Preserving Vietnamese cuisine

Hoang Anh, restaurant owner, author of a number of books on Vietnamese cuisine, and teacher of Saigontourist tourism training school, is known best as ‘preserver’ of traditional Vietnamese food.

Graduating as a nuclear physicist, Hoang Anh, owner of Phu Xuan Vegetarian Restaurant in HCM City, is the grandchild of the last Hue royal chef and a successful collector and chef of Vietnamese cuisine. In addition, she is the keeper of a number of vegetarian food recipes, especially food of Hue, her homeland.

Every month, she publishes a vegetarian dish in Vietnam Buddhism Congregation’s Buddhism Cultural Magazine. The food made from traditional ingredients is decorated like a beautiful artwork. Hoang Anh never uses mono-sodium glutamate or artificial colour in her dishes, focusing instead o­n vitamin rich natural food.


“I now feel that Vietnamese vegetarian food is oblique. The taste and food of Buddhists is changing together with industrialization. Imported food is all embalmed in chemicals, or has too much starch, or is lacking in vitamins. In addition, all the food is vegetarian versions of fatty food such as “Vegetarian beef” or “vegetarian chicken”. It is not good. Abstinence must be from principle and the mind.” Hoang Anh said.


Born at Phuoc Yen Village, Quang Dien District, 13km from Hue Citadel, Hoang Anh’s village is famous for its delicious food.


Under the Nguyen Dynasty in 17th century, her village’s men were frequently chosen as royal chefs, making daily food for the royal family and parties.Hoang Anh’s grandfather was a head-chef under the dynasties of King Khai Dinh (1916-1925) and Vietnam’s last King Bao Dai (1926–1945). After 1945, almost all Phuoc Yen villagers turned to other work. Hoang Anh is the o­nly o­ne who has continued her grandfather’s work.


For years, she and her husband, an antique collector, have sought ancient books o­n royal Hue food. Hoang Anh said, the king enjoyed both special and popular dishes, but it was always decorated sophisticatedly. “The royal characteristic was shown in presentation, service, and space”, she said.

Maintaining the same idea, her restaurant Phu Xuan is a destination for fans of Hue cuisine, with each dish referring to a location in Hue. After five years of operation, a sister restaurant of Phu Xuan was brought to Japan “to introduce Vietnamese and Hue food”.


In 2003, the restaurant was included in a list of the top 73 restaurants in Japan. Hoang Anh keeps her dishes original Vietnamese names and cooking methods. She hopes customers will remember the food’s name as easily as Western spaghetti or pizza.


“I think we should cooperate with tourism to popularize Vietnamese food. It is a part of saving traditional culture. When thinking about preserving heritage, we usually think of extensive projects, but I believe preserving tradition should start from something simple like cooking a good meal for your family.”

Source: Lao Dong