The Asian Harbour, at The Gateway Hotel by Taj (Hinjewadi) is hosting a Vietnamese Food Festival – ‘VIET : NOM‘ – from 21st to 31st March. Chefs from the Vietnamese restaurant Blue Ginger (Taj West End, Bangalore) are coming over with their delicious recipes, ingredients, expertise and flavours. The food is amazing, slightly modified to suit the Indian palate (minimal use of pungent fish sauce) and it is a wonderful experience. Prices though, are slightly on the higher side.
I was invited for a pre-launch food tasting to experience this wonderful cuisine which is refreshing, simple and healthy. It has influences from China, Thalilad and most importantly from the French, along with a bit of Pondicherry. (Both Vietnam and Pondicherry being former French colonies).
Vietnamese Rice Paper Summer Rolls
Delicious, refreshing and light. The inherent flavour of the rolls with minimal seasoning was amazing and clean. We were served Water Chestnut and Vegetable Roll with tangy, sweet and slightly pungent tamarind and hoisin sauce. And Shrimp and Vegetables Roll with sweet spicy chilli sauce. The sauces just added a great punch of flavour.
Raw Papaya Salad
Tangy and refreshing, with loads of lemongrass, chilli and peanuts adding crunchiness.
Crispy Lotus Stem with butter garlic sauce was uber delicious. A great respite from the heavily sweet honey chilli variants most places serve.
Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chops just blew everything away. Super high quality soft juicy meat, beautifully Frenched with the amazing caramelly, umami, nutty and peppery Sesame Barbeque sauce. Just crazy good stuff.
Wok Tossed Soft Shell Crab was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with the amazing butter garlic sauce and load of onions and green peppers.
Delicious Grilled Chicken and Tofu marinated in lemongrass, garlic, ginger, anato oil and curry powder. Absolutely amazing flavour, smoky and grilled to perfection. I preferred the chicken over the tofu, definitely.
The way of eating it adds to the fun. You place the chicken or tofu in a lettuce leaf, with some noodles, herbs and then top it off with some special Vietnamese Grill spice mix and a squeeze of lime. The taste is so refreshing and delicious. Very healthy too!
Spiced Prawn and Lemongrass Soup was really flavourful and filling with loads of sprouts and vegetables. It had a real hit of spice, though!
The Rice Noodles with Vegetables was super tasty, with garlic and crispy deep fried onion. The Trio of Mushroom in Green Pepper Sauce was just incredible. Meaty, juicy mushrooms in a peppery soy based sauce. The Grilled Vegetables in Saigon Sauce was delectable too. The sweet, tangy and juicy Prawns in Tamarind Sauce just hit the spot. (The Mushroom is my pick)
Cari – Vietnamese curries are like cousins of Thai Curries. Not as thick and a milder more refreshing taste. The use of Madras curry powder is another distinguishing factor.
The Chicken and Okra Red Cari was spicy and creamy. The Tofu Yellow Cari was so light and soulful, almost like an Asian version of Kadhi. The local ‘made in Pune’ silken tofu was mindblowingly melt-in-the-mouth.
The curries can be scooped up with – crisp on the outside but fluffy and soft on the inside – Baugettes (French Influence right there!) or with Jasmine Rice. I definitely suggest, go for the baugettes, though. Superb stuff!
Coconut Caramel Custard was really creamy and soothing. The coconut, kiwi and dragonfruit adding the Vietnamese touch. The local dessert, Che Chuoi, is perfect in this summer heat! Like an Asian falooda! Sago pearls, shaved ice and banana in coconut milk and flavouring syrups. Just perfect!
I had the Flower Cooler, elder flower mocktail, which was refreshing and delicious. We absolutely loved the Vietnamese Cold Coffee too, but when we ordered a second round it was very watery and had no flavour. Rest of the mocktails too aren’t that great.
I definitely think this ‘VIET : NOM’ festival shouldn’t be missed. If you like Vietnamese cuisine or really want to give it a try for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity. The food is close to authentic, but palatable for our taste as fish sauce isn’t used in most dishes. Even if used, it just gives a subtle flavour without the pungency. All the dishes I tasted were simply delicious.
Vienamese cuisine, in general, is very fresh, healthy and simple. The refreshing and soulful aroma and flavour of lemongrass being a constant companion. Plus food prepared by talented chefs specializing in Vietnamese cuisine, who have learnt their craft in Vietnam, not just from chefs but also on the streets is a real privilege. I had a blast, you should give it a try too!