In 1975 the world was undergoing a massive paradigm shift with the ending of the Vietnam war, or American war depending on who you’re speaking to. This war resulted in approximately two million Vietnamese nationals fleeing as refugees to all corners of the globe, with a large number migrating to the United Kingdom and in turn ending up in London. Once in the UK, these new residents found challenges relating to employment opportunities, housing, language and culture. While initially clothing factories offered employment, after a period of decline, the vast majority – eager to foster a sense of culture and home – forged new paths by opening Vietnamese restaurants in London, and so began the London love affair with Vietnamese restaurants and cuisine.
Vietnamese cuisine is now one of the most loved and sought after cuisines throughout London thanks to Kingsland Road, affectionately known as pho mile to most Londoners. This area is where you’ll find the vast majority of London’s Vietnamese restaurants serving up fresh, authentic and supremely flavoursome dishes that have made London foodies go wild. In addition to pho, you’ll find dishes like, bánhi mi, bún, gỏi cuốn (summer rolls) and a plethora of other tantalising options gracing the menu at the Vietnamese restaurants this London district has to offer.
If you’re going to be treating yourself to a meal in one of the incredible Vietnamese restaurants in London, you’re certainly in for a meal you and your senses are unlikely to forget in a hurry. You’ll find vibrant, bold and zesty flavours with bursts of lemongrass, ginger and mint as the vast majority of Vietnamese dishes, and those found in London restaurants, are brimming with notes of chilli, garlic and fresh herbs that give it its distinctive taste. You’ll also find dishes containing sweet, sour, spicy and nutty flavour combinations that London’s Vietnamese restaurant chefs have been playing around with to create new and exciting dishes just begging to be sampled.
Unlike its other Asian counterparts like Cantonese, Thai or Indian for example, Vietnamese is fresh, clean and simple, with an abundance of fresh herbs that give this cuisine its signature flavours. Also unlike other cuisines, most dishes, in particular those at Vietnamese restaurants you’ll find in London are extremely palate-cleansing and you’ll find you leave feeling content yet light and fresh. Not only that, but there is a prominent French influence within Vietnamese cuisine from the many years of colonisation during the late 1800s, and that influence has carried through into modern dishes in Vietnamese restaurants you’ll find in London, most notably in the popular pho and bánh mi – crusty baguettes filled with pork belly, fish or beef and pickled carrot, daikon, chilli and coriander – that have gone from being a staple of Vietnamese street food stalls to popular features in Vietnamese restaurants in London.
Pho – pronounced fa – has literally taken the world and London by storm lately, with Vietnamese restaurants dedicated to it popping up throughout the city, all thanks to globalisation. Known as Vietnam’s national dish, it is primarily made from beef or chicken broth, contains rice noodles, herbs, sprouts and meat. However, catering to demand and dietary requirements of many guests have led some Vietnamese restaurants in London to be creative with their pho and offer many vegetarian and vegan options, as well as add additional ingredients and creative liberties. Although, overall you’ll mostly find that London Vietnamese restaurants try and keep their pho dishes as authentic and therefore simple, as possible.
Who would have thought the humble baguette could take Vietnamese restaurants in London and in turn, Londoners by storm. Bánhi mi – another staple in Vietnamese cuisine, is now a staple on any menu at any Vietnamese restaurant in London worth its weight. Brimming with fresh, zesty flavours and usually pork, beef or fish, bánhi mi is the trendiest sandwich out, and once you sink your teeth into one, you’ll completely understand why. So hop to it, and get down to one of London’s trendy Vietnamese restaurants for your bánhi mi fix as soon as you can!
In its essence, Vietnamese cuisine is the marrying or blending together of hot and cold ingredients, or the yin and yang, which is truly intrinsic to Vietnamese cooking. London’s best Vietnamese restaurants honour this element by boasting dishes that strike the perfect balance between hot, spicy, sweet and sour by using an array of ingredients, herbs and spices like lime, garlic, ginger, chilli and brown sugar to create the dishes you have come to love. So, to balance your chi just right, pop down and indulge in this balanced cuisine from any of the brilliant Vietnamese restaurants London has to offer, it’s well worth it.