In a cookfest in Vietnam, 27 men cooked 60 dishes for the women not only to please their discriminating taste but also to raise awareness on climate-smart agriculture beyond Climate-Smart Villages.

The advancing dust cloud on My Loi Climate-Smart Village (CSV) road turned out to be the Youth Union leader on his motorbike. Mr Nguyen Song Hao, wanted to brief us about the preparations for Vietnam’s climate-smart chef competition.

"I saw some guys catching crabs in the rice field,” he smiled. “In the other villages they had been collecting fern (rau don) in the forest.”

Little did I know that I would find those field crabs crushed in a mortar and cooked into a delicious dish the next day. The cooking competition was organised by World Agroforestry Center in Vietnam, Ky Son Youth Union and Women’s Union and CSV partners on October 18 to recognize the World Food Day (October 16) and Vietnamese Women’s Day (October 20). 

Mr Viet and the My Loi CSV team filled the carved pumpkin with ragu. Photo: Han Van Le/ICRAF Vietnam

Twenty-seven men from eight villages and the Youth Union joined the competition in Ky Son commune. The nine teams took the opportunity to show they can cook using a wide range of local ingredients and recipes: red tilapia in tomato sauce; steamed shrimp in bitter gourds stuffed with minced pork; chicken fried with lime and chili; and soups with katuk (Sauropus androgynus) and pumpkin.

“Generally women get up earlier than men and go to bed hours after men,” said Tuan Minh Duong, the gender focal point for the CSV team. "Even on Women’s Day women are the ones to dance and sing. So we wanted the women to have a day of fun and watch the men cook instead."

For the audience, the ninety minutes of culinary experience involved walking between pots and pans steaming ginger and garlic. With the women, I enjoyed watching the intense chopping of lemon leaves and pork meat, and chili-fruits and spring onions cut like flowers gradually forming decorative salads.

The teams presented over sixty dishes excluding desserts, and the attention to detail was undeniable. My Lac village decorated the table with flowers in an innovative vase made from the banana flower. My Loi team carved “Happy 85th Anniversary” on a pumpkin shell and filled it with a beef ragu. Two teams turned purple cabbage leaves upside down to serve as a salad bowl.  

Being one of the judges, I had the privilege to cherry pick a little from all teams. While tasting, it occurred to me how many agroforestry products there were. At the table of Son Trung 2, I spotted a five-colour salad with nicely cut pieces of purple sweet potato, red tomato, orange carrot, white winter melon, and green chayote to dip into a bowl of peanut mashed with sesame. Bamboo shoots boiled and sliced thinly, or shred cooked with chicken. Local black pepper sprinkled over some dishes. Desserts with local orange and wild bananas. Pots with fresh green tea.

A special prize went to the My Lac team for the best presentation about food and climate change. The team leader Mr Toan explained that they chose ingredients that are nutritious, simple and quick to prepare, especially during lunch when both women and men have little time for cooking.

“Therefore we went to the home garden for eggs and spring onion and made an omelet,” said Mr Toan.  

“The bamboo shoots is something we can bring home from the forest,” said his sous-chef Mr Hanh. “And bamboo trees not only provide food, they reduce strong winds and reduce soil erosion.”

The CSVs are implemented as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). ICRAF Vietnam coordinates My Loi CSV in Ky Son commune, Ky Anh district, Ha Tinh province, north-central Vietnam. The cooking competition was the second activity which aimed to raise awareness about climate-smart agriculture beyond the CSV.

Related News (Vietnamese):

Thi “Vua đầu bếp nam” mừng ngày Phụ nữ Việt Nam

Sôi nổi cuộc thi “Vua đầu bếp” chủ đề: “Thích ứng thông minh với biến đổi khí hậu”

Kỳ Sơn: Tổ chức hội thi “Vua đầu bếp”


ICRAF Cooking Festival on HTTV News

Thôn Mỹ Lợi thích ứng thông minh với biến đổi khí hậu

My Loi Climate-Smart Village


Elisabeth Simelton is a Climate Change Scientist for ICRAF Vietnam and CCAFS Project Manager.