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#foodartmonthly introduces Vietnamese cuisine to the world



Though borders around the world are still closed due to COVID-19, a group of artists across the globe have been exchanging and promoting their country’s cuisine using paintbrushes and papers.

Since May 2021, the hashtag #foodartmonthly has spread all over Instagram, creating an impromptu database of dishes representing the world’s cuisines, including delicacies from Vietnam. 

The hashtag is essentially a monthly food illustration challenge initiated by a group of about a dozen artists from Indonesia, Japan, Ukraine, China, the U.S., Venezuela, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia.

It has drawn attention from food illustrators throughout the social network.

Vietnam’s participation

One of the host artists of #foodartmonthly is Ly Tuyet Phan, an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City.

Phan participated in the October challenge centered around ‘egg dishes,’ offering up an illustration of thit kho trung (caramelized pork and eggs) and the ingredients to make the dish including pork, coconut juice, garlic, and chili.

“A traditional dish in Vietnam at Tet [Vietnamese Lunar New Year] and you can also see it in everyday meals in Vietnam. And rice is commonly served along with this dish,” Phan wrote in the caption of the illustration posted to her @phanh_phanh_0717 handle.

An illustration of ‘thit kho trung’ (caramelized pork and eggs) by @phanh_phanh_0717

Foodies from around the world seemed to love Phan’s work.

“Wow! An interesting traditional dish! The illustration is incredible!” @anyta.kulyk from Ukraine commented.

“I always love how you paint both the ingredients and the dish! Your style is beautiful!” @kailenefalls, who is living in Japan, added.

According to Phan, every month, the group of host artists proposes a theme and calls on Instagram’s art community to join them in creating food art.

After approving a theme, each host creates an illustration and sends it to Kailene Falls (@kailenefalls), an American illustrator based in Tokyo, who creates collages of their works.

About a week before the posting date (the 20th of each month), all the host artists will announce the theme on their Instagram and call on their followers to participate.

On the 20th day of each month, the host artists will post their own illustrations and tag others in the group.

Since launching, #foodartmonthly has carried on a number of topics, which feature celebration food from a country, fruit dishes/sweets, egg dishes, sandwiches, packaged snacks, street food, traditional breakfast, and sweets.

For each topic, participants are asked to illustrate a typical dish of their country, or the country they are living in.

After knowing of the theme to illustrate, Phan chooses to narrow her selection of related dishes before picking her favorite dish.

“I don’t find any topic too difficult, I’m just worried that I’m not capable of conveying all the quintessence of the dish on the paper,” Phan told Tuoi Tre News.

“Fortunately, during the past topics, I have not encountered that problem.”

A supplied illustrated portrait of Ly Tuyet Phan drawn by @pumknjr_illustration

A supplied illustrated portrait of Ly Tuyet Phan drawn by @pumknjr_illustration

According to the 28-year-old, Vietnamese cuisine deserves to be promoted more.

“The unique feature of Vietnamese cuisine is the combination of many ingredients, especially vegetables, to create a dish,” she commented.

“When I see people commenting and expressing their love for Vietnamese food, I feel happy and a little excited as thanks to my illustrations, my friends on Instagram know more about Vietnamese cuisine.”

An illustration by @phanh_ phanh_0717 featuring Tau hu nuoc duong (tofu topped with sugar syrup).

An illustration by @phanh_ phanh_0717 featuring ‘tau hu nuoc duong’ (tofu topped with sugar syrup).

Diem Ngoc, a former host artist from Vietnam, also caught the eyes of her followers with illustrations of Vietnamese dishes on her @edimcatstuff handle.

Although she withdrew from the role of a host artist in October, Ngoc still partook in the challenge of ‘egg dishes’ with a painting of hot vit lon (balut).

“It is a really popular street food here in Saigon, you can hear the legendary voice ‘hot vit lon day’ [from the street vendor inviting customers to buy] everywhere,” Ngoc introduced in the illustration’s caption, referring to Ho Chi Minh City.

