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Sweet Symphony: Chef Nam's Fusion of Gelato and Vietnamese Heritage

Sweet Symphony: Chef Nam's Fusion of Gelato and Vietnamese Heritage

Thứ Ba, 31/10/2023 0

In the bustling culinary landscape of Vietnam, a melange of flavors finds a new, delightful stage. Enter Chef Nam Tran, the visionary behind RingRing Gelato, a brand that embodies an innovative marriage of Italian tradition and Vietnamese culinary prowess. Like an artist mixing hues on a palette, Chef Nam blends seemingly divergent tastes, creating masterpieces that thrill the senses. RingRing is not merely a gelato brand; it is an ingenious endeavor to localize the classic Italian dessert, infusing it with the familiar savor of Vietnamese cuisine. Picture a melange of sweet, spicy, and savory notes, dancing in your mouth with each spoonful - an adventurous symphony that is both comforting and tantalizing.

Recently, we were fortunate to get up close with Chef Nam, peeling back the layers to uncover the compelling story behind RingRing. In this dialogue, he shares the inspiration for his creations, the happenings behind the kitchen doors, and his insightful views on the evolving dessert industry in Vietnam. Journey with us as we delve into this delectable world, where every scoop has a story to tell.


1. Can you share the story of your Vietnamese gelato brand, and what inspired you to take traditional Vietnamese flavors and incorporate them into gelato?

Having spent a decade as a chef in Australia, engaging with myriad global cuisines, I discovered an intriguing symbiosis between Italian gelato and Vietnamese culinary culture. This affinity sparked the idea for Okitchen in 2019, my first foray into fusing these distinct, yet harmonious, food traditions. As the project evolved, it was in 2023 that I rebranded the venture to RingRing, a shift reflecting my desire to more overtly incorporate the essence of Vietnam into Italian gelato.

The name RingRing was drawn from the nostalgic resonance of ice cream bicycle bells echoing through the labyrinthine lanes of Saigon. These bells, a timeless melody, have not only been the background score of my childhood but also that of generations of Saigonese people. With RingRing, my vision was twofold - I wanted to infuse Italian gelato with a quintessentially Vietnamese identity, and simultaneously bring the joys of artisanal gelato to every household. RingRing is therefore symbolic of my aspiration - "Delivering a scoop of gelato, imbued with Vietnamese spirit, to every family's doorstep."

2. How do you utilize unique local ingredients in creating these authentic Vietnamese gelato flavors? 

The artful alchemy of marrying authentic Vietnamese elements with traditional gelato can be distilled into two words - research and experimentation. I dedicated countless hours studying the subtleties of gelato, then undertook numerous rounds of culinary experiments. The aim was to harmoniously blend local Vietnamese ingredients into this Italian dessert. This creative process was an iterative cycle of invention, refinement, and reinvention, persisting until each flavor resonated with my palate's satisfaction and my heart's confidence.

3. How have customers reacted to your unique flavors, particularly ones like Rice Paper Salad and Sweet and Spicy Tamarind, that are less expected in a dessert?

Introducing unconventional flavors such as Rice Paper Salad and Sweet and Spicy Tamarind into the realm of dessert was indeed a daring move by RingRing. Fully aware that bridging the gap between a Western dessert like gelato and the distinctly Vietnamese flavors, or blending sweet with savory, would initially perplex the palate of many, I embraced this challenge. My relentless pursuit of experimentation and willingness to learn from failures paved the way to a novel fusion of these contrasting profiles. An excellent example is our unique Rice Paper Salad Gelato (Kem Bánh Tráng Trộn). In its essence, it's a Rice Gelato where we replace cow's milk with rice milk in the gelato-making process. The accompanying toppings and sauces are carefully curated, evoking the authenticity and rustic charm of Vietnamese street food, lessons I learned from the vendors selling mixed rice paper. This adventurous blend manifests how culinary audacity, coupled with creativity, can transcend taste boundaries and redefine norms.

4. Ultimately, what do you hope for your customers to experience when they taste your unique gelato flavors inspired by Vietnamese cuisine?

Upon hearing the unique names of my gelato flavors, customers' initial reactions often hover around trepidation, a natural human response to the unfamiliar. However, my hope is that this initial hesitation will transform into a delightful surprise. A good chuckle might follow the "horrible" expectation, but after their first taste, nearly every customer has echoed sentiments of "excellent" or "nothing less than enjoyable".

