Both are East Asian countries and their food ingredients are common but Vietnamese and Thai tastes are vastly different, said a top chef at the Benjarong chain of restaurants that is hosting a Vietnamese food festival.
“Though Benjarong is a Thai specialty cuisine restaurant we decided to host the Flavours of Vietnam festival across our chain as most of the ingredients for both are common,” V. Ramkumar, brand chef, Benjarong, told IANS.
In general, Vietnamese food is mild as compared to spicy Thai food, he added. And Vietnamese, unlike the Thais, are not major users of coconuts.
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The festival is currently on in Benjarong outlets in Bangalore’s Ulsoor Road (July 23-10th Aug) and Aug 6-24 at the Kolkata outlet in South City Mall, Jodhpur Park. It ran in Chennai (July 9-27).
“The menu is the same at all the outlets. We flew down two Vietnamese chefs – Nguy Thanh and Nguyen Thi Nho – for expert guidance,” Ramkumar said, serving a taster’s portion of charcoal grilled shrimp mousse on sugarcane with fresh rice vermicelli and Vietnamese herbs.
Even as the yummy shrimp went down the throat in a jiffy, the five spiced (sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty) fish skewers, shrimp spring rolls dipped in fermented bean sauce and barbeque honey chicken skewers with sesame rice ball arrived on the table.
Hailing from a small village near Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Ramkumar, as a school-going boy had innovated a coconut-based dish and named it as Vedi Thengai/Cracker Coconut.
“One day a friend had brought a coconut. We filled it with a mix of powdered peanuts and sugar, poking holes in the nut’s three eyes,” he recalled.
“We closed the openings with clay and placed the nut on a fire. After sometime, the nut would brake with a small sound while the coconut tasted great,” he mused.
Meanwhile, the fish and chicken skewers and shrimp rolls soon vanished from the plate and they are highly recommended to be ordered.
On the salad side, banana blossom with chicken and hot and sour squid salad with prawn crackers left a multiple but pleasant flavour in the mouth.
Queried about the business, Ramkumar said the restaurant is doing well even as some of the Thai specialty restaurants have downed their shutters.
For the main course, one can confidently go for any one or all of the three – simmered jumbo prawns in coconut juice or caramelised fish in clay pot or wok tossed tenderloin with lemon grass and chilli.
These go well with green mungbean sticky rice which tastes like a variant of Tamil dish Pongal and is light on the stomach.
Desserts include mungbean cake, crystal steamed banana cake served with cream coconut.
A meal for two would cost around Rs.1,800 plus taxes.