An illustration featuring hot vit lon by @edimcatstuff

An illustration featuring ‘hot vit lon’ by @edimcatstuff

Before ‘egg dishes,’ the 27-year-old woman also participated in other #foodartmonthly challenges with dishes like roasted pork sandwiches, boiled snails with lemongrass and lemon leaves, and more.

“My favorite topic, which is also the hardest one for me, was street food,” Ngoc shared.

“Vietnam has too many street foods, and eventually I chose boiled snails because of its uniqueness.

“People were surprised and delighted because they did not think snails would be such a popular dish in Vietnam.”

A famous cuisine will help encourage tourism and spread the country’s culture more widely, according to Ngoc.

For her, the most unique thing about Vietnamese food is the focus on the balance of flavors, along with the skillful combination of ingredients and spices to make the dishes fit the taste of many people.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese cuisine also sees a variety of flavors or processing methods for the same dish in different regions.

“As Vietnamese cuisine is no longer strange to international friends, everyone knows about our famous dishes like banh mi or pho, so when I joined #foodartmonthly, I wanted to introduce lesser famous foods that still represent Vietnamese cuisine”, Ngoc explained.

50 to 100 submissions for each challenge

#foodartmonthly was sparked from the idea of Pavan Kapoor, an Indonesian artist of Indian origin, to introduce cuisines from countries around the world and build a community of culinary artists on Instagram.

“I used to save all the food illustrators I liked so when I got the idea to have my own collaborations, I just sent messages to a few artists making sure each one was from a different country,” Kapoor told Tuoi Tre News.

A book author and journalist, Kapoor became active on Instagram with her handle @pavankapoor21art when COVID-19 hit the world in early 2020.

“I have always been very fond of painting food and when I approached Kailene Falls with my idea, she was excited and our group was born,” Kapoor recalled.

An illustrated portrait of Pavan Kapoor

An illustrated portrait of Pavan Kapoor

According to Kapoor, #foodartmonthly saw more than 500 posts related to their topic in a few months of launching.

Meanwhile, 30-year-old American Kailene Falls shared that the host artist group usually receives somewhere between 50 and 100 submissions for each challenge, with the breakfast challenge having the most submissions, at around 120.

“I think the challenge encourages people to look at food from an artistic perspective, and appreciate the foods that they’ve grown up with in an entirely different way,” Falls said.

“Sharing international art at a time when travel is quite restricted helps us get out of our own bubbles a bit.”

‘Wonderful food culture in Vietnam’

Every month the challenge receives submissions from Vietnamese participants, Falls said.

“I think there is a wonderful food culture in Vietnam, and a strong appreciation for food art,” she remarked.

“I love the esthetic that comes from your country, and the foods always look so delicious and amazing!

“I’m a huge fan of herbs, and I feel like Vietnamese food does herbs absolutely the best!

“The combinations of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors alongside the bright and fresh herbs are just amazing.

“Honestly, everything I ate in Vietnam was wonderful! I also loved the huge variety of amazing fruit beverages.”

Kailene Falls is seen in a photo she provided Tuoi Tre News

Kailene Falls is seen in a photo she provided Tuoi Tre News.

Once visiting her sister who taught English in Vietnam for nearly a year, Falls said she would love Vietnamese food to become even more internationally renowned.

In Japan, there are many Vietnamese restaurants but it is hard to find something with the same punchy flavors that she ate in Vietnam because herbs are so expensive there, she added.

“I would love for more authentic Vietnamese foods to become more accessible around the world, because the flavors are so unique and wonderful,” she said.

Currently, the #foodartmonthly creators hope to maintain this challenge for a long time so that more food cultures can be connected.

Anna Kulyk (@anyta.kulyk), a 28-year-old female host artist from Ukraine, said that she joined the challenge out of her love for food illustrations and to know more about world cuisines.

An illustrated portrait of Anna Kulyk

An illustrated portrait of Anna Kulyk

And indeed, she discovered a new world in Vietnamese dishes.