Seeing their experiences and reading their feedback on social platforms brings me immense joy. The fact that people are not just accepting but also beginning to relish the unexpected fusion of RingRing's unique gelato flavors offers me the greatest satisfaction and motivation.

5. What is your most popular flavor?

OKitchen, the precursor to RingRing, found its most beloved flavors in tea and coffee ice cream, consistently leading the charts for three years. These two flavors are emblematic of Vietnam, and it fills me with pride and confidence that I could deliver their quintessence through ice cream. Even as we transitioned into RingRing, these flavors have retained their popularity among our customers, asserting their dominance in our diverse ice cream range for nearly half a decade.

6. How do you ensure the quality and sustainability of these unique local ingredients that are vital to your gelato?

Maintaining the quality and sustainability of our unique local ingredients forms the bedrock of RingRing's ethos. Operating on a relatively small scale allows me to meticulously oversee every stage, from daily procurement of fresh ingredients to their usage in our gelato shop. My guiding principle in sourcing these ingredients is to seek out regional specialties from various localities, ensuring not just the best quality, but also capturing the most authentic flavors that each region has to offer. This way, every scoop of our gelato echoes a narrative of sustainable sourcing and uncompromised quality.


1. What is your view on the current Vietnamese ice-cream and desserts market?
The Vietnamese ice-cream and dessert market, being relatively nascent, offers a fertile ground for innovation and growth.

2. Who are your customers - families, working adults or students?

Our customers predominantly comprise young, adventurous individuals and families with a keen interest in gastronomic exploration. They are people who relish the thrill of discovering unique flavors and novel experiences in their food journeys, mirroring their zest for life.

3. Has this market grown significantly over the past few years and is it dominated by domestic or foreign brands?

The gelato market in Vietnam has indeed grown over the last three years, primarily fueled by domestic brands. However, for this market to further develop and reach a wider Vietnamese audience, it requires more time and efforts to deepen customer understanding and appreciation of Italian gelato.

4. Are there any upcoming Vietnamese cuisine-inspired flavors that we can look forward to? If so, can you give us a sneak peek

We have some exciting additions on the horizon. The first is a trio of wine-infused ice creams, with the standout being Apricot Wine Ice Cream. This delicacy draws inspiration from the popular peach-cheeked plum wine of Northwest Vietnam.

Secondly, in celebration of the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, RingRing is set to launch "Mooncake Gelato". These unique treats will feature special ingredients from various regions across the country, all the while preserving the familiar taste of traditional mooncakes. The culinary journey continues, stay tuned!


1. How does your brand position itself within the market, especially in relation to other local and foreign gelato brands?

RingRing firmly positions itself as a brand deeply rooted in Vietnamese taste, leveraging predominantly local ingredients to create products that resonate with our Vietnamese customers. Our mantra "Italian Gelato - Vietnamese Flavors" encapsulates RingRing's core positioning and informs all our product developments.

2. What unique perspective do you feel your brand brings to the Vietnamese gelato and desserts market?

I envision RingRing as a catalyst for promoting "Made in Vietnam" products and localizing Italian gelato. My hope is to see this concept embraced and amplified by our customers, encouraging a fondness for locally sourced and produced goods.

3. How have you shaped your branding and marketing to communicate the fusion of traditional Vietnamese cuisine with Italian gelato?

As RingRing was only established in 2023, we are still in the initial stages of shaping our brand narrative and marketing strategies. More updates on this front will emerge as our journey unfolds.

4. Can you share some of the strategies you've used to reach out to adventurous customers who are open to these new flavour experiences?

Our primary strategy is to earn customer trust through the unwavering quality of our products. We believe that once customers appreciate our commitment to excellence, they will naturally be inclined to explore and embrace our new flavor introductions.

5. Can you share an example of a marketing or branding campaign that has successfully resonated with your target audience?

A notable success was our "Street Food Collection," a set of three street food-inspired ice cream flavors - Mixed Rice Paper Ice Cream, Spicy Tamarind Gelato, and Egg Coffee Gelato. Targeted at Gen Z and Millennials, this collection has garnered substantial attention on social platforms like TikTok, attracting positive reviews and word-of-mouth promotion from key opinion leaders (KOLs). This campaign perfectly demonstrates how well our unique offerings resonate with our target audience.

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