French influence in Vietnamese culture

Are you a fan of phở? Did you know the most iconic Vietnamese soup noodle actually came from the French cuisine?

“Phở” is derived from “pot au feu,” a French signature beef stew. The Vietnamese pronounced ‘feu’ as pho and that’s where it all started. Before the French colonization, beef was not consumed in Vietnam. After all, Vietnam is a country with limited land and cows are far more useful as a farming tool. This all changed as Vietnam became the French Indochina. Under the French colonial influence, beef became the symbol of gourmet luxury. That’s why Vietnamese blended the French and Chinese flavors together to created phở.

Coffee is another great example. Unlike the rest of Asia, coffee replaced tea as the go-to beverage in Vietnamese culture. This was certainly not the case prior to the French influence. Today, Vietnam is the second largest exporter of coffee in the world behind Brazil. Coffee isn’t just part of their culture; it’s also pivotal to their economy. Even in the U.S., Vietnamese Americans have popularized Vietnamese coffee. Its strong and distinct flavor, along with the use of condensed milk instead of Half & Half, has earned a seat at some of the most well-know eateries and cafes.

As you can imagine, the list goes on. Although not consumed much in other parts of Asia, bread plays a critical role in Vietnamese cuisine. Millions of Vietnamese still eat banh mi sandwiches for breakfast every single day. Instead of using traditional flour, Vietnamese baguette is made from rice flour. It has been adapted to accommodate local resources and taste preferences.

French influence is deeply ingrained in Vietnamese culture and it continues to influence their way of life today. In this global economy, everything produced in France is still considered to be the finest. Choosing a French-made product is often a badge of honor to demonstrate their good taste in life. For example, it is common for Vietnamese people to gift each other French chocolates and liquor on special occasions. You will find a bottle of Hennessy VSOP literally on the table at every Vietnamese wedding and Christmas get-togethers. That’s also why Vietnamese has significant preference towards Louis Vuitton and Hermes than any other luxury brands.

An estimated 29% – 40% Vietnamese Americans are Catholic. Any guesses on where that influence comes from?

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