Bring travel home: Vietnam
Introducing Bring travel home
One of the things that makes travel special is the chance to switch off and explore new cultures. And with more time on our hands than usual, we have the opportunity to do just that. So for this series, we’ll be curating things to watch, read, listen and eat to explore different cultures from the comfort of your own home.
Would you like to experience a particular place from your home? Let us know and we will consider it for our next Bring travel home article.
Vietnamese culture is complex, diverse and represents something of a history lesson. From ancient temples displaying distinctly Chinese influences in the north and Hindu origins in the south. Meanwhile, the French influence from the colonial period is to be seen in the architecture of its towns and cities and, of course, in its cuisine. And in Southeast Asia nothing really comes close: Vietnamese food is that good.
The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)
Set in Vietnam between the late 1940s and 1960s, the film tells the life of a young girl, Mui, who is a servant in the household of a merchant family. Although the household's fortunes change for the worse, Mui stays with them and grows infatuated with one of their friends, the handsome Khuyen. Directed by Vietnamese-French filmmaker Tran Anh Hung, it won the Caméra d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival and was one of the Oscar nominations in the International Feature Film category in the same year.
Vietnam | Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown | Season 4, Episode 1 (2014)
This episode takes Bourdain to his "first love," Vietnam, with a look at Huế, a city in the centre of the country near the coast. It has long been the epicentre for intellectuals, scholars, artists, writers, musicians, religious life, and famously, the culinary heart of the country.
Watch on Amazon Prime.
The Vietnam War (2017)
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick present an epic chronicle of the Vietnam War, featuring the soldiers, protestors, politicians and families who lived it. The filmmakers have a great skill for making an immensely complex story immediately comprehensible. The narration is kept to a minimum, but what there is of it is exquisitely written. Within the narrative, they paint a picture of the US at a crossroads. A photo of Kennedy, that most modern of presidents, striding off to his inauguration in a top hat, offers a telling glimpse of a nation caught between two eras.
Watch on Netflix.
The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb (2010)
The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a skillfully written novel about the reverberation of conflict through generations, the enduring legacy of art, and the redemption and renewal of love. The story of the central characters is tinged with a longing for worlds and loved ones lost but also filled with the hope that faith can heal the pain of their shared country's turbulent past. This is the distinct and complex story of contemporary Vietnam, a country undergoing momentous change, and a story of how family is defined-not always by bloodlines, but by heart.
Get the book on Amazon.
Fields of Fire by James Webb (1978)
Written by US Senator Jim Webb, and first published in 1978, this novel follows the lives of several marines serving in the Vietnam war. A novel of poetic power, razor-sharp observation and agonizing human truths seen through the prism of nonstop combat. Weaving together a cast of vivid characters, Fields of Fire captures the journey of unformed men through a man-made hell.
Get the book on Amazon.
The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955)
Written in 1955 and set in Vietnam, then the site of a rising local insurgency against French colonial rule, The Quiet American brilliantly braids together a political and romantic tangle between its characters who serve as emblems of the American, European and Asian way. It also is a typically Greenian prophecy of what would happen 10 years later when US troops would arrive. Lyrical, enchanted descriptions of rice paddies, languorous opium dens and even slightly sinister Buddhist political groups are a lantered backdrop to a tale of irony and betrayal. Get the book or audiobook on Amazon.
The American War
In this podcast series, Washington Post opinion columnist Alyssa Rosenberg breaks down the Netflix series, The Vietnam War, with the filmmakers. It explores the story behind the stories and grapples with the lessons the United States learned – and failed to learn – in Vietnam and at home.
Listen on Spotify.
The Saigoneer offers in-depth discussions on Vietnamese society and culture, as well as interviews with special guests.
Listen on Spotify.
Vietnam’s food and beverage scene is evolving in so many delicious ways, from street food-inspired tapas and coconut worm shots to organic produce from the highlands. Each fortnight, join The Bureau Chief Matt Cowan and guests as they share industry insights, discover bars and restaurants, and chat to people in the know. If you’re a foodie, traveller or just wanting to discover the best places to eat and drink in Vietnam, The Bureau Podcast is for you!
Listen on Spotify.
Eat and drink
Vietnamese food is very distinct - the cuisine relies on a balance of salty, sweet, sour and hot flavours. Unlike other Asian countries, dishes tend not to be overly spicy but use plenty of fresh herbs. Try out some of our favourites below.
This national staple is made with flat rice noodles, a fragrant broth and usually chicken or beef. The flavour of this comforting noodle soup can vary greatly across the country, and many establishments load your table with sauces, herbs and spices so you can season your pho exactly how you like it.
Check out a traditional recipe from Leite's Culinaria.
Originating on the streets of Saigon, the banh mi sandwich is a French-Vietnamese hybrid. It consists of an airy baguette, siracha mayonnaise, sour pickled radish and carrot, crisp coriander, spicy fresh chillis, cucumber and a selection of protein options, from minced pork or chicken to fatty pate and sardines.
Check out a recipe from The Cozy Apron.
Gỏi cuốn translates as "salad rolls" and should be distinguished from the fried rolls, which are called chả giò. The translucent cigar-shaped rolls are packed with greens, sometimes prawns and/or pork, and herbs. They need a dunk in Vietnam's ubiquitous nước chấm (fish sauce), of course. Almost every region in Vietnam has its own distinct salad roll.
Check out a recipe from Felicity Cloake.
At its simplest, this Vietnamese iced coffee is made using ground dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee with a small metal Vietnamese drip filter. Hot filter coffee is quickly poured into a glass full of ice along with 2-3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk.
Check out a recipe from Steamy Kitchen.
If you don't fancy rustling up the food yourself, why not order in? Here are some recommendations of great restaurants and eateries from our home, London, that are still delivering.
Ngon Ngon, Clerkenwell
Ngon Ngon’s exciting menu celebrates the punchy and explosive flavours of Vietnamese food. Their crunchy green papaya salad served with shredded prawn is one of our favourites - it’s super fresh and packed full of goodness.
Order from Ngon Ngon on Deliveroo.
The BunBunBun menu offers a range of dishes originating from the north, central and south of Vietnam. Ranging from street-style food to meals that you may find served at home.
Order from BunBunBun on Deliveroo.
Banh Banh, Peckham
Delicious and authentic Vietnamese street food, Banh Banh serves freshly made pho, banh mi, summer rolls and other daily specials. This restaurant is a real winner.
Order and collect from Banh Banh.
We hope you enjoyed being temporarily transported to Vietnam. Got any great recommendations on how to experience your favourite country from your home? Send Harry an email along with your suggestions and we’ll give you a £10 Amazon voucher if it makes the cut.
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