“Vietnamese cuisine in this challenge was a discovery for me,” she commented.

“I have never been to Vietnam before and have no idea what kind of food they eat there, but thanks to the challenge, I got acquainted with unusual desserts with tofu, durian donuts, and interesting hearty banh mi breakfast.

“Some snacks from Vietnam can be found in our country, for example, vegetable chips.”

The challenge has shown how diverse the cuisines of different countries are and, at the same time, how much they have in common, Kulyk observed.

An illustration by @phanh_ phanh_0717 featuring com tam (Vietnamese broken rice topped with grilled ribs and steamed egg meatloaf).

An illustration by @phanh_ phanh_0717 featuring ‘com tam’ (Vietnamese broken rice topped with grilled ribs and steamed egg meat loaf).

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Vietnam’s special laparoscopic surgery technique draws foreign patient



Editor’s note: In late November, an Australian patient sought laparoscopic surgery in Vietnam for a common bile duct cyst. 

The procedure was conducted by Assoc. Professor Tran Ngoc Son, deputy director of Saint Paul General Hospital in Hanoi, who is among the few doctors specializing in single-hole laparoscopic surgery for choledochal cysts in pediatric patients in Vietnam.

Since 2011, Son has been a trailblazer as the first to perform single-hole laparoscopic surgery for common bile duct cysts in the country. 

Over the years, he has successfully conducted over 300 surgeries using this technique, significantly alleviating pain and facilitating faster recovery for pediatric patients compared to conventional surgical methods.

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters recently interviewed Son to learn more about the technique.

Could you provide insights into the recent common bile duct cyst surgery conducted at the hospital for a foreign pediatric patient?

In late November, the family of an Australian patient revealed that their child had been unwell since October while residing in Indonesia. 

There, they were informed by a doctor that open surgery could be conducted to remove their daughter’s common bile duct cyst.

Seeking alternative treatments, they discovered the single-hole laparoscopic surgery method for choledochal cysts. 

Fortunately, a doctor in Bali, Indonesia, who had attended an international scientific conference, was familiar with this technique and provided the family with my contact information. 

While initially exploring other options in hospitals in Australia and France, after more than a month, they decided to come to Vietnam for treatment.

The patient underwent a successful surgery using the single-hole laparoscopic method, with only a small scar left next to the navel, ensuring the baby’s esthetic appearance. Remarkably, just three days after the operation, the patient was already playing and showed rapid recovery.

How does this surgical technique offer advantages compared to other methods?

Traditionally, open surgery techniques were prevalent for common bile duct cysts, and many countries still employ this method. 

However, in nations like Japan, the United States, Thailand, and Indonesia, single-hole laparoscopic surgery has become a standard for treating inguinal hernias in children.

In Vietnam, laparoscopic surgery is utilized to minimize trauma and ensure esthetic outcomes. 

Although conventional laparoscopic surgery reduces trauma compared to open procedures, it typically involves making four incisions to place access ports for endoscopic instruments, potentially leaving three to four scars on the abdominal wall. 

In contrast, the single-hole laparoscopic technique involves only one incision through the navel, with surgical instruments inserted and manipulated through this single small incision.

This method offers distinct esthetic advantages, as the patient will have no visible surgical scars since the navel serves as a natural scar that conceals the incision. 

Additionally, recovery time is faster and the success rate of such surgeries is notably high.

Assoc. Professor Tran Ngoc Son, deputy director of Saint Paul General Hospital in Hanoi. Photo: Duong Lieu / Tuoi Tre

Assoc. Professor Tran Ngoc Son, deputy director of Saint Paul General Hospital in Hanoi. Photo: Duong Lieu / Tuoi Tre

When did you first adopt this surgical technique? And why do you opt for a seemingly more challenging method compared to other techniques?

I first encountered the single-hole laparoscopic surgery technique through the navel announced by a doctor at an international scientific conference in Beijing, China in 2011. 

Recognizing its numerous advantages, I believed it could be successfully implemented in Vietnam.

