MasterChef champion Christine Ha brings Korean flavors to Vietnam's northern highlands

By Hong Chieu   September 20, 2023 | 06:26 am PT
MasterChef champion Christine Ha has brought the flavors of Korea to Buot Village in Vietnam's northern mountainous Son La Province, inspiring local women entrepreneurs.

Ha, winner of the MasterChef show in 2012 and renowned for her journey as a blind chef, delighted audiences on Monday with her culinary skills and participated in a discussion on entrepreneurship opportunities and challenges for women at the Dong Rung Van Ho Cooperative in Buot Village in Chieng Yen Commune, Van Ho District of Son La.

During the event, the Vietnamese American chef demonstrated her prowess by preparing grilled meat served with herbs and kimchi, with corn fried rice. These dishes featured Korean-inspired flavors, largely owing to Ha's husband, John Suh, who is of Korean-American descent.

The star ingredient, pork belly, was provided by the locals of Buot Village. Ha relies on her sense of taste and smell to discern the flavors of spices, while her husband assists in grilling the meat and stir-frying the rice.

Women in Bout Village in Son La Province enjoy dishes prepared by Christine Ha and her husband, September 18, 2023. Video by VnExpress/Hong Chieu

Ha not only showcased her culinary expertise but also took the time to teach the local women how to prepare and savor these dishes. She radiated joy as she received numerous compliments on the deliciousness of her creations.

Following the cooking demonstration, Ha and her husband relished five-colored sticky rice dipped in sesame salt, a traditional dish prepared by the women of Buot Village.

Ha expressed her desire to learn and observe the preparation of local dishes, firmly believing that the women of the village possess culinary talents that rival those of professional chefs.

Women from Buot Village in Son La Province watch as Christine Ha (R) prepares a meal, September 18, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hong Chieu

Women from Buot Village in Son La Province watch as Christine Ha (R) prepares a meal, September 18, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hong Chieu

During a discussion with local women, the 44-year-old chef shared her life journey. She recounted how her eyesight had gradually diminished due to a rare autoimmune disease known as neuromyelitis optica, which began afflicting her at the age of 20.

In moments when her vision was clouded, she would reminisce about the Vietnamese dishes her mother used to prepare for her before her mother's passing when she was 14.

Ha embarked on her culinary journey by relying on her imagination to recreate flavors, inviting friends to partake in her experiments. Their enthusiasm and praise for her dishes served as a powerful motivator for her, she said.

"The eyes may dim, but the love for cooking, flavors, and dishes only grows," she said.

One day, her husband encouraged her to participate in MasterChef, believing that her story could touch people's hearts. Ha became MasterChef USA's winner during its third season, showcasing dishes infused with rich Vietnamese flavors.

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