André Derainne’s new comic is a colourful excursion into the food, culture and architecture of Ho Chi Minh

Throughout, André has given special attention to lively and bountiful tones of his illustration style, which is a contrast to the previously soft and slow visual language seen before. This transition is an intentional move to better represent the buoyancy of his trip. It’s also a style that “matches the dynamic atmosphere of the city, its weather and its colours,” he says, referring especially to the Chinese district chợ lớn – which is where he ate the soup mì sườn – filled with neon lights and street vendors by night. So as the world continues to grapple with the pandemic and its various travel restrictions, Un orage par jour is a welcome reminder of the days of unrestrained exploration – travelling to unknown territories and injecting ourselves into new and exciting cultures.
“The story is very simple,” he says, explaining how it’s divided into 10 chapters, with each illustrating a walk through a different district of Ho Chi Ming City. The character stops at each “point” to taste a dish, before finishing in Beijing during a stopover flight. Each section is devised to represent the diversity of the city and its cuisine, with an intention of allowing the reader to discover its “complexity and immensity” through the urban and rural districts. “But also to show the different communities that coexist through the Chinese or Korean quarter, and the traces of French colonisation which seem to be extremely important.” And while the comic protrudes with colour and details an almost diaristic-like quality, it’s far more than just a typical travel record of a trip to Vietnam; it’s a colourful excursion into the food, culture and architecture.
He also thanks the internet for allowing him to fact check the streets once he’d returned to France, which is when he started illustrating the dishes that interested him most, like súp cua, bánh cuốn, bún cá lóc and khổ qua xào trứng. André is no expert on the topic, so he asked chef Linh Nguyen – the sous chef at a two-star restaurant LA Réserve – to write several recipes at the end of the publication, allowing the readers to test things out themselves and learn more about Vietnamese cuisine in the process.
In this sense, you could regard the book as being more non-fiction than fiction, particularly as the facts littered throughout are based off reality. The protagonist, too, represents André as he wonders with amazement throughout the city, dressed in black as he goes from “square to square”. “I think it almost looks like a kind of insect,” he says. “That’s what I call him in my head!” Elsewhere, André has illustrated a few more characters to represent the real-life people he’d met along the way. To make sure he represented them accurately – plus the location and food – he took plenty of notes to refer back to. This includes the smells, colours, and details of the people, “so that in the end, the scenes told in the book are unnecessarily faithful to reality, right down to the colour of the restaurant customers’ t-shirts.”