Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans



VIETNAMESE CUISINE IN NEW ORLEANS premiered on WYES Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.

Fans of Vietnamese cuisine once traveled to eateries in New Orleans East or the West Bank for a hearty bowl of pho. Although locales like Pho Tau Bay, Tan Dinh and Dong Phuong remain staunch favorites, diners can now stop by one of the new restaurants in the Uptown area, such as Magasin Vietnamese Café, Le Viet Café on St. Charles Avenue, or Tamarind by Dominique in the Hotel Modern. But Vietnamese food extends beyond the restaurant scene. Geaux Plates food truck serves the Bayou Banh Mi sandwich at the Street Fare Derby food truck festival. At the 2012 Hogs for the Cause event, team March of the Pigs became a crowd favorite with their “Viet Hot Dog.”

VIETNAMESE CUISINE IN NEW ORLEANS, debuting on WYES Sunday, October 14 at 7:00 p.m., presents the factors that contribute to the cuisine’s burgeoning popularity. A single Vietnamese dish contains a mix of textures and vibrant flavors. “It’s like fireworks on the palate,” says Chef John Besh. “You have hot, salty, sour, sweet – you’ve got spice. And then you throw in the textural differences, and it makes for something very interesting, but not heavy.”

Freshness is another characteristic that is closely associated with the cuisine. Spring rolls, goi cuon, contain soft vermicelli noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, lettuce and herbs, and a small serving of lean pork or shrimp, wrapped in moist rice paper. “Everything tastes like it was plucked from the garden and thrown into the pot – and didn’t spend much time in the pot – before it landed on your plate,” says Poppy Tooker, host of Louisiana Eats! on WWNO 89.9 FM and a regular on WYES’ “Steppin’ Out.”

A standard menu at a Vietnamese restaurant offers an abundance of options, but a bowl of pho remains the first choice for many diners. Pho typically contains poultry or beef, rice noodles, greens and aromatic herbs, simmering in broth. “My favorite Vietnamese dish, which is probably the most common, is pho,” says Chef Brian Landry, Executive Chef of Borgne. “When you find one with a great broth, and add the bean sprouts and jalapeño, it just can’t be beat.”

Another local Vietnamese food favorite is banh mi, which is often referred to as the Vietnamese po-boy. This scrumptious sandwich contains cuts of pork (prepared in a variety of ways), Vietnamese mayonnaise, cilantro sprigs, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber and jalapeño slices. Two light slices of baguette bread, coated with a crispy golden crust, cradle the ingredients. Grabbing banh mi is a clever way for diners to try Vietnamese cuisine for the first time. “It’s not like going into a restaurant, sitting down, and assembling a meal,” says McNulty. “You just get a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and eat it. That’s why banh mi is a good cultural ambassador for Vietnamese cooking. It’s very easy, harmless, and delicious. And people go nuts for it.”

The connection between the French and the Vietnamese extends back to the French colonial period in Vietnam, which roughly began in the mid-19th century and lasted through the mid-20th century.The fusion between Vietnamese cuisine and traditional New Orleans fare is on prime display at Tamarind by Dominique, the new restaurant headed by Chef Dominique Macquet and Chef de Cuisine, Quan Tran. Their menu reflects traditional Vietnamese fare, influenced by the French colonial period in Vietnam.

In addition to discussing Vietnamese cuisine and highlighting renowned restaurants, the documentary delves into the traditions of the Vietnamese culture in New Orleans. VIETNAMESE CUISINE IN NEW ORLEANS explores the weekly farmers market in Village de l’est, the community’s use of backyard farms and auqoponics, and the shrimping industry. Since faith is a strong component of the Vietnamese culture, the documentary offers in-depth information on their religious practices and family traditions, including their annual Lunar New Year celebration – Tet.

VIETNAMESE CUISINE IN NEW ORLEANS is Written & Produced by Suzanne Pfefferle. Filmed by Lenny Delbert. Narrated by Peggy Scott Laborde.

Those interviewed in VIETNAMESE CUISINE IN NEW ORLEANS are:

Rene Louapre IV – Blackened Out Media
Peter Thriffiley, Jr. – Blackened Out Media
Ian McNulty – Food Writer, Gambit
Chef John Besh – Restaurant August, Besh Steak, Domenica, Luke New Orleans, Luke San Antonio, La Provence, Soda Shop, The American Sector, Borgne
Poppy Tooker – host of Louisiana Eats! on WWNO radio
Chef Dominique Macquet – Executive Chef, Tamarind by Dominique
Chef Quan Tran – Chef de Cuisine, Tamarind by Dominique
Chef Justin Devillier – Executive Chef, La Petit Grocery
Chef Brian Landry – Executive Chef, Borgne Restaurant
Randy Fertel –  Historian; President, Ruth U. Fertel Foundation & Fertel Foundation
Rien Fertel – Food Historian
Ahn Joseph Cao – Former Congressman for New Orleans
Chef Minh – Cafe Minh
Tiffany Le-  Chef & Owner, Le Viet Cafe
Dr. Van Lam – Cardiac Sonographer & Community Relations Specialist for West Jefferson Medical Center, West Jefferson Vietnamese Fund
Andrew Gomila – Owner, Geaux Plates Food Truck
Fr. Vien Nguyen – Catholic Priest, Catholic Charities; Former Pastor of Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church
Karl Takacs, Tuyett Takacs, & Karl Takacs, Jr – Owners, Pho Tau Bay
Tan Dinh – Owners
Daniel Nguyen – Project Manager, VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative Project Manager & Environmental Justice Coordinator, Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Corp.


About Writer & Producer Suzanne Pfefferle

Suzanne Pfefferle is native New Orleanian, freelance writer and film producer. Her work has appeared in such publications as Where Y'at Magazine, New Orleans Living, Where - New Orleans, and Travelhost - New Orleans. Pfefferle's first documentary, 'Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans,' will debut on WYES on October 14th, 2012. Following a trip to Viet Nam, she began conducting research for this project. An avid traveler, Pfefferle has also visited India, Jamaica, and Egypt. Cuba is her next stop.

Pfefferle attended Loyola University as a Communications major and graduated from Our Lady of Holy Cross College in Liberal Arts, with a concentration on English and art. After graduation, she worked in the Promotion Department of Pelican Publishing Company.

When she is not writing or pondering her next project, Pfefferle enjoys bike riding and salsa dancing.

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