Luke Nguyen’s family escaped Vietnam as boat people in 1978, first to Thailand where Luke was born, before ending up in Sydney’s Vietnamese hub of Cabramatta. Today, Luke is owner of the award-winning Red Lantern in Surry Hills, and a celebrated chef, author, gastronomic traveler and restaurateur.
Earlier this year, he spent some time in Vietnam while filming an upcoming television series on SBS and researching his recently released book, The Songs of Sapa. In this excerpt from Issue 05 of Habitus magazine Luke takes us on a walk through Ho Chi Minh City.
Read on to find out how you can win a signed copy of The Songs of Sapa.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly known as Saigon, is located at the heart of the southern part of Vietnam, it is where my family is from and it is where I’m slowly beginning to call home. It is the largest city in the country, very densely populated with 7 million inhabitants and 5 million motorbikes which zip dangerously through congested streets once swarming with only bicycles.
A chaotic but charming city; walk down wide tree lined boulevards admiring old French colonial architecture and sample food from one of the most refined cuisines in the world. This city is rich in culture and history and is the driving force behind Vietnam’s fast growing economy which has created the ‘New Saigon’ with modern hotels, fine dining restaurants, funky bars, art galleries and high end fashion boutiques.
Make your way to the city centre to District 1, known by the locals as Saigon. The area is compact and intimate, so it is best seen by foot. This is where you will be faced with your first challenge – crossing the road. There are no pedestrian crossings, and red traffic lights does not necessarily mean stop. So slowly make your way across the road at a constant pace, remembering not to pause or speed up – the traffic will gradually move around you.
If you would like the chance to win a signed copy of The Songs of Sapa, with stories of Luke's travels throughout the region and recipes of Vietnam, simply send us an email telling us in 50 words or less your best/most memorable Asian food experience. The most creative and tantilising answer will win the signed copy of The Songs of Sapa.
Images below by Suzanna Boyd