taste & travel international writer nathan fong had finest cuisine tastes at hue luxury hotel la...
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DESCRIPTIONBun Bo Hue or Beef Noodle Soup in Hue-style and smoked duck breast are just some of delicious dishes of Hue luxury hotel La Residence's Le Parfum Restaurant impressed Taste & Travel International Writer Nathan Fong. Check out other dishes he sampled.
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2. destinationsTHIS PHOTO:28taste& travel international OCTOBERDECEMber 2014 vietnam 3. VietnamdestinationsCentralVietnamSome 13 years ago I stepped on the expansive,RevisitedPhotography by Michel ChicoinebyNathan Fongsandy beach of My Khe, otherwise known asChina Beach to the thousands of Americanand Australian soldiers who were stationedin Da Nang during the Vietnam War. In the years thathave passed since that controversial conflict, thiselongated Southeast Asian country has grown with avengeance. With its expanding economy and strongincrease in culinary and cultural travel, Vietnam hasblossomed much like the beloved lotus flower thatwelcomes visitors.Where on Earth29OCTOBERDECEMber 2014 taste& travel internationalvietnam 4. destinationstaste& travel international OCTOBERDECEMber 2014 vietnamIt was my young brothers posting with the CanadianPHOTOS CLOCKWISEFROM FAR LEFT Fruitmarket vendor in Hue;Banh mi sandwich;Freshly cracked coconuts.government that initially brought me to this historic country.After visits to the French-inspired capital of Hanoi in the north,with its famed opera house and Gothic cathedral, and to theAmerican-influenced southern city of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)with its frantic and noisy motor-scooter traffic, not to mentiongirly bars left over from the war, I was finally venturing to theCentral Coast to experience the refined, Imperial cuisine of Hueand the Cham-influenced cooking of Hoi An.En route to the coast, I encounter the hectic pace of Ho ChiMinh. Still fondly called Saigon by the locals, this city of ninemillion is the largest in Vietnam. Its been several years since Ilast visited and now, like many Asian cities, this once innocentand idyllic part of the country has been infiltrated by thecommercialism of the Western world. The scooter-filledstreets, once congested with fruit vendors and pop-up phoand satay stands, are slowly being taken over by the chicnessof Starbucks, KFC and upscale malls filled with ubiquitousluxury brands.Saigon has a vibrant restaurant scene, including the popularCuc Gach Quan, which features classic Vietnamese comfortfood set in a renovated colonial villa. Luminaries such as Bradand Angelina dine at this beautiful architect-owned eatery, butthe real stars are the dishes themselves. A fresh clam soup isrefreshing with a generous lacing of chopped dill, while abrilliant dish of fried fish is tossed with passionfruit sauce.The historic war-time Caravelle and Rex Hotels, located inthe central district across from the citys beloved Opera Houseand facing the busy Lam Son Square, are still popular, despitethe new international chains that have moved into the area.These are the two famed hotels, each with a rooftop bar,where foreign correspondents worked, socialized and drankwhile the Saigon night blazed with shell attacks during thetumultuous war.The Caravelle, with its landmark neon-topped tower andmodern, comforting rooms, is attached to the original French-designedbuilding that houses the rooftop Saigon Saigon barwith its panoramic city views, and the signature ReflectionsRestaurant overlooking the Opera House. This elegant diningroom features a Michelin-inspired menu reflecting classicFrench elegance at its best. A delicate mussel risotto comesgarnished with lobster and shellfish mousse, tempura is gracedwith an aromatic anise-saffron reduction and an entre of sousvide butter-poached lamb loin comes with smoked gnocchi,fava beans and olives.A few blocks away the newly renovated and contemporaryRenaissance Saigon Riverside soars up from the banks of theSaigon River, where I am told the citys new business districtwill evolve in the next few years. Walking through District One,which comprises most of downtown, I see the elegant colonialbuildings filled with tailors shops and restaurants are slowlybeing razed to make way for sleek glass atrium malls andtowers. Heres hoping development doesnt take over toomuch of this engaging metropolis.After a couple of days delay by the destructive typhoonHaiyan that tore through The Philippines but left the centralcoast of Vietnam touched only by minor flooding, I finallyarrive in the UNESCO World Heritge city of Hue and thespectacular Accor Hotel La Residence, the whitewashedformer residence of the French Colonial governor. Splendid30 5. with its bowed facade and symmetrical Art Deco lines, thehouse, like the city of Hue, is