Flavours of Vietnam were well CURRY-ed!

My attention this morning stopped on this article from slurrp.com and the two chefs who prepared read specialties during a recent trip… I won’t tell you more if you like spicy, I recommend you read… #MustSeeInVietnam Editor

Chef Quoc and Chef Ho Tin have mindfully crafted the menu for this festival, keeping the cuisine’s philosophy at the epicentre of their creations. “We had heard that Indians love flavourful food and enjoy a spicy affair

Flavours of Vietnam were well CUR8-ed!

Image credits: Chef Quoc 

It is true that good food takes you to places that you’ve never been before, and a real foodie travels to many such places in a lifetime. Having always been an enthusiast who is hungry for such culinary experiences, I indulged in the “Flavours of Vietnam.” It is an ongoing Vietnamese food festival happening at the Four Seasons Hotel that celebrates a fusion of tastes and cultures here in Bengaluru. 

I walked into CUR8, a restaurant that is well lit and has a pleasant ambience with many seating tables suitable for families. I saw that they offer a wide range of carefully selected dishes from around the world. Right from the Mediterranean salads and dips to regional Indian specialities, Chinese, the popular Italian pastas and pizzas, and other popular cuisines of the European regions, they were all up for grabs. 

However, the sound of sizzling meats, the aroma of lemongrass, galangal and turmeric drove me almost immediately towards the colourful array of Vietnamese delicacies placed in woks that were each covered with a black cloche and took the centre stage in the restaurant. Behind the counter was Chef Quoc preparing the meats and the fish for the parrillada grill to serve them up fresh to the guests. 

Chef Quoc and Chef Ho Tin have mindfully crafted the menu for this festival, keeping the cuisine’s philosophy at the epicentre of their creations. “We had heard that Indians love flavourful food and enjoy a spicy affair. I have eaten Indian food myself, and I knew that was true. Keeping the people in mind, we curated a menu weeks ago to give a Vietnamese dining experience that they won’t forget,” says chef Quoc. I was expecting everything Vietnamese apart from the usual pho (noodle soup), banh mi (sandwich), and goi cuon (rice paper spring rolls). Guess what! I got much more than what I expected! 

The fine balance of sweet, salty, sour, bitterness, and spice in the Vietnamese preparations is something that I had partially experienced at some restaurants in the city. But I was curious to know more and eager to indulge. A helping of wok-fried morning glory and bok choy was ideal to kick off the winter meal. The deep green colour of Morning glory was intimidating, and I expected it to be bitter. I could taste the salt and garlic flavours with a hint of bitterness. As I expected it to go overboard with bitterness and braced myself, I was surprised by the sweetness and crunch from the tender sprigs of morning glory and bok choy that were stir-fried just right with a rounded taste of the oyster sauce and red chilli flakes. 

I was intrigued and wanted to try more immediately. So, I dug into a mouthful of caramelised pork belly. The smoky bits had rendered themselves beautifully to the caramelised onions, seasoning of spices, sugar, and oyster sauce. The garnish of finely chopped spring onion and sesame seeds added a peppery and nutty flavour to the dish. 

Moving on, I paired the chicken cooked with bamboo shoots with sticky rice. The aroma of turmeric and citric lemon grass took over my palate. And the succulent pieces of perfectly cooked chicken with chopped bamboo shoots were blended skillfully with red chilies for heat and scallions for sweetness. Talk about balance! That is what it was. 

I took a break in the middle of my Vietnamese culinary tour to notice the pleasant live music performance that was harmoniously adding pep to the lively ambience. It was surprising to see how the traditional Vietnamese dishes seamlessly blended with international cuisine in a multicuisine buffet spread! 

I got chatty with the busy chef, who was now juggling between banh xeo chay (vegetable pancake) on the hot plate and a fresh salad at the counter. Chef Quoc explained how they follow the true principles of Central Vietnamese cuisine from the Quang Nam province and cook with fish sauce a lot. “We used our luggage space on the flight to bring many ingredients specifically for the food festival because the spice mix, celtuce, and other ingredients are difficult to find here,” says chef Quoc. At this point, I moved Vietnam to the top of my long-pending travel bucket list. 

For me, he made a fresh salad with prawns and rau tiến vua. The crunch was like that of asparagus, and my full attention was drawn to the pickled celtuce. It was the first time that I tried rau tiến vua or celtuce, which belongs to the lettuce family and is dehydrated to store. The chefs brought it all the way from Vietnam, rehydrated it, and pickled it themselves with vinegar and sugar here. Normally, I would eat the prawns and leave the salad alone, but this time I finished the plate of salad because of the asparagus-tasting rau tiến vua. And then came a plate of freshly deboned and grilled chicken wings with a marinade that had flavours of turmeric, lemongrass, oyster sauce, galangal, and garlic. The smoky char on the meat complemented the marinade beautifully. 

On a weekday, the restaurant was packed with families celebrating special moments at some tables. I returned to fill up my plate and met a friend who pointed at the banh xeo chay and asked me to try it. So, that’s just what I did. I got a helping of that, some sweet corn tofu, and clay-baked seabass. The pancakes with bean sprout filling were indulgent; the tofu was a tad bit sweet for my preference; and the clay-baked fish was cooked well with a marinade of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sliced onions, garlic, and Vietnamese red lady chilies At this point, I realised I had eaten to my heart’s content and decided to skip dessert in order to savour the aftertaste of what I had just experienced. 

“With people travelling places and trying different cuisines, the guests know what they want, and the response has been great,” says Aporve Baranwal, Director of Restaurants and Bars at the Four Seasons hotel. “It has been a big learning experience for my team, and we are drawing inspiration from our Vietnamese guest chefs for a few live counter recipes for our lunches, brunches, and dinner menu,” says Dirham Haque, Executive Chef of the Four Seasons hotel in Bengaluru.

By Slurrp.com – virtual encyclopaedia of food, compiled by a team of editors.

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