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Saigon Chefs cooking with... Leaves

Friday, 11/11/2016 11:50
The very first day of southern semi-final round (The Golden Spoon Contest 2016) was saved for the most ardent competition, which is among 10 host teams of Ho Chi Minh city.

Foreign judges are excited with Vietnamese spices.

Finally, they did not disappoint audiences with the whole compelling day, from showing exotic ingredients, talentedly cooking skills, classically garnishing, to presentation and food sampling.

Household leaves, wild leaves, and exotic leaves

Saigon is an open land that can carry people from all over the country and all different cultures. Therefore, all specialties have been converging to this land, and so do modern cooking methods.

One cultural research figured out that all regional special dishes when coming to Saigon would be adjusted a bit just to be tastier and therefore easier to satisfy different tastes of diners.

If a dish lasts in Saigon, it will step on the first stage of “being Vietnamese cuisine in integration period” as the purpose of The Golden Spoon Contest.

Most of Saigon chefs brought stories of leaves to the southern semi-final round as a coincident. They started with vegetables then to spicy leaves, and finally ended with herbs.

Being one of the most enduring and progressive contestants in the journey to The Golden Spoon highest awards, chef Le Vo Anh Duy from Binh Quoi 1 Resort has continued his 4th season with lots of exotic leaves.

Chef Anh Duy persuasively won the 1st prize in southern preliminary because of his new spices and delicate display. This time, he brought calf shank, Truc Linh vegetable, Nganh leaves (Cratoxylum cochinchinense), and Dit leaves.

Especially, Truc Linh vegetable, which grows mostly in the Middle of Vietnam and people believe it can reduce motion sickness, appeared in a novel appetizer.

Meanwhile, 3 chefs from Binh Quoi 2 Resort brought in the combination of grilled widgeon with Chuc leaves (Kaffir lime), ginger leaves, and Lolot pepper leaves, served with purple sweet rice.

Moreover, chef Kim Anh wanted to send a message of the ocean through her dishes, seafood & breadfruit in lime salad and Sa Island cobia cooked with Vinegar leaves. Vinegar leaves look like cassava leaves but taste like tamarind.

It seemed like judges were so curious about spicy leaves in Saigon teams’ kitchens, especially the two foreign judges Norbert Ehrbar and Sakal Phoeung were excited to taste Vietnamese native spices.

Display table of team No. 16 – Binh Quoi 1 Resort, HCM city.

Converging and Integrating

Participating in The Golden Spoon Contest for the first time but the 9x chef of Kobe Teppanyaki confidently showed his enthusiasm with modern cuisine.

Although chef Le Thoai is from a Japanese restaurant, he comfortably combined Vietnamese and international ingredients in his menu as following: Scallops with fresh butter and green mussel paste in yellow mustard sauce; Baked cod in red pepper sauce, served with Mai Xa soup; New Zealand lamp, Couscous rice, and Rosemary sauce; Chocolate mousse and Mat-cha cake.

Notably, the team brought to the contest Mai Xa soup, which is made from Chat Chat, a tiny clam-like living in backish water in Quang Tri province. This soup has a remarkably transparent taste.

Another team with fusion cuisine was Park Hyatt Saigon (team No. 24). They used both exotic ingredients (American scallops, saffron) and traditional ones (Go Cong chicken, Phu Quoc ripe pepper sauce, pistachios, and Hoa Loc mangoes).

Meanwhile, Team 41 – An Lam Saigon River Resort (Binh Duong province) – carried a whole bunch of dainty and high-class food, such as lobster, black caviar, and French squad.

Ngoc Linh chicken cooked with bamboo shoot, Dit leaves, and Morel mushroom, served with fresh rice noodles.

The semi-final round observed not only convergent of various ingredients but also strong investment of high-tech equipment and modern cooking methods, such as consommé, smoking, and sous vide.

There was one more day remaining for other teams from Middle Highlands, Southern Middle, Southeast, and Mekong river Delta area to compete tickets to the final round.

The largest council of Judges

To exam the southern semi-final were influential and adept judges. Professional judges are Food Artisan - Ms. Bui Thi Suong, Elite Teacher & Ambassador of Vietnamese Goods - Ms. Trieu Thi Choi; Chairman of Saigon Professional Chefs Association. Especially - Mr. Ly Sanh. There were 2 foreign judges, Mr. Norbert Ehrbar – Deputy Chairman of Saigon Professional Chefs Association, and Mr. Sakal Phoeung – Chairman of Vietnamese Escoffier Association.

Guest judges:

Deputy General Director of Minh Long I Co., Ltd., Vice Chairman of the Contest The Golden Spoons – Mr. Ly Huy Sang; Ambassador of Vietnamese Goods – Elite Artist Kim Xuan; Deputy Director of HCM City Tourism Department - Ms. Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa.

By Kien Chinh/The Gioi Tiep Thi
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