There’s a Vietnamese restaurant a short walk from our house. About a block from there is the family-run Saveur d’Asie, an Asian food market. Out of about 300 restaurants in Carcassonne, at least 6 of them are listed as vietnamiens in the phone directory where you can also find a Franco-Vietnamese cultural association and a travel agency that specializes in trips to Asia. Considering how many neighbors here have made that part of the world as one of their vacation destinations, that agency must be pretty busy. So what is this French Connection?
Unlike the Hollywood film of that title from 1971, this story has a much happier conclusion. From all of those world history classes in high school and college, I remembered hearing about French Indo China but it took some recent searching to find out that this colonization of the country ended in 1954 when Vietnam won its independence. During the 100 years before that, which included both World Wars, tens of thousands immigrated here as soldiers and remained in the country to work. That influx continued through the Vietnam war years and now 50 percent of those who live in Europe with Vietnamese heritage are located in France.
Luckily for us, many of those who moved from half-way around the world chose to settle in Carcassonne and open businesses here. Until we discovered the shop called “Taste of Asia” we had to have friends visiting from the US or the UK bring us spices to make our favorite Indian and other piquant meals. Now our biggest dilemma is deciding which of dozens of choices of dried spices and sauces to bring home for that evening’s dinner.
Another recent discovery for when we don’t feel like cooking, is even a shorter walk away to Restaurant d’Iéna where they ask you, when possible, to order a day in advance especially if your group is vegetarian. The owners like to shop in the market on the morning of your meal so that they can provide you with the freshest taste possible. I think that we’re going to like having made this “connection”.