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2nd prize of Southern semi-final round:

The surprised transform of Ly Son Island’s seafood

Tuesday, 01/24/2017 19:21
The Golden Dishes menu of team 52, Cam Thanh restaurant, was led by famous Ly Son specialties. Priceless gifts from the oceans, as the chefs called, really wowed the jury and audiences.

 “Ly Son seafood – priceless gifts from the oceans” was the topic of The Golden Dishes that Quang Ngai chefs brought to the semi-final round of The Golden Spoon 2016. As its name, the menu was filled with all regional specialties from Ly Son Island, such as Pacific oysters, sea cucumbers, seaweed, and black garlic. Moreover, local products were classically enriched by imported classy food like beef tenderloin from the US, French foie gras, and truffle mushroom.

Chef Nguyen Minh Hien was trimming shells of the slipper lobster.

In the presentation, chef Nguyen Minh Hien was really confident saying about his chance to go to the final round, “90% expectation”. In fact, that was the target that his whole team had set after winning the 1st prize of Middle Southern preliminary. They were so much proud of being the very first representation of Quang Ngai province coming to The Golden Spoon’s final round.

The chefs of Quang Ngai province had well prepared for the away competition. Chef Minh Hien said that right after the preliminary, they started discussing and planning for next round even though every one was quite busy at work. Being confident and passionate with homeland cuisine but they also realized that great food need highlights. They need to maintain original flavors while apply new cooking methods to match progressive culinary trends.

3 chefs of Cam Thanh hotels were discussing in their kiosk at The Golden Spoon contest 2016.

“We did only time trial for the dish because we had been discussing and dividing specific tasks for each member. We also expected some difficulties, in which the biggest problem was our transporting. We’ve been travelled quite far, and temperature changes also effect ingredients’ freshness”, said chef Minh Hien. Seeing uploading photos on Facebook, people realized how hard for 3 chefs of Quang Ngai to keep their regional ingredients as their best condition.

In fact, their hard work had paid off. Judge Ly Sanh commented, “Delicious and tasty. Another point is decoration, very logical and well blended to cheer diners up. I am surprised when they kept Ly Son seafood as that fresh. Besides, the way they handle black garlic is excellent. They eliminated unpleasant bitterness of garlic and turned them to delicious and exotic dish.”

Display table of The Golden Dishes – team 52 – Northern semi-final round.

In this round, the Golden Dishes of team 52 included 1) Ly Son Pacific oyster salad served with New Zealand lobster and Ly Son sea cucumber; 2) Primitively steamed Ly Son slipper lobster in Ly Son black garlic wine broth, served with New Zealand lobster’s head, Couscous seeds, and Sung leaves; 3) Sautéed beef tenderloin in Truffle mushroom sauce and French foie gras served with Lang Huyet root; 4) French style cream caramel served with pandan marinated Ly Son seaweed.

According to chef Minh Hien, they had exploited the crunchy yet chewy texture of Pacific oysters and traditional salad dressing in the appetizer. Moroever, sweet and tender New Zealand lobsters diversified the salad, making it more modern but the original flavor still remained. Chef Minh Hien informed that sea cucumbers in Ly Son were rare seafood and very nutritious while the Pacific oysters were strange looking. They look like pipes made from limestone so local people called them “pipe oysters”.

Ly Son pipe oysters’ salad served with New Zealand lobster and Ly Son sea cucumbers.

Chef Minh Hien shared his story about how hard to catch this type of oysters. Fishermen have to dive 15 – 20m in areas of fossil corals but they do need experiences and expertise skills. Otherwise, they just collect only limestone shells while oysters’ flesh still clings on fossil corals. Besides Ly Son, pipe oysters have also found in Binh Thuan and Khanh Hoa areas. To catch them is hard; to prepare them is not any easier. If you make it wrong, the flesh will be crushed and torn apart. Therefore, right after choosing pipe oysters as main ingredients, chef Minh Hien had met some old men of Ly Son to learn how to prepare and process them, both raw and cooked.