steeped in history, from thedays of the Imperial Court to those of the Vietnam War.Situated on the former border of North and SouthVietnam, Hue served as Vietnams capital under theNguyen Dynasty emperors from 1802 to 1945, and fellvictim to much damage and battle scars during theVietnam war. Close to 90 percent of the palaces importanthistorical buildings and walls were destroyed during thewar but because of recent government policy changes andinternational sponsorship, much restoration andrenovation are under way. The last ten major buildings aredue to be finished this year, to coincide with the 70thanniversary of Vietnams regime.Renting a cyclo for the day, I am taken across thePerfume River towards the ancient citadel and to one ofthe many feng shui gates of the former palace. Thesymmetrically designed Purple Forbidden City is similar toBeijings Forbidden City but on a much smaller scale.Like its elegantly designed streets and Imperialarchitecture of pagodas and magnificent tombs, thecuisine of Hue is considered by many Vietnamese to bethe most refined in the country. Hue was famous forflamboyant banquets, designed to please an emperor whodecreed that Imperial cuisine should be innovative and setapart from the rest of the country. It was also decreed thatno dishes should be repeated during the same year,thereby forcing royal chefs to be creative, devising a largeassortment of small appetizer-sized dishes. From this, Huecuisine eveloved.A popular variety of delicate banana-leaf parcels,almost like miniature Mexican tamales, are stuffed withan array of ingredients, from glutinous rice, meats andseafood to dainty flower-like dumplings and cakes calledbanh beo. Other Hue specialties include a spicy clam andrice dish (com hen), and delicate, crisp turmeric-huedrice flour crepes stuffed with bean spouts, shrimp andTHIS PHOTO A selection ofImperial appetizers at LaResidence Hotel & Spa, Hue.destinations31Cook itServes 46 as an appetizerGrilled Marinated Squid1 To prepare the squid tubes, lay flat ona cutting board. Holding down on thepointed end, use a sharp knife to make34 cuts about 3/4inch long at the openend, creating a fringe. Alternatively if theyare too large, they can be cut into 3-inchpieces, then scored in a crisscross patternon both sides of the body, being carefulnot to cut through.2 Whisk together the marinade ingredientsand add the prepared squid. Marinate for15 minutes or until grill is ready.3 Prepare a medium hot charcoal grill orpreheat a gas grill to medium-high. Skewerthe squid and grill for about 2 minuteseach side. Serve with Nuoc Cham.OCTOBERDECEMber 2014 taste& travel internationalvietnamMakes 1 cupsNuoc ChamYoungSquid 2 lbs,cleaned,tentaclesdiscardedSugar tspFish Sauce1 TbsLime Juice1 TbsThai Chili1, seeded,finelychoppedCanola Oil2 Tbs1 Combine fish sauce, sugar andlime juice until sugar is dissolved.2 Add the garlic and chili.3 Serve immediately or refrigeratecovered for up to a week.Fish Sauce cupSugar cupFresh Lime Juice cupGarlic 2 cloves, mincedThai Chilies 12,stemmed and minced 6. LEFT Street marketvendors selling fresh herbsand their daily catch, Hue;ABOVE Decorated WestGate Entrance to theImperial Palace in Hue;BELOW RIGHT Infinitypool overlooking Ha Mybeach, Hoi An.Vancouverborn NathanFong segued fromcooking and catering to abrilliant career as a food andprops stylist for culinary printand film advertising, with adistinguished internationalclient list. He is celebrating his 23rd year as televisionhost for his food and travel segments on GlobalTV anda columnist for The Vancouver Sun and writes hispopular blogs at www.vancouversun.com andwww. fongonfood.comdestinationstaste& travel international OCTOBERDECEMber 2014 vietnamaromatic herbs, called banh khoai. In southern Vietnam,these are made larger and are more commonly calledbanh xeo. For lunch one day, lounging by La Residencesinfinity pool set on the banks of the Perfume River, I tuckinto a stellar bun bo Hue, the citys signature noodledish, and a hearty banh mi, Vietnams inspired version ofthe French baguette sandwich. Like pho, bun bo Hue isbased on a broth of long-simmered beef bones, but bunbo Hue is fiery, suffused with extra chilies, shrimp pasteand lemongrass. The broth is ladled over a bowlful ofpaper-thin slices of beef, crab and pork meatballs, pigstrotters, and huyet, quivering cubes of congealed pigsblood, all set on a bed of spaghetti-like rice noodles.For evening elegance, La Residences talentedexecutive chef La Thua An showcases his Europeantraining. A smoked duck breast comes adorned with abanana-blossom salad and graced with foie gras icecream. A main of chicken stuffed in aromatic pandanusleaves is paired with sweet and sour fish sauce andcoconut sticky rice. The breathtaking desserts include aspun-sugar nest enclosing a mousse-stuffed coconut,with a raspberry and passionfruit heart. Another surpriseis