my mother also made me help in the kitchen from an early age and somehow cooking became a hobby. We cooked ordinary Asian dishes to be eaten with rice for dinners or lunches. Nothing is really sophisticated or special but thanks to that I gained some boldness in the kitchen and decent basics, for example, to take care of a sharp knife or to make the meat tender.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think about Vietnamese cuisine? What are the main differences between that and European cuisine?
Every day, I cook and eat Vietnamese food with my family. I love the fact that it's very fresh and light. Here in Poland, I guess because of the cold weather, the food is sometimes too oily and heavy. European cuisine in general doesn't appreciate crunchy and stringy textures as much as Asian. There are a lot of sauces and I feel like every meat I cook should be melting in the mouth. There are many more techniques, whereas in Asia, dishes are really quickly prepared, and there are fewer preserved foods. It doesn't mean that European cuisine is worse, it is just different, and I enjoy them both.
Inner Sanctum: Do you include Vietnamese cuisine in your MasterChef book?
There is a chapter in the book on traditional Vietnamese food, for example caramelized pork, canh chua (sour fish soup) , döa chua (pickled vegetables), chaû laù loát (fried minced pork wrapped in lolot leaves). I want to correct the perception of Polish people about Asian cuisine. Because here in Europe they kind of think that it is all about garlic, ginger and onion and adding soy sauce or fish sauce to every dish, and such things. But actually it's not. It's about fresh herbs, fresh products and involves more techniques than people think of. In the final com- petition at Polish MasterChef, both dishes I cooked were Asian. My ambition was to show more sophisticated Asian cuisine. Here in Poland there aren't many high-end Vietnamese restaurants. And there is nothing attractive about them. They are just 'copy and paste'. They only have spring-rolls and phôû, and everything is somehow the same. For me it's very important to show that Asian and Vietnamese cuisine are more than those things.
Inner Sanctum: Tell me about your family. How has your family kept Vietnamese culture alive while living in Poland?
I have a very big family here, I think it's one of the biggest families in the Vietnamese community in Warsaw. We meet every week at my grandma's house. We try to keep the tradition of sharing a meal at least once a day. Our big Vietnamese family is really close, and everybody knows everything about each other and it's really a Vietnamese thing. My family members also have a very traditional way of thinking, too. I also come back to Vieät Nam every two to three years. It's really nice to visit the country as a tourist. We often tour famous places across the country. We eat at local restaurants, not the high-end ones. I really love mieán löôn (vermicelli with fried crunchy eel). We can't bring eel meat to Poland so I can't eat it here, I really miss it.
Inner Sanctum: for the future?
I am in my last year studying finance and accounting, so I want to finish my bachelor's degree. And then after graduating, I want to work in a professional kitchen first. I am also looking forward to conducting some workshops on cooking. I'm looking to open a Vietnamese restaurant here in a few years but it's really hard. You need to have so much experience to open a restaurant. VNS
What are your plans