Pipe oysters were rare boiled, skillfully sundered the mussel, and gutted out. Oyster flesh would be cleaned by salt and lime juice then soaked in ice for 15 minutes to reduce fishy smell. Next, oyster flesh would be boiled in coconut juice with lemongrass and chili. After cooked, the flesh once again was soaked in ice and lime juice to maintain their texture. Finally, the whole oyster flesh, sliced sea cucumbers, and New Zealand lobsters would be mixed with carrot, mangoes, and seaweed.

The next course included primitively steamed Ly Son slipper lobsters served with Ly Son black garlic wine broth and New Zealand lobster’s head served with Couscous seeds and Sung leaves (Zanthoxylum nitidum Roxb), which were two main dishes of the golden menu. Red slipper lobsters are Ly Son specialties with smooth sweetness and firm texture. The broth was cooked from New Zealand lobsters’ heads and black garlic wine while side dishes included couscous seeds and some kinds of vegetables with outstanding Sung leaves. Lead chef of team 52 informed, “We chose primitive cooking method, just to boil both types of lobsters so that the transparent taste of New Zealand lobsters would back the smooth taste of red slipper lobster up.”

Primitively steamed Ly Son slipper lobster in Ly Son black garlic wine broth, served with New Zealand lobster’s head, Couscous seeds, and Sung leaves.

In the course, New Zealand lobsters’ heads were stir-fried with carrots, celeries, bell peppers, and scallion. The whole stir-fried food then would be grinded with cream and a tablespoon of black garlic wine and filtered to get the broth. “Black garlic wine has a bit bitter taste so only a tablespoon should be enough”, said chef Minh Hien. Couscous was an essential element to balance starch and meat in the dish. Couscous look like grains but actually it’s a type of pasta, which is very popular from Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Egypt), the Middle East to Europe (France, Spain, and Greece). People usually steam couscous, or cook as rice with salt and butter to taste.

Instead of using rosemary and basil as people usually do in some countries, our chefs picked Sung leaves, a popular spicy tree in the Middle of Viet Nam. Tips of Sung trees have strong and aromatic essence and mint-like after-taste. Cooked couscous would be shaped into a pedestal, where to place steamed red slipper lobster and poured the broth onto.

Sautéed beef tenderloin in Truffle mushroom sauce and French foie gras served with Lang Huyet root.

The main course, Sautéed beef tenderloin in Truffle mushroom sauce and French gras foie served with Lang Huyet root, was made from imported ingredients but the vital spices were Quang Ngai featured. Chef Minh Hien said, “The impression of the dish is about spices. Instead of black peppers, we used lemongrass fruits to make it unique. Side dishes were mashed Lang Huyet roots and truffle mushroom to provide enough starch and to make it luxury. Moreover, the sauce was also added French foie gras for delicately fatty taste.” Lemongrass fruits used to appear in Fillet Nien fish rolled lemongrass fruits in one of the preliminaries. This is a type of spicy fruits from wild trees in Ba To mountain area, which has strong oil and lemongrass-like aroma. Local people usually marinate fish or meat by these interesting fruits before steaming or grilling. In this main course, beef tenderloin was bite-size chopped, marinated with spices and lemongrass fruits then sautéed whereas the sauce was made from 2 classy ingredients, French foie gras and truffle mushroom.

French style cream caramel served with pandan marinated Ly Son seaweed.

The dessert - French style cream caramel served with pandan marinated Ly Son seaweed – was inspired by French culinary method but our chefs wanted to bring Ly Son features into the dish, which was fresh seaweed. Briefly, beat fresh cream and eggs then add fresh pandan leaf juice, vanilla, and blanched fresh seaweed; steam the whole mixture until cooked. To emphasize homeland flavors, the team brought Dan oranges into their dessert. Dan oranges are small size and seedy but their flavor is impressively sweet.

Cam Dan (Dan oranges).

To vary Ly Son endemic specialties and to elevate the menu by exotic classy ingredients did help team 52 to win a ticket to the final round. It was an impressive achievement because this was the first time ever they had been in The Golden Spoon contest but they immediately became of the top 15. The chance to win 1 billion vnd and The Golden Spoon championship would not be to far from their skillful hands.

By Nguyen Trang

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