The restaurant was the only representative from Vietnam making it to the list this year. In 2021, Anan Saigon ranked 39th.

Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is part of William Reed’s 50 Best brand, which showcases worldwide trends and highlights great restaurants and bars across the globe.

Peter Cuong Franklin, head chef and owner of Anan Saigon, took part in an interview with Tuoi Tre News via email to share his thoughts on the recognition and his aspiration for Vietnamese cuisine.

A supplied photo shows chef Peter Cuong Franklin while attending the ceremony to announce Asia's 50 best restaurants in Singapore on March 28, 2023.A supplied photo shows chef Peter Cuong Franklin attending the ceremony to announce Asia’s 50 best restaurants in Singapore on March 28, 2023.

“Peter Cuong Franklin, a Vietnamese-American chef who studied at Le Cordon Bleu and trained at world-famous restaurants including Caprice in Hong Kong, Alinea in Chicago, and Nahm in Bangkok,” Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants said.

“A pioneer of modern Vietnamese and Asian cuisine, he is one of the most recognizable faces on the country’s growing gastronomic scene.

“As it returns to the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year, Anan Saigon is named The Best Restaurant in Vietnam.”

Could you please share your feelings upon receiving the year 2023 recognition for Anan Saigon as the 40th best restaurant in Asia and the best in Vietnam? 

I am delighted that Anan Saigon has been voted as one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2023. The recognition from 50 Best is important not only for Anan Saigon but also for spotlighting Vietnam and Vietnamese cuisine on the global stage. I hope it will inspire a new generation of young chefs and local restaurants in Vietnam. In addition, with the arrival of the inaugural Michelin guide Vietnam in June, I predict that we will see big growth and development for Vietnam’s hospitality industry over the coming years.

Chef Peter Cuong Franklin. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi TreChef Peter Cuong Franklin. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Anan Saigon was mentioned as an ‘ambitious restaurant turning street food flavors into contemporary creations.’ Could you please introduce some of your favorite creations?

Anan Saigon is an unusual restaurant because it offers guests both an ambitious and innovative tasting menu and also accessible à-la-carte options. This is not the case with most restaurants in Vietnam and around the world.

In addition to an à-la-carte menu with signature dishes such as Da Lat Pizza, Banh Xeo Taco, and Foie Gras Cha Gio, Anan Saigon currently offers two tasting menus: the Saigon Tasting Menu for US$67 with 10 dishes and the Chef’s Tasting Menu for $100 with 12 dishes.

The Saigon Tasting Menu includes modern interpretations of many classic Vietnamese dishes such as Banh Xeo. For a more gastronomic experience of Chef Peter’s New Vietnamese Cuisine, we suggest guests order the Chef’s Tasting Menu: ‘Homage To A New Vietnam.’

The Chef’s Tasting Menu is a Homage To A New Vietnam, which includes dishes from all regions of Vietnam from north to south, such as Cha Ca Hanoi and Fish Sauce Ice Cream with Phu Quoc Nuoc Mam perfume.

Foie gras imperial roll at Anan Saigon. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi TreFoie gras imperial roll at Anan Saigon. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

What is your ‘formula’ when it comes to food creations? 

We do not have a ‘formula’ per se but I want to make delicious food that brings enjoyment and happiness to our guests. At Anan Saigon, we incorporate many global influences and yet respect the deep history and traditions of Vietnam. Our signature dishes such as the Da Lat Pizza, Banh Xeo Taco, and Foie Gras Cha Gio are inventive and surprising and yet at the same time familiar and very Vietnamese in flavor.

Banh xeo tacos at Anan Saigon. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi TreBanh xeo tacos at Anan Saigon. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

You once shared your vision for Anan is ‘to create a distinctively Vietnamese dining experience that can fit into any global cities such as Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, and London.’ It seems that you made it. Could you please share more of your thoughts on why Anan Saigon was honored?

The award is an affirmation of Anan Saigon’s creative modern Vietnamese cuisine which reflects my vision of a new Vietnam that is deeply respectful of its history and traditions yet progressive and international in its outlook. I take inspiration from the country’s vibrant regional food culture and use fresh ingredients often sourced from local markets while incorporating French culinary techniques.

I opened Anan Saigon six years ago with the aspiration to create a new style of Vietnamese cuisine in my motherland. Some people call it ‘fusion’ but I prefer to call this style of cooking New Vietnamese or Cuisine Moi. My vision is still the same — to create a new style of Vietnamese cuisine that can fit on the global stage. I think the recognition from 50 Best of Anan Saigon as ‘the most sought-after dining experience in Ho Chi Minh City’ is a testament to what we have achieved so far. 

Chef Peter Cuong Franklin. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi TreChef Peter Cuong Franklin. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

In our previous interview, you wanted people to realize that Vietnamese cuisine is not just about inexpensive street food but also about creative cuisine and fine dining. Have you succeeded in doing this?

This is a process and we still have a long way to go. I have succeeded only in opening the door for a new generation of chefs and restaurants in Vietnam and in creating the possibility that Vietnamese cuisine can offer both inexpensive street food as well as creative fine dining that can match the best of Thai, Singaporean, Japanese, and other Asian cuisines.

Chef Peter Cuong Franklin talks about his food creations at Anan Saigon. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi TreChef Peter Cuong Franklin talks about his food creations at Anan Saigon. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

In your opinion, are there any other aspects of Vietnamese cuisine that people need to understand more properly?

I think to truly understand and appreciate the cuisine, one has to understand the culture of the people. For example, to truly appreciate a dish such as Bun Cha or Cha Ca Hanoi, diners have to understand ‘huong vi mien bac’ (northern flavors) and Hanoi culture, to truly understand Com Tam or Banh Mi Saigon, they have to understand the vibrant and fun-loving nature of the Saigonese. 

I think understanding and appreciation of the diversity of Vietnam’s regional cuisine are also very important. A bowl of Hanoi pho with its clean broth and velvety hand-cut banh pho noodle is very different from a bowl of Saigon pho to which chefs like to add so many ingredients such as different types of meat, bean sprouts, herbs, and spices. I believe neither one is better than the other – they are different but both delicious in their own way.

What do you think of the potential of Ho Chi Minh City, or Vietnam, on the global culinary dining map now? And how can it be better promoted?

The 50 Best Award events were partly sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board as part of the Visit Singapore program, which promotes Singapore and Singaporean cuisine. Thailand and Hong Kong also have similar programs which are very successful. I think we can learn from these cities to support and promote Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam as a fine dining destination and put the country on the global culinary dining map. 

From my observations, we currently focus our marketing resources mainly on the hotel and resort sector which is important but this is only one segment of the hospitality industry – restaurants and bars are also very important. Many people now travel and plan their trip specifically for the opportunity to dine in special restaurants. Many guests now travel to Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam specifically to eat at Anan Saigon. We need to do much more to promote our restaurants and bars and let people around the world know that we have both wonderful street food and world-class dining experiences in Vietnam now.   

Thank you!

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