Baguettes and pâté – is there any curious food lover who hasn’t wondered about the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine? For Vietnamese-Australian chef, food writer and restaurateur Luke Nguyen , it was a chance encounter with two elderly French-speaking Vietnamese men in Hanoi that made him curious about how the French influenced the country’s cuisine. They explained that during the French occupation of the country, from 1862 to 1954, their parents worked for the French, and they were sent to French schools. They told him they were both in their late 80s and met every day for a walk, after which they would buy fresh baguettes and pâté for their families. In the introduction to Indochine (2011), Nguyen writes, “Baguettes and pâté … The French had such a profound impact on the Vietnamese way of life yet I’ve never stopped to really consider the culinary legacy they left behind, or how much influence it has had on my own and other Vietnamese families’ cooking techniques.” Later, he writes about Vietnamese baguettes. “Over the years the Vietnamese have tweaked the traditional French baguette and adapted it to suit the Vietnamese palate and style of cuisine. The Vietnamese baguette is more fluffy and crispy than the French one; it’s designed to be a lighter bread so as not to overwhelm the fillings. “Today, baguettes are found on most street corners and restaurants in Vietnam. They are eaten in the morning with soft fried eggs and omelettes, eaten for lunch with a variety of delectable fillings, and eaten in the evenings dipped into curries or slow-braised dishes to soak and scoop up all the delicious sauce.” Even the Vietnamese love of beef (which goes way beyond pho) wouldn’t be the same if it were not for the French. Madame Van, chef of Le Beaulieu restaurant at the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi, tells Nguyen, “Did you know that before the French came to Vietnam, the Vietnamese people hardly ever ate beef or buffalo? The French arrived and saw an abundance of cattle and buffaloes in the fields and wondered why we didn’t eat them. “We considered these animals as working animals; they ploughed the rice fields for us and thus helped to provide our staple – rice. But the French eventually had their way, and sure enough, beef soon became the much-loved meat it is now.” Nguyen’s recipes in the book include green mango and pomelo salad with soft-shell crab, Vietnamese baguettes, beef slow-cooked in red wine, chilli salted school prawns with garlic mayonnaise, heart of palm and tomato salad with Vietnamese herbs, lemongrass chilli frog’s legs, chicken slow-braised in green pepper, chicken and pork liver pâté, chargrilled pork skewers in Vietnamese baguette, claypot grilled beef, pandan and ginger panna cotta, and fried chocolate truffles with pink pepper.