June 3, 2010
A Taste of Vietnam
When you think of New Orleans culinary culture, most likely the first food that pops into your head isn’t a shrimp Vietnamese spring roll. Jambalaya, boudin, andouille, po boys, yes; pho noodle soup, no. And yet, since the 1970s and the end of the Vietnam War, New Orleans has become home to a thriving and growing Vietnamese population, with the center of NOLA’s Vietnamese communities in East New Orleans and across the river in Gretna on the West Bank. These communities have led to the establishment of a number of notable and delicious Vietnamese restaurants that are beginning to gain not just local, but national recognition. An April 2010 New York Times piece about the resurgence of New Orleans dining culture in the wake of Katrina focused on both Pho Tau Bay, one of the city’s oldest Vietnamese restaurants located in Gretna, and Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery, located in East New Orleans.
The food at both restaurants is simple and delectable – not to mention affordable. And Vietnamese cuisine is a great example of why the Vietnamese connection in New Orleans makes a lot of sense. The cuisines of Vietnam and New Orleans share many similarities, including the use of chicory in coffee and a heavy dose of French influence. Just as New Orleans has po boys, Dong Phuong serves bahn mi, or Vietnamese Po Boys, a vibrant sandwich of pork, pate, mayonnaise, cilantro and pickled vegetables, all loaded onto a French baguette that is heavily reminiscent of the ones churned out by Leidenheimer Bakery and used for fried shrimp and roast beef po boys all over the city. Even as New Orleans traditional food culture remains stronger than ever, the burgeoning Vietnamese restaurants in the city will only improve the diversity and range of flavors available to everyone.
Fortunately, if you’d like to do more than taste Vietnam in a bowl of pork and vermicelli soup, Tulane’s Alumni Travel program is offering a fantastic new travel opportunity in 2011. We will be operating (we don’t ever want to use sponsor) a trip to Vietnam, called Mysteries of the Mekong River: Vietnam & Cambodia. The trip will run from March 23 - April 5, 2011 and looks to be truly amazing. The eleven-night journey includes a cruise down the Mekong River, with stops in cosmopolitan Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Phnom Penh and tranquil villages all along the river. You’ll also be able to spend two nights in Siem Reap to explore the Angkor complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site, highlighted by a visit to Angkor Wat and the magnificent 12th-century Khmer temples. Visit the trip website for more information and book your trip today.