From Sweden to Vietnam: Renowned Chef’s Culinary Love Affair with Vietnamese Cuisine

In the early 1990s, a renowned chef spearheaded the introduction of Asian culinary traditions in Sweden, revolutionizing the nation's palate with flavors from afar. Vietnamese delicacies, such as the delectable nem cuon and banh mi, became gateways to a broader appreciation of international cuisine, forever altering the gastronomic landscape of the Nordic country.

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Shining through the culinary event “Taste of Sweden – Qua chieu,” the Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi aims to foster cultural exchange and commemorate the shared culinary passion between Vietnam and Sweden on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations (1960 – 2024). 

 Vietnamese and Swedish young people share a commitment to strengthening bilateral relations. Photos: Hoang Pham

The gastronomic event provided a platform to showcase the diverse culinary traditions of Sweden and Vietnam, emphasizing the deep-rooted influence of food upon each culture. It offered a unique opportunity for the fusion and exchange of culinary practices between Sweden and Vietnam. 

Attendees at the event, predominantly Vietnamese youth, relished a combination of Swedish delicacies known as “Mellanmål” and their Vietnamese counterparts, “Qua chieu.” Both “Mellanmål” and “Qua chieu” refer to light meals enjoyed between main courses, typically during the afternoon or midday.

These delectable bites provide sustenance and help maintain focus throughout the day. Although specific dishes may vary, both concepts underscore the importance of taking breaks and savoring light meals during the day.

Swedish restaurateur and culinary innovator Erik Videgård and chefs at Daewoo Hotel. 

Under the guidance of renowned Swedish chef Erik Videgård, in partnership with Daewoo Hotel’s head chef, Nguyen Dang Linh, attendees witnessed the preparation of an array of tantalizing dishes and beverages. The event welcomed 300 attendees aged 10-15 and incorporated locally sourced ingredients from Vietnam in its culinary creations.

In addition to stimulating taste buds, this culinary experience aimed to foster awareness of traditional cooking techniques and create a platform for cultural exchange between Sweden and Vietnam. The event also included quizzes and engaging games, enhancing the immersive experience. 

 Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam, Ann Måwe, delivering a speech at the event. 

In her opening remarks, Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Ann Måwe highlighted this event as a testament to the strong diplomatic ties between the two nations and their mutual appreciation for gastronomy and cultural exchange. She remarked that the “Taste of Sweden – Qua chieu” event marked a significant milestone in the enduring friendship between Sweden and Vietnam.

“By celebrating our culinary traditions, we deepen our cultural understanding and forge stronger bonds. I am delighted to witness the harmonious blending of Swedish and Vietnamese flavors. I believe this event will have a lasting impact on all participants, fostering a deeper appreciation for our shared culture and heritage,” emphasized Ambassador Ann Måwe. 

 A renowned Swedish chef introducing Vietnamese cuisine to Sweden in the early 1990s. 

Erik Videgård, Sweden’s leading restaurateur and culinary pioneer, expressed his enthusiasm about his first visit to Vietnam, stating, “I am thrilled to participate in this unique culinary event that bridges the cultural divide between Sweden and Vietnam. Food has an incredible ability to unite people, transcending boundaries and fostering mutual understanding. I am honored to share my passion for cooking and contribute to this meaningful exchange.”

Electrolux, a prominent Swedish home appliance brand, supported the initiative to inspire Vietnamese children toward sustainable eating habits at the event. With a commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles and environmental consciousness, Electrolux believes in empowering the younger generation to make informed choices about their food consumption. 

The Swedish Embassy in Hanoi is dedicated to cultivating strong diplomatic ties between Sweden and Vietnam. Through a range of cultural events and promotional campaigns, the embassy aims to foster friendship, cooperation, and mutual understanding between the two countries in 2024. 

Erik Videgård’s contributions to the culinary world are exceptional. With a career spanning over four decades, Videgård has established himself as an innovator, introducing novel flavors and cuisines to Swedish palates. 

Beginning his career as a sound engineer and tour manager for renowned musical artists, Videgård’s passion for food gradually took center stage. In the early 1990s, he made a groundbreaking move by introducing Asian cuisine, including Vietnamese nem cuon (Vietnamese spring rolls) and banh mi (bread), to Sweden when they were relatively unknown in the country. This bold step transformed Swedish palates and paved the way for a broader appreciation of exotic flavors.

 Ambassador Ann Måwe signs T-shirts commemorating the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Sweden. 
 Delectable culinary offerings at the event.
 Banh mi, among the Vietnamese specialties introduced to Sweden in the early 1990s. 
 Tasty treats for visitors at the event.  
 Attendees eagerly sampling both Vietnamese and Swedish cuisine.