The Vietnamese community honors their culinary traditions in Gretna this weekend.
The French influence in New Orleans is well known, and some visitors are even aware of the Spanish heritage as well. But to really understand contemporary cultural impact, tourists need to look to Vietnam.
On Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28, the Vietnamese American Community in Louisiana will be hosting their Pho Festival 2015. Celebrating the traditional soup of Vietnam, the festival will also honor young scholars, feature live music and offer visitors a view into the Vietnamese community of southeastern Louisiana.
Thahn Le, president of the nonprofit Vietnamese organization, explained, “After the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the Vietnamese people fled Vietnam to America in search of freedom and for the opportunity to live within a democratic nation. Since then, nearly 30,000 Vietnamese have settled in Louisiana. More than two-thirds of them have settled in the vicinities of Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish.”
He added, “The Vietnamese Americans are a large contribution to the city’s culture and economic diversity. They own hundreds of businesses, mainly concentrated in New Orleans East and the Westbank in the cities of Gretna, Harvey and Marrero.”
Culture often travels via foodways first, and this festival highlights the delicious signature soup of Vietnam. Pho (pronounced “Fuh”) was ranked #28 on CNN Go’s “World’s 50 Best Foods”. The festival will offer four variations of this noodle soup including eye-round steak, well-done flank, chicken and vegetarian. Load them up with fresh offerings like bean sprouts, carrots and cilantro, and you are holding a bit of heaven in your hands.
Beyond pho, other foods available include pork, beef and chicken shish ka bob, goat curry, ap chảo (pan-fried rice noodles), fried seafood balls, spring rolls, seafood gumbo, and bánh mì, that perfect sandwich known around town as a “Vietnamese poor boy.”
Le said this festival, sponsored by the Jefferson Parish Council, has a tremendous cultural impact for the parish and the Vietnamese community. “The festival is the site for our nonprofit organization’s fair,” he says. “Most of the vendors are also nonprofits and raise money for their organizations too. The community will raise around $10,000. It will be used to cover the annual Excellent Student Awards and other public service and community activities.”
Live musical performances will feature both American rock and Vietnamese performance styles and there will be a bounce house for children. With more than 5,000 people attending the festival last year and an anticipated increase in attendance this year, this growing festival is worth the trip across the river.
Pho Festival At-A-Glance:
Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Located at Mel Ott Park Recreation Center, 2301 Belle Chasse Highway, Gretna
For additional details contact Thahn Le at 504-650-0115.