is how you greet someone in Vietnamese. No, I am not learning the language, was
just curious to know how people greet each other. Where did this come from? I recently
got the opportunity to attend the Vietnamese Food Festival going on at
Benjarong, TTK Road and that is where my interest in this region.
tables had a little standee which described the Vietnamese Cold Coffee [Ca phe da] in
detail along with a picture of the same. So, when we met the Chef the 1st
thing I asked was “can we try it?” He obliged and soon we had a staff brought
the apparatus and began showing us how it is made. They brought a glass that
had a tablespoon of condensed milk at the bottom. He proceeded to place a
coffee filter [much like the south Indian filter kaapi filter] on top of the
glass and poured hot water on the coffee powder[ the powder was not finely ground, but was
coarse], soon coffee began dripping onto the condensed milk. There was another
glass with crushed ice in it. Once the
coffee was done dripping, it was mixed well with condensed milk and then poured
on the crushed ice. It was divine, tad bitter and chill.
While we were
enjoying the coffee, the chef came over to take us through the cuisine, the
chefs and how the whole process unfolded. The festival starts in Chennai, and
then moves to Bangalore before winding up at Kolkatta and available only at
Benjarong restaurant across the cities.
served Pho Ga ( Rice Noodle Soup ), the broth was
just divine, not overpowering, very different from Tom yum soup [ thai soup] –
subtle beautiful flavours that filled your taste buds. The soup also had a mix of
veggies- mushrooms, carrots and greens, garnished with coriander. We loved it.
The Chef did mention that the ratio of veg to non veg dishes wasn’t exactly
equal as most of the Vietnamese food involved a lot of meat [& sea food]
on, a wide range of starters arrived at our table and each one looked sinful.
There was a cane basket that had an assortment of starters- a veg wrap [raw
veggies in a rice wrap], stir fried chestnut and cashews, a medley of pickled
veggies accompanied with a peanut based dip, there was a plate with Banana Blossom
& Tofu starter and finally the showstopper, a cold mushroom salad [ that
was the star of the evening]
lot of food and we had a whale of a time enjoying them while chatting with the
Chef. He spoke to us about the Chefs who
were visiting from Vietnam, one of them understood some English and other dint
but they communicated via hand signals. Thumbs up for good and down for bad.
They went on a trip to Koyembedu market and commented on how the markets back
in Vietnam were quite similar to how it was here in Chennai. But since many of
the ingredients were not available here, some of the dishes were taken off the
menu and then ofcourse Benjarong does not serve pork so none of those dishes
made it as well.
for the main course. I saw a plate of Glass noodles, Green Mungbean Sticky Ric [rice cooked with
moong daal that was tad sweet], a Tofu dish cooked in the traditional clay pot
and then there was the Vietnam Veg
Curry in Coconut Gravy. Each of these dishes
were unique in terms of flavour and the combo of rice to curry was heavenly [
the gravy would pass off for a dish from Kerala, probably because of the
coconut gravy base]
way to finish off such an elaborate meal was to have interesting desserts. We
were offered two- one was the Mungbean Cake and Bánh Chuối Hấp Nước Cốt Dừa
which is a Crystal Steamed Banana Cake served with Cream Coconut. I quite loved
the Banana dessert, probably because of the texture and complex flavours.
evening was a wrap!! Oh wait, we were
given a cute hand massager as a gift when we bid the team adieu. Catch the
festival in Chennai till 27th, else you gotta visit Bangalore or
should cost around Rs 2500-3000 [depending on all that you order- veg/non veg] But
the one thing I would recommend is the Vietnamese cold coffee and mushroom
salad…And for those who love Benjarong’s food, their original menu is also available!!
restaurant is one of our favorite haunts.. My friend & I have been here
more times than we can count. Situated on the rooftop, they serve some of the
most amazing Lebanese dishes. What is this restaurant? It is Kefi at Taj Club
House. We were back here to sample the dishes that were part of the Tunisian menu. The dishes at
Kefi are from the Mediterranean region and around.
and has strong influences from both Africa, Mediterranean and India. Executive
Chef Siddiq with his team has drawn the menu for this festival. Aptly called
the ‘sun cuisine’, all dishes are based on olive oil, tomatoes, seafood and
meat (mainly lamb), with a distinctive spicy fieriness.
except the spice factor is tad high.
Amouse bouch- a slice of beetroot wrapped around feta cheese. It was absolutely
amazing, the sweetness of the beet went well with the sharp sourness of the cheese.
We managed to spend a few minutes learning about Tunisia from the Chef when a
plate of pide bread with dips arrived. I quite love this bread- with the garlic
yoghurt sauce, harissa and pickled olives/chillies.
other quite well, we were catching up on our lives when the starters slowly
made their way to the table. I was the only vegetarian but it so happened that
the veg starter that stole the show. I was served the Solanum brik (Baked
Pastry filled with and Mediterranean spiced creamed potato); which just melted
in our mouths and was creamy in texture.
a meal can only mean digging into a sinful dessert. We were in for a treat, the
Makroudh baklava (Fillo pastry filled with nuts and dates
flavoured with rose syrup) served with a flew slivers of orange slices soaked
in spices was heavenly. There was also a sticky candy along with the baklava,
adding a touch of playfulness to it.
It is available as part of their a la carte Dinner menu and would cost you
about Rs1100 [excl of tax] per person. To book a table, call +91 44 6631 3131
After a brief hiatus, am back with more tales… Few days ago, had been invited by friends for breakfast and she had made both idli and dosa. Plates were laid out, the table was set and she began serving us. She placed a dosa and 2 idlis on all the plates. I quietly went around the table, picked up a plate and removed one idli and went about eating the rest with the yumm chutney she had made. There was also the spicy milagai podi that was crunchy and delicious.. Just as we were all done with the 1st round, she opened both the containers and offered us idli or dosa. I automatically reached out for the dosa while few others went for the idli.
That was when she remarked ” oh I forgot you are not too fond of idlis”.. I smiled and said its alright, am not that fussy when am out…
But yes, truth is idlis are not my favorite, I go for them only if nothing else is available or if there is a yumm chutney/sambar to go with it. I also prefer idli when am travelling as it is safe to eat the hot steamed idlis.
I have this other best friend… she has a good laugh everytime I visit them, for she makes idlis often as her kidss love it and then she watches me push every bite down with a plunger and a semi frown on my face. She laughs as she mutters “may you find a guy who demands idlis every day” and my retort would be “I shall send him to you, you can feed him, stuff him and send him back”
I have no clues as to when this love-hate affair with idli began but it has been with me for as long as I can remember… there have been days when I forego breakfast cos it is the boring idli and other times when it stares me in the face as if to say “I dare you”
Is there any dish/item/ingredient that you love to hate?