Review: 'Flavors of Vietnam' at Benjarong




Get ready to be surprised with bags of flavor at Vietnamese food festival at Benjarong


Last year, I had a chance to indulge in the Vietnamese flavors for the first time and I just fell in love with it. One year down the line, I was invited again to be part of the ongoing Vietnamese Food Festival ‘Flavors of Vietnam’ at Benjarong few days back. This year, the Chefs have pushed up the taste level a notch higher with rich and aromatic ingredients, making the whole experience a beautiful one.





‘Vietnamese food is considered as one of the healthiest and most divine cuisine worldwide’ and after the experience I had at Benjarong this week, I can vouch for this statement.

Exquisite preparation and interesting cooking techniques, along with delicate and appealing presentation while serving are few things abouth this festival which really pleased me. This year at Benjarong, Chef Ly Kim Ngan has joined Chef Nguyen Thi Nho to host the Vietnamese food festival. They have designed the menu exclusively for this festival making this experience a memorable one. It was indeed an honour to meet Chef (Nguyen Thi Nho) of such high calibre who has been associated with cooking shows on TV and radio Channels in Vietnam. She has displayed her excellence by participating in Guinness Vietnam Record 2013, for ‘The Most Soup/Noodle in a festival’.




This special menu includes a handpicked selection of Vietnamese delicacies which has been discussed below in detail.

Speaking about Benjarong, the interiors of the restaurant is very well decorated with sculptures, mirrors, different glow lights and traditional music which make the dining experience very soothing. I was amazed to hear that the tiny lamp lights and wall hats were sourced from Vietnam especially for this festival.

We started off with Vietnamese Iced Coffee with milk (Ca Phe Sua Da), which are a speciality of Vietnam. I being a coffee addict, nothing could have been better than this. It was a perfect start for the evening. I was just amazed how good the coffee tasted; this was truly a masterpiece straight from Vietnam.






Next up on the table was Chicken “Pho” Noodle Soup (Pho Ga). This can be labelled as the perfect example of a good soup. What I have found in many restaurants is they tend to add lot of spices and unnecessary ingredients (may be) to enhance the taste but it does exactly the opposite, it tastes bad. Here at ‘Flavors of Vietnam’, the less is more. The appropriate use of spices allows savouring the taste of chicken and the noodles, making it a soup in real sense.



Next up was Banana Blossoms Salad with Chicken (Goi Ga Bap Chuoi). This was yet another example of how simple looking things can do wonders. It stores bag full of flavors ready to surprise with every chew. At first, you will get a sweet taste but then it bursts with hint of spicy, tangy and minty flavor. The spicy flavor lingers in the mouth for quite a long time. What surprises is, with all these flavors on the plate, the banana blossom and chicken doesn’t lose its essence.



For the people who don’t know, Banana blossom is a unique and exotic ingredient growing on the end of the stem holding a cluster of bananas, and its inner, pale-colored leaves are considered a vegetable in many Asian or tropical regions. It is popularly used as a type of vegetable in Vietnam. It is mostly consumed in summers.

And then Chef Ram Kumar brought a magic element on the table – Vietnamese Jasmine Iced Tea. You would be surprised as what is the magic element in it. After having the salad, we just had a sip of green tea and it cleans the taste buds, making your mouth refreshing and ready for the next thing you eat.  



Chef Ram Kumar said “We do not like serving water to our customers; instead we serve this chilled jasmine tea. It helps you enjoy each and every meal and it is healthy too. This is served as complimentary and is a very important part of Vietnamese cuisine”.

Next up on the table was four different appetizers married together specially for us. Four appetizers were:


  • Charcoal Grilled Shrimp Mousse on Sugar Cane wrapped with Fresh Rice Vermicelli and Vietnamese Herbs (Chao Tom Cuon Banh Trang voi Bun Tuoi va Rau Song) – This was the best of the lot. A bite of it, pulling off from sugar cane, the juicy shrimp just melts in your mouth leaving behind that heavenly charred flavor.


