your hospitality.
After many years of experience working with international partners and serving foreign guests, which Vietnamesedishes do you find that international tourists prefer?
Pho, and spring rolls of many kinds, but they have to be freshly prepared and high quality. International tourists, like many Vietnamese people, have travelled to many countries in the world. When they are in Vietnam, they want to taste authentic Vietnamese dishes. In the art of cooking, you have to know how to combine spices in an expert and flexible fashion to make the dishes delicate and flavourful. You must understand the particularity of each kind of vegetable, fruit and spice to find the best and quickest ways to use them. In short, if you want to export Vietnamese cuisine to the rest of the world and make Vietnamese cuisine an integral part of Vietnamese tourism, all the dishes have to be prepared in the right way.
Each country in the world has its own representative dish that is consider ed the soul of the country’s cuisine. What is Vietnam’s?
Sushi is the representative of Japanese cuisine, kim chi represents Korean cuisine, and mentioning hot pot, people will think of Thailand… Vietnam has pho (rice noodle). However, not many people in the world are familiar with pho. And not many Vietnamese people. know how to prepare authentic pho. That’s why I have a strong desire to promote Vietnamese cuisine to the world.
You are invited to be supervisor of Vietnamese cuisine for famous restaurants in Sun Group’s system of hotels, resorts and entertainment complexes. What are the reasons for this cooperation?
I have to admit, I am not an easy person who can work with just any partner. But I was persuaded by a passionate and dedicated businessman, the chairman of Sun Group.
I met him many time before. And each time I met him, he expressed his desire to invite me to be the cuisine supervisor for InterContinental Danang. But because of many reasons, I refused. Once, he invited me to come to the resort. I was immediately lured by the world leading luxury resort, but I also realised that the resort lacked core values in its cuisine. Then I understood the reason why Sun Group’s chairman kept inviting me to help him. And I agreed. Now, as you see, guests have expressed their comment on famous tourism websites that pho at InterContinental Danang is the best among all hotels and resorts in Vietnam. From Intercontinental Danang, I have come to Ba Na Hill, Novotel Danang Premier Han River, and Premier Village Danang, amongst others - nearly all of Sun Group’s properties in fact.
I have worked for Sun Group for the last five years. You ask me the reason why. Because I have many thing in common with the chairman of the group. His sound investments and his truthfulness have made quality products. For me, to be a master chef, I have to work with all my heart. Sun Group choose the most difficult way to do business, to mark Vietnam on the luxury world tourism map. I also choose the most difficult way - to show the uniqueness of Vietnamese cuisine. Maybe it was the reason that I was granted the honour of master of traditional cuisine by the Vietnamese State President.
Do you find it challengng, bringing traditional cuisine into hotels and resorts that are managed by an international hotel management group?
Of course, yes! There are two problems that I usually encounter when bringing the technique to an international hotel management group. The first is the problem of human resources. After having spent a long time training, once qualified to work,
many quit. Then I have to train new staff. The second problem is that they do not always follow the recipes and methods strictly. They tend to think differently and do things their own way, resulting in a reduction in the quality of food. For example,instead of stewing bones to get the best soup for pho, one chef stewed carrots and fruits. That way cannot make authentic Hanoian pho.
By Thuy Dung