a chocolate sphere filled with truffled ice cream andsauted fruits with gold leaf. Imperial cuisine at its finest!Its been close to a dozen years since I last visited theexpansive, serene beaches of the south central coast andthe ancient, UNESCO-protected port town of Hoi An.Originally influenced by the Khmer Empire, which beganin the ninth century in todays Cambodia and extendedthrough most of southern Vietnam, by the 18th centuryHoi An had become a major spice and trading port.Besides the nearby Khmer-style Cham temples, Hoi An isfull of beautiful, well-preserved architecture, much of itinfluenced by early Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Indiansettlers. Almost untouched by change compared to therest of Vietnam, Hoi An showcases some of the best SoutheastAsian architecture of the period.Reflecting the serenity and simplicity of the area is theluxurious Nam Hai Resort. Set upon a seemingly infinite stretchof beach, the visually stunning Nam Hai marries contemporaryideas with traditional Vietnamese home designs. Inspired byancient feng shui philosophy, spacious villas with lusciouslandscaping are built around tranquil infinity pools overlookingthe Hoi An coastline. Richard Wilson, the resorts delightful andtalented executive chef from New Zealand, is well versed inVietnamese cuisine and introduces me to the areas signaturemi quang noodle dish. Thick golden-hued noodles laced withturmeric sit nestled in a deep broth in a large bowl and aretopped with a myriad of ingredients, from shrimp and pork,hard-boiled eggs, crushed peanuts, shallots and garlic to heady,aromatic herbs of water mint, Vietnamese coriander andshredded banana flowers, all garnished with32Click it 7. toasted sesame crackers called banh trang. And therescao lau, a delectable five-spice-infused pork broth withudon-like noodles (made importantly with the local wellwater), slabs of tender pork, bean sprouts, fresh herbsand crispy pork crackling. The distinctive banh vac(white rose dumplings) are delicate, steamed wontonsmade with rice flour and stuffed with shrimp, toppedwith fried shallots. But its in Chef Wilsons open kitchenthat I learn about the simplicity of grilling tender squid,licked with a marinade of lime, fish sauce and chilies.Vietnam, with some 2,150 miles of coastline, hascertainly some of the best Asian cuisine in the world.Influenced by China in the north, and Cambodia andLaos to the west, the palate constantly changes as youventure from north to south. Discovering the Imperialcuisine and vibrant flavours of the countrys central coastwas a tasting sensation for me and I long for my nextventure, hopefully not before too long!The Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigonwww.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sgnbr-renaissance-riverside-hotel-saigonThe Caravelle Hotel/Reflectionswww.caravellehotel.comThe Rex Hotelwww.rexhotelvietnam.comThe Nam Haiwww.thenamhai.comLa Residence/ Le Parfumwww.la-residence-hue.comCuc Gach Quan9-10 Dang Tat, Ward Tan Dinh, District 1, Ho Chi Minhdestinations33Serves 4Mi QuangCook itVietnamese Turmeric Noodles1 Add the spare ribs to a stockpot withenough cold water to cover. Bring toboiling point, skimming all the excessprotein that rises to the surface. Add theshallots and dried shrimp. Lower the heatand simmer for 2 hours. Strain througha fine sieve and season the broth withsugar and salt, to taste. The spare ribscan be served with the noodles as well.Pork and ShrimpAnnatto Oil1 2 TbsGarlic minced,1 TbsShallots minced,1 TbsLean Pork Belly lb, thinly slicedPaprika 1 TbsMedium Shrimp lb, shelled,deveinedFish Sauce 3 TbsSalt and Pepperto taste1 Heat a wok over medium-high heat.Add the annatto oil. When hot, add thegarlic, shallots and pork and stir-fry untilthe pork is translucent. Add the shrimpand stir-fry until cooked. Season and setaside, covered.To Finish the DishWide RiceNoodles 1 packageCanola Oil 2 TbsTurmeric ground,1 Tbs1 To make annatto seed oil, heat cupof canola oil in a small saucepan overmedium heat and add 3 Tbs annattoseeds. Stir until the oil becomes darkreddish yellow. Strain, discarding seeds,and allow to cool before using. Keepcovered in a cool dark area.GarnishesBean Sprouts, Mint Leaves, Lime Wedges,Cilantro, Green Onions, Roasted Peanuts,Black Sesame CrackersOCTOBERDECEMber 2014 taste& travel internationalvietnamThe cuisine of Hue isconsidered by many to bethe most refinedin the countryVisit itThe BrothPork SpareRibs 2 lbs, cutinto 2" piecesShallots23, peeledDried Shrimp4 mediumSalt and Sugarto taste1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles andstir to soften. After 3 to 4 minutes, add the oil and turmeric and stirwell. Cook until desired texture and drain well.2 Divide the noodles between 4 large serving bowls. Add a portionof the sauted pork and shrimp, add a ladle of the broth, then topwith garnishes.