“Chào bạn”
… that
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.

All the
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.

We were then
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]

Phew, that was a
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.

It was then time
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]

And the only
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.

With that the
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

A meal for 2
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!! 

Xin chào [Goodbye] … Mai mốt gặp lại [We shall meet again soon]

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