At my office, we have a microwave installed in an empty room. This morning, as I went to heat up my banh bao for my morning coffee, two of my colleagues who saw me exclaimed: "Banh Bao!!" "That's what I packed for my kids' lunch today!". Their familiarity with the banh bao was a bit disconcerting, considering that the first colleague was a French (my best friend Bernouille) and the second one a Congolese (and one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen).
This is a trend that I witness frequently and it really warms my heart. Consider how the following Vietnamese/Oriental dishes are known, consumed and appreciated all over the world:
- Cha Gio (all right, Nem, if you want to call it that way). Last time I was in Dakar (Senegal), I stuffed myself with some excellent cha gio and the lady who made them laughed at me when I asked her where she got the recipe of a Vietnamese dish: "What Vietnamese dish, this is typical Senegalese cuisine!" And she was serious too. Apparently, Senegal being a French colony like Vietnam, Senegalese soldiers were sent to Vietnam to fight the French colonial war; they went home with Vietnamese wives and the rest is history. The Chinese, the Philippinos and the Indonesians also have their own versions of eggrolls, but nothing can beat the good old cha gio.
- Banh Mi. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BÃ¡nh_mÃ¬. They're cheap, they're convenient, they're delicious.
- Ramen noodles or dried noodles in a bag. I know, they're Japanese, but again, they are so ubiquitous and all of my sons' non-Asian friends love them and eat them regularly (well, they're cheap and some can be quite tasty, especially if you add fresh ingredients like I do: bean sprouts, shallots, slices of Chinese sausage, fresh vegetables).
- Sushi, another Japanese invention. In Montreal, you cannot go to a cocktail party without being served cha gio, dim sum or sushi. It seems to be the law now.
- Cà phê sua đá or sweet iced coffee. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ca_phe_sua_da. There's nothing like it in the world.
There are many more examples of Oriental food gone mainstream, but I want to conclude by paying respect to a special Vietnamese dish that has acquired universal appeal, the one and only Pho. Even my favorite singer Otis Redding has sung about it. Take it away, Otis!
Pho, pho, pho, pho, pho, pho, pho, pho, pho, Your turn!