Thao and Sidney live in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, where Thao was born and raised. Sidney, on the other hand, is originally from Rotterdam but never left Vietnam after his world trip in 2007, where he fell in love with the country on day one. They met while working on a cruise in the famous Halong Bay, north of Hanoi. A few years later they got married and decided to share their love for Vietnam by setting up a travel agency in Hanoi. In addition, they share their passion for Vietnamese food with their cooking classes across the country. They tell us about the simplicity of Vietnamese cuisine and the unique experience of street food restaurants in Hanoi.
When we ask Sidney and Thao how they describe the Vietnamese food culture, they answer with the words "hospitable, healthy, diverse and simple". “The Vietnamese are very hospitable. They think it is important to eat together with family or friends. Food connects. In addition to the hospitality it brings, we find it very important to maintain relationships with it. The cuisine itself is fairly simple when you look at the preparation methods. ” Sidney tells us in amazement that Thao can put food on the table for twenty people in seven variations from scratch in only 40 minutes, to which Thao responds: “I think that here in Vietnam, from young to old, we know how to cook. As the Vietnamese cuisine consists of relatively simple dishes, the emphasis is on the refined taste, combined with the many dipping sauces "
When Sidney moved to Vietnam fourteen years ago, the hospitality surprised him the most. He tells us that he feels like a fish in water in this country: “It is of course a big difference with the Netherlands, but it took me little effort to adapt. It is mainly the hospitality and the way Vietnamese people live their lives. It is not about you as a person, but about the people around you.”. He can also understand that it is this hospitality that can come across as a bit intrusive. “In Vietnam it is customary to prepare several different dishes. As a result, there is always a bit of urging by the host or wife to eat more than you want. They mean it very well, but this means that an extra ingredient is added to your rice bowl without being asked,” Sidney explains. Sidney himself comes from a family where his mother used to serve the food and he always had to finish his plate, so when something is offered he feels he has to eat it. “I now know how to deal with that. In Vietnam you are no more obliged than to show gratitude by means of a nod and a friendly smile on your face.”
“Because Vietnamese cuisine consists of relatively simple dishes, the emphasis is on the refined taste, combined with the many dipping sauces”
Thao, on the other hand, is also amazed by the Dutch food culture: “Isn't that called a prakkie in the Netherlands?” She has never tried it herself. "It doesn't sound really 'jummy' and I'm more into rice and vegetables myself."
In Vietnam they know how to celebrate. “A Vietnamese party requires a lot of varied food, a generous amount of beer and of course ... rice wine. ” Vietnamese (and every backpacker who has been able to explore this country) know the "một, hai, ba, vô!" tradition. Literally translated, this means "one, two, three, drink!", where you chug your drink after the countdown. “This was invented by the Vietnamese to drink more beer and preferably… yes, get a little drunk. We also say here ‘A drunk man shows his true nature’. In this way we get to know each other better and it strengthens the friendship. It is not always that intense though. "
"A Vietnamese party requires a lot of varied food, a generous amount of beer and of course rice wine."
Finally, Sidney and Thao say that Vietnamese cuisine is characterized by "street food". There are market stalls on every corner of the street that prepare and sell street food. “It is tasty, affordable and there is often an extensive choice of dishes. Here in Vietnam there is always one nearby, so very easy. In addition, eating on the street on a small plastic stool remains a special experience. If we are too busy to cook ourselves, we like to eat at one of the many street food restaurants. ”
Thao and Sidney's travel agency "Friends Travel Vietnam" is located in the heart of Hanoi. They work with full enthusiasm to offer the traveler a unique and personal experience of the country. In addition to various experience tours, they recently started offering various cooking classes throughout Vietnam. The perfect way to get to know and fall in love with delicious Vietnamese cuisine.