One notable feature of this technique is its compatibility with standard laparoscopic surgical instruments, eliminating the need for specialized tools.

Upon learning about it in 2011, I introduced this technique to pediatric patients. 

Initially, the surgery duration was extended compared to conventional techniques, which typically take three to four hours for choledochal cyst surgery. 

In my initial single-hole laparoscopic surgeries, the duration was five to six hours. 

However, after approximately 10 surgeries, the duration gradually reduced, eventually matching that of other conventional techniques.

Despite its initial complexity, the technique offers various advantages, particularly in ensuring esthetics for patients, minimizing pain and facilitating faster recovery. 

Motivated by the desire to provide the most effective treatment, I expanded the application of this technique to various surgeries, including inguinal hernia surgery, ovarian cystectomy, appendectomy, lymphatic cyst procedures, and other digestive defects.

Considering the higher incidence of congenital choledochal cysts in Vietnam and some other Southeast Asian countries compared to the global average, the application of this technique holds the potential to benefit a larger number of pediatric patients in the region.

Can this technique be transferred to lower-level hospitals, enhancing their capacity to treat patients?

This technique demands advanced technology and intricate surgical skills. 

Unlike the conventional practice of making four incisions for laparoscopic instruments, this technique involves only one hole, making it more challenging. 

The surgeon must possess advanced technical expertise to execute this method successfully.

An advantage of this approach is that it does not necessitate specialized laparoscopic surgical instruments or utilize other surgical tools.

Consequently, with a genuine commitment to study and enhance surgical techniques, doctors can feasibly explore and refine their proficiency in performing these surgeries.

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Love can form a cultural bridge



Illustration by Trịnh Lập

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

The wedding season has started, and over the past few days a wedding in Can Lộc District, Hà Tĩnh Province, of a mixed couple caught the attention of millions of viewers online.

In the clip posted by the bride, TikToker Seung Thảo, you can see a Korean mother in her 50s wearing a Vietnamese áo dài dancing with her two children and her in-laws.

The Korean mother-in-law reportedly said that in South Korea weddings today last for about two hours, but here in her in-laws’ village, her son’s wedding lasted for two days and two nights. Everyone was overjoyed, friendly and excited.

Mixed marriages have become very common in today’s globalised world. Once in a while, you read about Vietnamese women trapped in marriage with Chinese or Korean men, living in a remote place where there is nothing relevant to their Vietnamese identity such as food, community or culture.

Sometimes they are badly treated by their husbands or in-laws. Every year, women kidnapped into marriages in China escape their miseries to tread jungles and long roads to find a way back home in Việt Nam.

When bad news happens, you would hear about it more often. But this wedding received the many blessings of everyone who got to see it. The couple met at work in Việt Nam and chose to wear the Vietnamese áo dài to be closer to her Vietnamese in-laws.

Thảo, the bride, posted on her social media and said she was glad her mother-in-law wasn’t trying to hold back her feelings and got along well with her parents.

Ancient prejudices about conflicts between mother and daughter-in-law are less prevalent in modern weddings, where mothers can be younger, independent and ready to help out when they can.

Thảo said her mother-in-law always wanted to visit Việt Nam because she knew the beautiful scenery and friendly people. She is also fond of some classic Vietnamese foods, such as roasted pork and pickled mustard greens.

Today, Korean food culture has also taken root in Việt Nam, where you can find kimchi in a neighbourhood wet market. They are just as popular as the pickled mustard greens, cabbages, or aubergine that are so loved by the Vietnamese.

For the wedding, she tried several áo dài, which she thought were very graceful.

“People think the mother-in-law will always care for her son, and want her daughter-in-law to do so,” Thảo said. “But my mother-in-law is different. She wants her son to share difficulties with me and usually sides with me if we had a fight, which made me feel very lucky.”

Thảo said that her father-in-law couldn’t come to their wedding in Hà Tĩnh due to health issues, but he already said he’d make up for it at their wedding in South Korea in 2024. 

