Continued from YUMMRAJ eating out in Vietnam (part 2)
This post is about Vietnamese food in Caravelle Hotel – A fixed menu that had been thoughtfully designed for our group. The spread was Vietnamese but some of them had Western influence when it came to presentation.
The service was interesting. The food was being brought in large serving trays & then divided into individual portions (8 persons per table) in front of us by a server dressed in Traditional Vietnamese attire.
The multi course meal started with a Vietnamese combination starter platter containing miniature shrimp mousse on sugarcane, minced lamb in la lop leaves & heart of palm salad with shrimp & pork.
The miniature Shrimp mousse was shrimp paste applied all around a real sugarcane stick & then fried. The shrimp was delicious, soft, fresh & flavorful. I ended up chewing up the sugarcane as well. That was fun.
The minced lamb in la lop leaves was awesome. Juicy, intense & YUMM minced lamb wrapped inside a leaf that I encountered for the first time – called la lop leaves. I also came to know that in Vietnam they eat a similar dish with minced beef inside betel leaf (paan ka patta)!!!!!
The heart of palm salad with shrimp & pork was outstanding as well. I being the carnivorous that u know by this time, am not a big fan of salads. However, I love any food that tastes YUMM. This one was beyond YUMM. The heart of palm (with its strands that u can see in the picture) was new to me. The shrimp was almost the way it was in water – just steamed post that. The simplicity, the freshness & ‘touch & go’ style of cooking in Vietnam impressed me a lot.
The pork slices were not that evident & were overshadowed by the palm & the shrimp.
The heart of palm (with its strands that u can see in the picture) was new to me – in terms of texture & taste. I struggled fpr few minutes to try to explain to my partner after I returned back home.
Overall it was too good.
‘Clear Chicken soup & fish mousse with laska leaves’ was what came next. When I read this I was a bit confused. As it was served, I saw clear soup with 4 balls inside them. The clear soup tasted chicken & the balls tasted of fish balls – So unusual for me that I cud not believe this at first. Asked around & this was confirmed.
My earliest encounter with fish balls was in China many years back. I saw them making lumps out of raw fish paste & putting those into boiling water. Within a minute the lump was turning into a fish ball. My second realization of fish ball was when I saw Chitol maacher muithha (a fish ball made out of Chital fish & then served in a Bengali curry) being made. The non curried Chitol Fish balls tasted almost like the ones I had in China. The fish balls at Vietnam were not much different either.
I found this dish very unusual & very interesting. Loved it. The laska leaves added flavor.
We next had Wok fried beef with onion roots & celery.
Beef is usually stiffer than mutton but it was magical how these guys succeded to make this wok fried beef soft, juicy & melt in the mouth. Celery & onion roots individually made their presence felt.
Post the beef we were served Braised pork trotters with fresh turmeric, ear mushrooms & glass noodles. While I ate it, I did not understand I was eating pork trotters (the palm of pig).
It tasted a lot like pork in the middle & had a very soft layer on the sides. I was surprised why the meat was non-fibrous. Now I know why it wasn’t. Liked this a lot too.
Next came Baked Tilapia fish marinated with ‘spicy chilli sauce’ – spicy by Vietnamese standards but moderate by Indian standards. Very good to taste, juicy chunks of fish.
I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of over –simple Sauteed Chayote Vegetables with mushrooms & white radish. It was vegetables sautéed in butter for I guess less than a minute – crunchiness still prevailed. Superb.
At last came Steamed Jasmine rice with pandan leaves – that is the tradition. Unlike in India where rice is served right at the beginning, rice (sticky rice) is served at the end in most Asian countries.
For dessert we were served Coconut agaragar with caramelized pineapple
This was the most surprising dish of the whole menu. It was served inside a de-shelled Green coconut.
The coconut water had been gelatinized & formed the base. Above that was a layer of gelatinized coconut milk. Atop that was a dollop of sweet caramelized pineapple that provided a contrast taste to the otherwise subtle dessert. I was awed by this.
U must be thinking ‘How is it possible that all the dishes are good’? Even I thought so. I asked my friends from 5 other countries & they also had the same thing to say…………………. Well, maybe was just lucky.
Look forward to more stories coming up on food in Vietnam.