The Food Institute: The Explosion Of Vietnam Cuisine In America
According to The Food Institute, the US is a multicultural country, so it is not difficult to understand that Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) has received a warm welcome here. There's also another famous Vietnamese dish – pho (which consists of rice noodles, meat, and herbs served in a bowl of hot and fragrant broth) is also gaining popularity in the US.
“Considering Vietnamese cuisine is a vessel that can hold many different influences, it makes the cuisine easy to identify with,” Tu David Phu, a former Top Chef contestant, told The Food Institute.
“There are many cultural intersections – French, East Asian, African, Portuguese, etcetera – in Vietnamese culture, because of imperialism and diaspora,” the chef added. “Vietnamese dishes have evolved to fold in many facets of other identities.”
Restaurants seize the opportunity
|Le Van Loc, the owner of Jimmy's Egg, a Vietnamese restaurant in the US. Photo: Oklahoman
The U.S. has become a hotbed for Vietnamese food, evidenced by the fact there are now nearly 8,000 Vietnamese restaurants stateside, according to The Tanner Food Group and SIAL America.
In its 2023 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, the National Restaurant Association identified Southeast Asian cuisine (including Vietnamese, Singaporean, and Filipino dishes) as its top global trend.
The rise in popularity of Vietnamese dishes in particular is tied to “the wide range of flavors and textures associated,” said Michael Murdy, a food scientist and founder of robustkitchen.com. “The combination of sour, sweet, savory, and spicy flavors, as well as the use of fresh herbs and vegetables, makes Vietnamese food particularly attractive to people.”
“I’ve seen Vietnamese food making inroads in the U.S. for the last few years,” said Amy Marks-McGee of Trendincite.
The pandemic created an opportunity for restaurants to offer bold international cuisine (like Vietnamese dishes) as many customers grew desperate for unique flavors not found in their pantries. Thus, fledgling Vietnamese restaurants that feature drive-thrus gained momentum, like Saigon Hustle in Houston, as reported by The Takeout.
Banh Mi – a signature Vietnamese dish in the US
|Photo: The Seattle Time
Banh Mi is often an understated delight, featuring supremely fresh ingredients like cilantro, lemongrass, carrots, and jalapenos, along with fish sauce, tender pork, and fresh baguettes – sometimes for as little as US$6, as noted in a recent Seattle Times article.
One reason Banh Mi has gained acceptance in the U.S.: “It tastes familiar and slightly different, all at the same time,” Phu said.
Banh Mi is an airy and crunchy French baguette, stuffed with an ever-varying combination of meats, vegetables, and sauces.
This airy Vietnamese baguette is made with a combination of wheat and rice flour with a thin crispy crust.
It is filled with pork, pâté, cured ham, and a variety of cold cuts. The sandwich also has a mix of Vietnamese herbs and fresh vegetables.
Coriander, cucumber slices, radish, pickled carrots, and daikon are typically used.
Banh Mi gets its origin from the French influence in Indochina. The baguette was introduced by the French, but appropriated by the Vietnamese in the 1950s when they started calling it the banh mi or wheat bread.
The sandwich gained popularity around the world after the Vietnam War.
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City is believed to be the birthplace of Banh Mi. The Le family moved from Hanoi to Saigon in the 1950s and created this Vietnamese sandwich.
Their shop, Banh Mi Hoa Ma, named after their village in the north is in District 3 in Ho Chi Minh City.
Today, this famous Vietnamese sandwich is eaten all over the world. While Banh Mi Vietnam is mainly eaten for breakfast, it is enjoyed at any time of the day.
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