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For Chef Thierry Pannier, Fine French Cuisine is a Tale of Tradition

For head chef Thierry Pannier, a dish at Maison Vie isn’t just a meal to be consumed, but a story to be told. As we sit down to roasted pigeon and foie gras, a dish bursting with flavor, he tells Saigoneer its unique tale.

As we sit down to eat, Thierry indicates towards the black, paper-like material that sits behind the pigeon. “Like many pigeons in Vietnam, this one sits in a cage,” He explains. “It reminds us that the pigeon is not always free.”

It is, of course, not a cage, but a mixture of flour, water, oil and salt, which is fried in a pan to look like one. Throughout the dish, each ingredient has been chosen carefully to illustrate a personal story, one involving Thierry’s love for his home in France, where he grew up, and now Vietnam, where he has lived for over 10 years with his wife.

Thierry is a quiet man, yet reveals his enormous knowledge and passion for food. With over 16 years of experience working in kitchens in France, Thierry brings the taste of his first home into Maison Vie’s kitchen every day.

That does not, however, mean he’s afraid of change. He’s been working in Vietnam’s culinary scene since he arrived in the country, and it’s clear that he, and the kitchen he runs, is constantly able to adapt.

“When I first moved to Vietnam, I made sautéed potatoes for my wife’s friends,” Thierry tells us. “One of them asked for soy sauce for the potatoes. I asked, ‘why would you need soy sauce for the potatoes?’ I couldn’t understand it, but I’ve learnt that it’s a part of the culture, it happens all the time. You can’t say no and we cater to these tastes.”

This led us to our more sensitive discussion about his use of foie gras, an ingredient that raises ethical concerns and can cause some serious tension. “In France,” he tells us, “there is no moral objection. People used to just eat it at Christmas, but, these days, people have it every day.”

As an ingredient that requires force-feeding corn to a duck or goose, it is hard not to question the morality of eating it. Thierry understands that it raises serious philosophical dilemmas. “For me,” he explains, “it’s ok, it’s a part of my job.”

Love it or hate it, the delicacy – sourced from France – adds an undeniably traditional element to Maison Vie’s cuisine. The pigeon is delicate and tender, it lacks any fat; it’s almost entirely pure meat. This is where the foie gras comes in, as it is almost pure fat and thus adds a smooth taste and texture to the dish.

Unlike many restaurants, there is no single in-house rule for sourcing ingredients at Maison Vie. Instead, they opt for the finest available. The pigeon, slim carrots, balled potatoes and blended peas are all locally sourced and represent traditional ingredients used in France during the spring. And the flowers, that he garnishes his dish with, “well, they’re just there because I like flowers,” Thierry explains. “I grow them on my balcony to use when cooking in the restaurant.”

There is one more touch that Thierry adds to the pigeon. His use of lemongrass to flavor the pigeon adds a local touch. This is just one way that Thierry is blending French and Vietnamese cuisine to make something unique and rich with flavor; an amalgamation of cultures and tastes.

Thierry’s newest dish of roasted pigeon, foie gras, mashed peas and young vegetables evokes the spirit of a French spring. Back in Vietnam, however, it will arrive a little later, not appearing on the menu until 15 July.

So whether you’re French and looking for a taste of home, a tourist hoping for something a little different, or a local in search of some traditional French cuisine, Maison Vie’s dining is sure to satisfy every taste.

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+84 (0) 90 415 03 83

28 Tăng Bạt Hổ, Phạm Đình Hổ, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam