The French occupation of Vietnam began in the 1880s and officially went on for six decades, until the Geneva Agreement of 1954 declared Vietnam’s independence. Today, France’s influence is still evident in Vietnam’s architecture, religion and art. However, France’s influence on Vietnamese food has been one of the most lasting results of the French occupation—and certainly the most delicious. Check out these French-influenced foods, and give them a try for yourself.
Perhaps the most obvious French-influenced dish in Vietnam is the banh mi, a sandwich that evolved as the Vietnamese adopted the French tradition of baking baguettes. Vietnamese baguettes use rice flour in the dough, making them lighter and chewier than a typical baguette.
Banh mi sandwiches vary in their contents, but they often contain cold cuts of pork, pickled carrots, cucumbers, pâté and fresh coriander; many restaurants serve vegetarian-friendly banh mi sandwiches with vegetables or tofu, too. The pairing of crusty, hearty bread with fresh Vietnamese flavours makes the banh mi a super satisfying lunch option.
The French influence can also be seen in Vietnam’s national dish, pho. A hearty, fragrant soup often made with slow-simmered beef, spices and rice noodles, pho is prepared in many different ways throughout Vietnam. As a dish, pho shares many similarities with the French soup pot au feu, and it’s possible that the French influenced the Vietnamese tradition of making pho during the occupation. Both soups use beef bones to make a rich stock that is also flavoured with roasted ginger and onions.
At Banana Tree, we value the Vietnamese tradition of making pho, and our Aromatic Pho is one of the most popular dishes on our menu. Our complex pho is simmered with star anise, cinnamon, roasted onion and beef stock, then laced with fresh herbs for a vibrant flavour. Pho is a perfect dish for many different occasions, from a hangover cure on a Sunday morning to a hearty dinner with friends.
The French also had a major impact on the beverages of Vietnam. During the occupation, the French brought coffee with them; the Vietnamese people soon caught on to the caffeinated goodness and tailored it to suit their tastes. Vietnamese coffee is typically brewed strong and served over ice with sweetened condensed milk for a rich, delicious and energising treat. Want to try this Vietnamese specialty? Banana Tree’s Viet Café Noung showcases the bold flavours of Vietnamese coffee and is a great way to end a meal with a buzz.
French-influenced Vietnamese food is a fantastic example of how delicious the fusion of two cuisines can be, and this is exactly the kind of fusion we celebrate at Banana Tree. Our variety of Indochinese dishes make us more than just a Vietnamese restaurant in Soho, Maida Vale, Oxford and beyond—but our Vietnamese food is truly special. We take great care to prepare all our food with authentic ingredients, and we respect the traditions the dishes came from, while embracing the playful qualities that come with creative fusion food. Head to one of our restaurants to experience some of the delicious ways the French influenced Vietnamese cuisine, and try cooking some of them yourself to change up your dinner routine!