A Vietnamese saying goes, “Có con mà gả chồng gần, có bát canh cần nó cũng mang cho,” literally translated as “When you have a daughter, marry her to someone living nearby as when she cooks a vegetable soup, she would bring you a bowl!”

Thirty or twenty years ago, during the opening up of the country, mixed marriages were usually between international men who came to Việt Nam as businessmen or travellers, and the women followed them abroad. Today, more young Vietnamese women get to travel the world, meet their men, and then bring them home to get married. 

Well, Thảo’s parents may not just want a bowl of soup from her every day, but be happy to see their child happy and making a home in a distant land. But the couple can always visit or even move to work in Việt Nam for a few years as more South Korean companies have established factories here close to their home. 

Thảo said after she finishes her studies in South Korea, the couple would like to start their careers in Việt Nam, where her mother-in-law can always visit and have a good time whenever she likes.  VNS


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Tourism beach hub ranked among most searched destinations by Indian travellers



Tourism beach hub ranked among most searched destinations by Indian travellers

Artists perform at a beach festival in Đà Nẵng City. The central city was ranked among the most searched destinations by Indian tourists on the travel website Skyscanner. VNS Photo Công Thành

ĐÀ NẴNG — The central city of Đà Nẵng was ranked one of the most searched destinations by Indian tourists in terms of food, weather, shopping and historical site visits on the travel website Skyscanner – with a 1,141 per cent increase, the city’s tourism promotion centre said.

It said 71 per cent of search hits by Indian tourists focused on food, while 65 per cent queried weather in the beach hub in central Việt Nam.

The centre also said Đà Nẵng joined the top 10 search destinations on Skyscanner, a list including Krabi (Thailand), Mahe (Seychelles), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Baku (Azerbaijan) and Osaka (Japan).

About 38 per cent of searches targeted the opportunity of tasting local cuisine in Đà Nẵng when visiting the coastal destination in 2024.

Đà Nẵng has more than 100 restaurants serving from 100 to 300 guests at a given time, and 30 Indian food restaurants.

Fishermen draw in fishing nets with the morning catch on the beach of Đà Nẵng City.  Pristine beaches and weather are two popular searches by Indian travellers. Photo courtesy of Đặng Ngọc Hà 

The city’s tourism department earlier hosted a promotion programme in New Delhi and Gurugram, India, and called on Air India, Vistara and IndiGo to launch more air routes between Đà Nẵng and India.

The department said 95,000 visitors from India had visited the city, accounting 50 per cent of total Indian tourists visiting Việt Nam in nine months of 2023.

Five-star Furama resort Đà Nẵng had already prepared for hosting MICE and weddings for Indian tourists, while low-cost carrier Vietjet Air resumed seven new international routes from Đà Nẵng to the five largest cities in India – New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bangalore – in early 2022.

Indian travel companies including One Above, In Time, Tourister Vinnaayak Holidays, Kesari Travels, Jain&Jain, While Board and Plutus Voyage, also paid attention to favoured locations on the beach in Đà Nẵng.

Basheer Adul Rahim, director of One Above from India, expects that the number of Indian tourists to Đà Nẵng would reach 3 million in the next two years, with new direct air routes launched between Đà Nẵng and New Delhi.

The complex of Furama resort Đà Nẵng-Ariyana was awarded with World luxury Awards 2023 in categories of the Best Luxury Beach resort in ASEAN, while Don Cipriani’s restaurant was awarded as the Best Luxury Heritage restaurant in Asia.

A view of beach-front Ariyana International Convention Centre, the Best Convention Centre in Việt Nam, is a favourite site for hosting MICE and Wedding service tours from India. Photo courtesy of Furama Đà Nẵng Resort

Furama’s International Convention Centre –host of the APEC 2017 – won as the Best Convention Centre in Việt Nam, and V-Sense Wellness & Spa in the resort took the Best Theme Spa design in Asia.

Đà Nẵng hosted 5.6 million tourists, of which 1.6 million were international arrivals, in three quarters of 2023. VNS


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