Illustrative Image (Source: amthucvungmienvietnam)
Hanoi (VNA) – Hanoi has long been well known for its simple but subtle cuisine. The city’s Tourism Authority is tapping into its profound culinary traditions to promote tourism. Do Dinh Hong, Director of Hanoi Tourism Department, speaks to Kinh te & Do Thi newspaper (Economic and Urban Affairs) about this issue.

* What do you think about the potential of making use of Hanoi’s cuisine to promote the city’s tourism?

Hanoi enjoys very plentiful and delicious dishes. Some of them have earned international recognition, such as pho (noodle soup), bun cha (fresh rice vermicelli and grilled pork), nem (fried spring-rolls), cha ca (fried fish cake), among others. It can be said the food here is the quintessence of the simplest things and is “the key to win the hearts and minds of tourists”. Vietnamese food, especially that of Hanoi, tends to keep the natural flavors of the ingredients, which is one of the reasons why it is increasingly loved by foreigners. Dishes like bun cha and com Me Tri (Me Tri green rice flakes) have also drawn great media attention after being tasted by US President Barack Obama during his recent visit to Vietnam. This is an opportunity and a challenge to develop cuisine-based tourism products, which haven’t received adequate and comprehensive investments so far. The fact that Vietnam doesn’t have a cuisine brand name in the world is really a deficiency.

* As you just said, Hanoi’s cuisine is regarded as “the key to win the hearts and minds of tourists”. So how can we make the most use of this key?

The Hanoi tourism sector always aims at using this “key” effectively to attract tourists. In recent years, the city focused on developing gastronomical tourism. An increasing number of food streets were established, such as Tong Duy Tan and Cam Chi. Several streets and restaurants in the Old Quarter have also been attracting a lot of tourists, like Ta Hien, Ma May, Dong Xuan, Ly Quoc Su, Cau Go, to name a few. All high-end hotels in the city have Asian restaurants to introduce the quintessence of Hanoi’s food. International travel companies have attached importance to bringing tourists to restaurants famous for local specialties during their tours. They are also willing to organize cooking classes with famous chefs on request.

* An expert in modern marketing once said Vietnam should build the brand name “The World’s Kitchen” to promote tourism. What is your take on this idea?

This is a good suggestion and poses a much different viewpoint compared to that of many foreign tourists visiting Vietnam recently. What tourists often know about Vietnam are the country’s beautiful landscapes and age-old cultural traditions, not her culinary arts. The brand name “The World’s Kitchen” seems to be attractive and stimulating, which potentially gives tourist a different point of view about Vietnam. I don’t see it as a vague slogan, but a good hint to develop tourism. It can also be developed into a full-fledged tourism product. Tourists coming to Vietnam will have a chance to experience the liveliness of kitchens and culinary spirits through authentic dishes. The tourism industry is tasked with realizing these ideas in tourism products and delivering them to tourists. This is in line with the government’s "Strategy on Vietnam’s tourism development to 2020, with a vision to 2030".

* So, what will Hanoi have to offer to tourists in the future, in terms of gastronomical tourism?

With the goal of turning Vietnamese culinary treasures into a special tourism product of the city, the Department of Tourism has been focusing on organizing various events, such as street food festivals scheduled every week in the West Lake area and a festival showcasing traditional Hanoi crafts villages every October. These events will help introduce Hanoi’s excellent culinary arts and will feature cooking exchange activities led by chefs from Hanoi, other regions and foreign countries. The city will continue to pick the delicious dishes of certain restaurants to introduce and advertise at cultural exchange events or international tourism cooperation and promotion programmes. We will also organize cooking contests and food festivals to bring Hanoi’s food to domestic and foreign tourists.-VNA