In conversation... with Chef Luke Nguyen, APT Cruises
Vietnamese-Australian chef, Luke Nguyen, is an ambassador for APT cruises in Asia where he is creating exclusive culinary experiences being served on the Mekong and Irrawaddy
My passion for Asian food began almost from the moment my family arrived in Australia. My mother is Vietnamese/ Chinese and I was born in Thailand and raised in the family restaurant in Cabramatta, New South Wales.
At 23 I opened my own restaurant, the Red Lantern in the Surry Hills district of Sydney, but at the busiest time of the year, between Christmas and New Year, I travelled to Vietnam to learn more about the cuisine that is my heritage.
My regular customers began to ask if they could come with me on my culinary ventures and this has now become a reality by working as an ambassador for river cruise specialist, APT. Food is a really important expression of the Vietnamese culture. It tells a story of the land and of the history of the Vietnamese people, and my role helps ensure that passengers sample a true taste of Asia.
I like to add unforgettable experiences during my tours of Ho Chi Minh City and encourage visitors to sample the street food made from recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation. Visiting the areas where my parents were raised gives guests the chance to meet the people I know and love while seeing the way families bond over food and gaining an understanding for the way the local community interacts.
At the same time, it is sometimes good to get away from the bustle of the city so it can be a welcome relief to set sail down the Mekong. When cooking onboard I like to include some of my favourite dishes such as tiger prawns served with young green rice cakes or alternatively roast pork belly with crackling.
Vietnamese food takes on Chinese, French and Thai influences so what you taste is a unique balance on the palate alongside lots of colour and tradition.
Next year I am excited to offer APT guests who visit Ho Chi Minh City as part of their river cruise, exclusive access to my new restaurant, Vietnam House, to sample a special tasting menu designed to showcase dishes from across the country.
The restaurant is in a restored colonial building that once housed the famed
Café L’Imperial in the early 1900s and the building retains many of the original features which add character.
Vietnamese food is a stunning combination that always surprises and delights and that’s what keeps people coming back for more. •