An expert in cooking, traditions and matrimony of Vietnam - and he's French

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2009, 12:00am

One of Vietnam's top chefs is in town this week. The thing is he isn't Vietnamese, at least not by birth. In all other respects, Didier Corlou (pictured) is practically a native. He has been living in Hanoi for almost 20 years, is married to a Vietnamese woman, has written five books on the nation's cooking traditions and has opened one of the top restaurants, La Verticale, in a colonial building. Chef Corlou is at Lan Kwai Fong's Tru this week preparing a special menu mixing humble ingredients with sophisticated methods. 'One of the dishes is fried squid's eggs. Others throw that away. Vietnamese don't waste anything,' he said. 'Vietnam is the centre between lots of cultures - China, French, Thailand - there's something special there. Everything is balanced, there are 3,000 miles [4,830km] of coastline and we have more spices than India.' First arriving in Asia in 1991, the native of Brittany province has seen his adopted home change from a sleepy fishing town to a fast-growing metropolis. 'It used to be a city of bicycles. Now it's motor cars. First small cars, now big cars.'

A big part of Hanoi's growing culinary scene, his eatery was among Conde Nast's top 100 of the world's best new restaurants last year and he has been invited to cook for Salzburg's Hangar-7 next year. So, how did Dining Concepts' Sandeep Sekhri manage to score such an in-demand kitchen guest? 'I just called him. You won't believe what you can get if you just ask.' He is presenting his menu, as part of Le French May, until Saturday.