French food guide Michelin honored 103 Vietnamese restaurants on Tuesday for the first time, with 20 pho stalls but no banh mi eateries on the list, raising eyebrows among food lovers.
Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide, told VnExpress there is “no bias” for pho over banh mi.
“Michelin inspectors always evaluate dishes with an open mind, focusing on food quality rather than their location or popularity,” he said.
To be honored by Michelin, all restaurants must meet five criteria including the personality of the chef represented in the cuisine, harmony of flavors, mastery of cooking techniques, quality of ingredients, and consistency over time and across the entire menu, he said.
Pho noodle soup consists of a rich, savory broth, rice noodles, and thinly sliced beef or chicken while banh mi is an iconic Vietnamese street food widely loved beyond the country’s borders.
Both pho and banh mi have many times been praised by international food magazines, helping to put Vietnamese cuisine on global map.
Of the 103 restaurants honored, four were awarded with one Michelin star for the first time, while 99 others made other lists published by the guide: Michelin Selected, Michelin Guide Special Awards and the Bib Gourmand.
The Michelin-starred restaurants are Hibana by Koki, Gia and Tam Vi in Hanoi and Anan Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City.
“The first selection in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City highlights the differences and variety in what the two cities have to offer. Hanoi, the capital, offers a very laid back and relaxed vibe with small shops and restaurants found mostly in the Old Quarter,” Poullennec said.
“Traditional Vietnamese cuisine with northern flavor is prevalent in this city, with a clear presentation of natural flavor, enhanced with different types of spices and herbs for complexity. Ho Chi Minh City on the other hand, is a bustling and rapid-growing city that offers a unique energy to all travelers and has a diverse variety of cuisine.”
The Michelin Guide hopes that awarding of stars will help elevate Vietnamese restaurants’ position globally.
In the Michelin system, one star signifies a very good restaurant, two stars show excellent cooking that’s worth a detour, and three stars means exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.
There are over 3,000 Michelin-starred restaurants in nearly 40 different countries.