  • Crispy Rice coated Fish Patties served with spicy Hanoi Chilli Dip (Cha Ca Chien Com va Tuong Ot Ha Noi) – I just love fish and I have had fish patties at many places but this was certainly different and it was good. Very simple yet full of flavors.




  • Vietnamese Fresh Shrimp Spring Rolls dipped in Fermented Bean Sauce and Mixed pickles (Goi Cuon Tom voi Tuong Ngot va Do Chua) – I would give this a miss, this had a bland taste and I didn’t really like it.

  • Deep-fried vegetable Spring Rolls (Cha Gio Chay) – These beauties were a stand out, absolute knockers. A bite of it and people sitting around you can listen the crispness of it (yes it was that good) even though we had it 15 minutes after it was served on the table. Chef Ram Kumar mentioned “This is the speciality of this thing. Even if we leave it for 30-40 minutes and then consume, it doesn’t lose the crispness”.




After this four scrumptious appetizers, next up on the table was Stir-fried Glass Noodle with Crab Meat. This was another masterstroke from the team which really paid off. At times, people do complain about the smell of crab but here it was nothing of that sort. The flavour of minced crab meat added to the beauty of the glass noodles. It was nothing less than icing on the cake. Though, aroma of egg dominated this dish but when you have it in the mouth, it is well balanced.






And now it was time for the main course. Chef Ram Kumar had chosen Caramelised Fish in Claypot (Ca Kho To), Whole Mud Crab cooked in Curry sauce with Lady’s Finger, Brinjals and Sweet Potatoes (Cary Cua Dau Bap Ca Tim va Khoai Lang), served along with Chicken Fried rice and Lotus Seeds, wrapped in Lotus Leaf.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I almost had an orgasm after the first bite of Caramelised Basa fish (Oh yes, it was that good).  Ummmm… the basa was cooked to perfection and that caramel flavour was out of the world. It was packed with plenty of flavours. This is one of the best foods I have had in a very long time.






And the surprise wasn’t over yet. First when Chef presented the crab curry with very odd combinations of lady’s finger and brinjals. I was really sceptic but after taking the first bite, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I looked at Chef and he was all smiles looking at my expressions, he knew how much I enjoyed that first bite of crab curry. This was one of the weirdest combinations I could imagine, but that is what makes a Chef, better than others.








As I always say, no matter how full you are, there is always a small space that makes way for desserts. We were presented with two varieties of desserts, namely: 1) Mung Bean Cake (Banh Dau Xanh) with ice cream and fresh chopped fruits.  2) Crystal steamed Banana Cake served cream coconut along with ice cream and fresh fruits (Banh Chuoi Hap Nuoc Cot Dua) and 3) Sticky Rice, corn, Red bean Pudding with Rich coconut Cream sauce and Tapioca Sticks.









All the desserts were brilliant, less on sweetness and high on taste and that’s make this Vietnamese desserts so different. Chef Ram Kumar explained ‘We are aware of the Indian style of desserts but in Vietnam, these desserts are made in a particular way, a bit on the harder side and the people there prefer less sweetness. This being a Vietnamese festival, we did not want to take away the authenticity of the dessert making it Indian way’. 

Overall, the experience was just amazing. I would highly recommend my readers to make a visit the ongoing ‘Flavours of Vietnam’ food festival at Benjarong.

Verdict: 5/5 (This is the first time I have rated any restaurant a maximum).

Must Try:  Charcoal Grilled Shrimp Mousse, Banana Blossoms Salad with Chicken, Caramelised Fish in Claypot and Whole Mud Crab Curry.

Where: Benjarong, Ulsoor Road

When: Till 16th August 2015

Average Meal for two: 1500 – 1800 + taxes





Suman

Dreamer, Blogger, Writer, Foodie, Movie buff, Public Relations. Contributor for The New Indian Express and recently started a news publishing website 'Unkrate'.

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