New Orleans, Vietnam,  and a History of Their  Food and Culture
Aug 08 2019

New Orleans, Vietnam, and a History of Their Food and Culture

By: Kimmie Tubre

There are many delicious dishes that are traditional to New Orleans. Tourists come from near and far just to try Cajun and Creole cuisines. But when it comes to foods from other cultures, New Orleans tends to fall under the radar. This is unfortunate, considering that New Orleans has some of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the U.S.A. There are several Vietnamese spots from Uptown to Downtown, New Orleans East to the Westbank. Some of the best spots are the least fancy and are usually where you can find the most authentic dishes.

From pho to the Vietnamese po-boy, "banh mi," New Orleanians are currently on a delicious bandwagon. But the question is, "Why is Vietnamese food so delicious in New Orleans and recently more popular than ever? "

History of Vietnamese in New Orleans

New Orleans has a very high population of people of Vietnamese descent. During the 1970s, thousands traveled to New Orleans to escape the Communist regime after the war in Vietnam. Why New Orleans? Well, there is no one reason in particular-more like a number of them. For one, New Orleans is a coastal city holding many of the same qualities as Vietnam. Things like the climate, fishing, and Catholicism were very common to the Vietnamese people migrating from their country. Also, like Louisiana, Vietnam was once colonized by the French.

Upon arrival, many settled in Algiers and New Orleans East. Others made their homes in areas like Grand Isle and Plaquemines Parish, where fishing is plentiful, and they were able to start their own fishing farms.

Over the decades, the number of Vietnamese living in New Orleans has grown, with many owning small businesses and restaurants. While Vietnamese food isn't the only food they sell, in recent years, Vietnamese food in the city has become rather trendy.

Culturally Delicious Dishes

There's a recurring trend around the U.S. Whenever a large group of people move in, the locals go crazy for their food. Similar to Italian food in New York and Cuban food in Florida, this has happened a number of times before. Of course, this is nothing new to the Big Easy. From the beginning, African, Spanish, and French foods influenced what we now deem as our own homegrown cuisine. Vietnamese food entering New Orleans is no different from the past. As the people came, so did their foods and traditions.

Vietnamese Food Craze in New Orleans

Pho is probably the most famous Vietnamese dish in the U.S. In New Orleans, many prefer banh mi, and there's no secret why. Known locally as the "Vietnamese po-boy," New Orleans and Vietnam share a love of the French baguette and equally use them in their signature dishes.

Banh mi is a traditional baguette, usually filled with anything from grilled pork to lemongrass chicken and specific vegetables and herbs: chili, cilantro, cucumbers, carrots, seasoning sauce, and mayonnaise. Other famous dishes like vermicelli, spring rolls, and a variety of rice bowls are also very popular in New Orleans.

As Vietnamese restaurants flourish throughout the city, it is still safe to say that some of the best places are the mom and pop restaurants located in the places that were originally settled by the Vietnamese. As they've expanded, locals have become more open to embracing the Vietnamese foods and culture.

From the fisheries to the seafood markets to the large Hong Kong Market on the Westbank, Vietnamese culture is here to stay and has become a part of the city and the city's culture. With its major influence on the city, the culture continues to thrive. Even the non-locals are catching on.

Of course, we are not the only city with a large Vietnamese population; however, we still maintain that the best Vietnamese restaurants and culture are located right here in the Big Easy.

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