As a culinary enthusiast, Linh embarked on a journey to unveil the hidden gems of Vietnamese cuisine by exploring the culinary traditions of its diverse ethnic groups. Accompanied by a local guide, she delved into the bustling markets, learning about the ingredients and techniques used by the ethnic Hoa people, descendants of Chinese immigrants.

Linh experienced a traditional meal at a Hoa family in Ho Chi Minh City’s Cho Lon neighborhood during her expedition in January 2024. Photo: Supplied

Linh immersed herself in the culinary culture of the neighborhood, visiting long-established restaurants and learning to prepare traditional cakes. She sampled renowned dishes, eager to capture the essence of the ethnic Hoa cuisine.

This adventure formed part of Linh’s ambitious personal project, launched in July 2023, to explore the cuisines of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups.

Linh ventured into the Central Highlands in November 2023, where she joined the Churu community in Don Duong District, Lam Dong Province, to discover their culinary traditions.

A Long-Cherished Dream Fulfilled

To date, she has documented the culinary practices of 12 ethnic groups, including the Hoa, Cho Ro, Cham, E De, and Chu Ru.

Linh anticipates completing her mission of exploring all 54 ethnic cuisines by the end of the year.

As a renowned chef and founder of Ech Xanh, a successful frog meat restaurant chain with branches across the country, Linh describes this project as a “dream” she has long held close to her heart.

“Vietnam’s culinary landscape boasts the rich diversity of 54 ethnic groups, each with unique culinary traditions and hidden treasures that remain largely unknown,” Linh shared with Tuoi Tre News as she prepared for her upcoming trip to the Mekong Delta’s Soc Trang province to delve into Khmer cuisine.

“Despite my extensive knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine, I recognize the vastness of what I do not know, especially when it comes to the intricacies of ethnic cuisines.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to not only broaden my own understanding but also share these culinary insights with a wider audience.”

During her November 2023 expedition, Linh visited the Choro community in Xuan Loc District, Dong Nai Province to experience their culinary heritage. Photo: Supplied

Linh’s journey has been documented through captivating videos shared on her TikTok channel, @liana.linlin, which has garnered over 80,000 followers.

She has embarked on expeditions to various provinces across Vietnam, actively engaging with local communities. Linh has requested to participate in their daily activities, cooked alongside families, and meticulously filmed her experiences.

Each trip typically spans five days to a week.

In November 2023, Linh joined the Ma community in Loc Lam Commune, Bao Lam District, Lam Dong Province, to harvest coffee beans. Photo: Supplied

Beyond showcasing the culinary delights of each region, Linh also provides historical, cultural, and demographic insights into the ethnic groups she encounters.

“I chose social media to share my journey because my target audience is the younger generation,” she explained.

“I aim to convey the timeless essence of traditional culinary culture and capture the unique beauty that risks fading away.

“My hope is that this project will reach a wider audience in the future, enabling more people to discover the fascinating diversity of Vietnamese cuisine.”

Linh expresses gratitude for two key aspects of her project: the wealth of knowledge she has acquired and the meaningful connections she has forged along the way.

Linh shared a meal with the Ma community at a coffee farm in Loc Lam Commune, Bao Lam District, Lam Dong Province during her November 2023 visit.

Her travels have expanded her culinary horizons. For instance, during her encounter with the E De community in Dak Lak, she discovered the culinary use of cassava leaves.

‘Cooking for the Children’

Along her journey of culinary exploration, Linh conceived the idea for ‘Nau An Cho Em’ (Cooking for the Children) events, where she prepares meals for local children.

“When I encountered children in the communities I visited, I felt a desire to create cherished memories for them. As a chef, I decided to cook for them,” Linh explained.

Linh and local children pose for a photo during a ‘Nau An Cho Em’ event with the Ma community in Loc Lam Commune, Bao Lam District, Lam Dong Province in December 2023. Photo: Supplied

To date, Linh has organized three complimentary cooking events for children and plans to continue the initiative.

While she has a set timeline for her primary project of exploring 54 cuisines, Linh hopes to sustain the ‘Nau An Cho Em’ events indefinitely.

Linh vividly recalls her first cooking event in Cu Kroa Commune, located in Dak Lak’s M’Drak District, in July 2023.

“We introduced our restaurant’s signature dish, ‘frog roasted with salted egg,’” Linh reminisced.

“As the children gathered to enjoy their meal, one of them fell and scraped his knees.

To our surprise, he calmly sat back down and continued eating without shedding a tear.

“That moment left an enduring impression on me, a testament to the resilience of the children in the mountainous regions.”