Conquering both their nostalgia and social media, Vietnamese-origin home chefs are taking to Facebook and Instagram to show off their mouth-watering dishes to thousands of fans and followers.
Juggling their passion for cooking with their career and personal responsibilities can be tough at times but for these cooks, dedicating time each day to sharing their motherland’s food with the world is well-worth the effort.
#vietnamesefood leads to more than 861,600 Vietnamese food-related photos on Instagram posted from accounts across the globe.
Among them are many from overseas Vietnamese, like @thepetitechef of Agnes Bach Thuy Dinh – a Melbourne resident with over 21,000 Instagram followers.
Using the handle @thepetitechef, the mother of three fascinates people with hundreds of photos featuring Vietnamese dishes such as bap nuong mo hanh (Vietnamese-style barbecued corn on the cob with spring onion oil), banh bot loc (tapioca dumplings with prawns and pork in banana leaves), canh khoai mo nau tom (purple yams and prawn soup with rice paddy herbs), banh thuan hap (Vietnamese steamed sponge cupcakes), che dau xanh duong phen pho tai (green beans in rock sugar syrup and seaweed), and many more.
A photo of banh thuan hap on @thepetitechef
Despite being busy running her own business, the 49-year-old home cook updates her Instagram regularly. She says the dishes she posts are simply what she serves on a daily basis to friends and family.
“Cooking is my long-time passion,” she told Tuoi Tre News via email. “I have cooked for lots of my non-Vietnamese friends and thank God they all love my cooking.”
Agnes Bach Thuy Dinh
Dinh began her instajourney with only 18 followers after being encouraged by her children to share her passion.
Since then, @thepetitechef has continued to inspire more and more fans with photos of home-cooked mouth-watering dishes.
“Many have left very positive comments and emails flood in with people asking for recipes,” Dinh said.
Living in Canada, cooking enthusiast Justine Nguyen has succeeded in winning over more than 15,800 subscribers with her YouTube channel, Jn Cooking Channel.
Coming from a family which placed heavy importance on passing down recipes to the next generation, Nguyen began sending photos and videos detailing recipes to her nieces and cousins once they grew up and moved out on their own.
“Their friends started following the instructions too. They had great success and talked me into posting the videos on YouTube,” Nguyen said. Since then, her 5-year-old YouTube channel has become a hit, along with Facebook and Instagram accounts under the same name.
Between the three platforms, the home chef has over 68,000 social media foodies eagerly awaiting her next Vietnamese dish.
The self-proclaimed recipe developer and consultant shared that she has received reactions from fans from all over the world, including Russia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Laos, the U.S., Canada, and of course Vietnam.
“An East Indian lady who is married to a Vietnamese man reached out to me and said she’s so happy she found my YouTube channel because she can now cook all of her husband’s favorite Vietnamese dishes,” Nguyen happily shared. “A woman in Greece, who loves Vietnamese food but can’t find it, is now able to make her own dishes because of my online videos.”
Banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake) made by Jn Cooking Channel
Nguyen’s Canadian friends have even expressed their jealousy of Vietnamese cuisine because “Vietnamese foods include such a variety of soups, seafood, pork, beef, fish, and poultry, with variations of rice and noodles and wraps and rolls.”
Similarly, owner of the over 66,600-subsciber YouTube channel RunAwayRice, Huyen Ton Nu Thuy Trang, also has fans from around the globe.
Trang launched her channel in 2012 with simple videos demonstrating how to make Vietnamese sauces and pickled vegetables. Her goal was to share recipes that were easy to follow, healthy, and delicious.
Huyen Ton Nu Thuy Trang
“At the time, there were just a few YouTubers sharing Vietnamese cooking tutorials in English and I really liked the idea of sharing Vietnamese cuisine to an English-speaking audience,” she said.
Since then, the San Diego-based software consultant has flooded her channel with Vietnamese dishes, ranging from cha lua (steamed pork roll) to bun rieu (crab noodle soup).
One of her latest dishes is banh chung (Vietnamese traditional rice cake for the Lunar New Year).
Shying away from YouTube and Instagram, Brazil-based To Van Anh Kiet shows off his creations in person by hosting a cooking class aimed at connecting Vietnamese food lovers in Rio de Janeiro.
“My class typically has 8 to 12 learners from many countries. Some live in the city and some are tourists,” Kiet said, adding dishes like fresh spring rolls, pho, and chicken with rice are often requested to be featured in his class.
When he is unable to organize a class, Kiet shares the dishes and recipes on his Facebook page Culinaria VietnamitaOriental No Rio.
During his lesson, Kiet not only teaches people how to cook, but also tries to explain Vietnamese cuisine culture, such as the meaning and origin of the dishes, in an effort to help learners understand more about Vietnam, its people, and culture.
To Van Anh Kiet
On December 31 last year, Kiet was voted among Rio de Janeiro’s 10 most interesting foreigners of 2016 by The Rio Times.
Cooking to connect with home
Moving to Rio for work since 2011, Kiet said he began cooking to ease his own desire for Vietnamese dishes since so few Vietnamese live in the city.
His friends quickly fell in love with Vietnamese food, partly because it is so healthy, he said.
“Collecting spices has always been one of the hardest parts of teaching, but fortunately I can find some of the major ingredients in Rio," Kiet shared. “However, some I have to grow, like Vietnamese coriander, laksa leaves, shiso, and basil. Sometimes I also bring dried ingredients from Vietnam when I visit home.”
Photos of Vietnamese dishes made by To Van Anh Kiet posted on his Facebook page
Meanwhile, to Vietnamese who have been away from home for a much longer time, like Dinh, Trang, or Nguyen, cooking Vietnamese food not only helps them remain connected to where they were born, but also maintain their family traditions.
“I call Australia home but Vietnam is definitely my homeland,” Dinh said. “I grew up learning how to cook from my grandparents and my mother, therefore I'd like to keep our family traditions in the kitchen.”
“My children will definitely learn their roots from my cooking and from our traditional customs and values,” she added.
RunAwayRice creator Trang also shared that she “definitely considers Vietnam her homeland.”
“My passion for Vietnamese cuisine has been a wonderful way for me to learn and connect with my heritage,” Trang said.
“I lived in Vietnam until I was 6 and clearly remember the sights and smells of the markets and street vendors. Even though we were poor, food was always a focus of family gatherings and my mother and oldest sister could turn basic foods into feasts with their mastery of seasonings and sauces,” Nguyen recalled.
To her, one of the most heart-touching reactions is from people who say learning to cook using her Vietnamese recipes has reconnected them with their own families and heritage.
“Some are rediscovering dishes they haven’t had since childhood,” she said.