Terraced Salmon and Sturgeon Sticky Rice Cake

Thứ tư, 17/09/2014 06:18

New and unusual dishes are normally the ones that attract the most positive comments from diners.

This is also a requirement that dedicated chefs have to address. They often see their diners as one would see a difficult mother-in-law.

In the preliminary round in the Northern region (Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Cao Bang, Tuyen Quang, Thai Nguyen), the theme was “Golden dishes”. Some teams even had reckless ideas like making “Bánh chưng”, a square sticky rice that normally made during Tet holiday. On this instance it contains sturgeon in the middle, where it would normally be made with pork.

Dried food nowadays

In ancient times there were many techniques and equipment in kitchens that would be considered unusual today. According to a legend a huge personality in the kitchen was a person named Lang Lieu. He was the 18th son of the 6th King Hung Vuong. Lang Lieu was the person who initiated “Bánh chưng”- a square of sticky rice that represents for the earth and “Bánh giầy” – a round of sticky rice that represents the sky. These cakes were wrapped in everyday farming products that people normally ate, things like sticky rice pork with fat and green beans, cakes that were dedicated to ancestors.

According to legend, it is said that there is a fairy who came to Lieu Lang in a dream and taught him how to make these cakes. It is believed that people who live in harmony with Mother Nature and appreciate the gifts she provides will live a longer and happier life.

Until now the altar dedicated to ancestors in Vietnamese family homes always has “Bánh chưng” or “Bánh tét” a message saying “Tài Lộc” meaning “Money and Luck” is inserted into the middle of the sticky rice.

Inheriting the traditions of cake making, the Sapa Thac Bac restaurant (team 11) attended the Golden Spoon Contest with a menu that included a square sticky rice cake with sturgeon fish in the middle. This cake had been stewed for 12 hours in a wood stove.

Square sticky rice and rolls with sturgeon fish in the middle has a new and strange taste

People from around the world are recognising the European Sturgeon as a delicious and nutritious fish. Some businesses imported the fish to Vietnam and had farmed them successfully in Tam Dao (Vinh Phuc province). Not everyone knows that the best sticky rice has very good aroma and taste and comes from Sapa.

Seeing the layers of glutinous rice dyed with a golden yellow of ripe sticky rice reminded them of the rice terraces in Sapa. This is a view that has inspired people for years, especially artistic photographers.

The spice that supports the two main ingredients of sturgeon fish and sticky rice is cardamom, which grows wildly in the jungle of the Northwest Region. It has a good spicy taste and the correct aroma. Cardamom has medicinal elements said to prevent upset stomachs.

In the jungle the weather is of course, humid and misty and it is easy to catch a cold. Therefore it is a good idea to eat something hot to balance the body (extracted from the book “A choir of spices” by Kim Phung- Dinh Cong Bay- NXB Publisher).

Some foreigners have tried this in Sapa and have all made good comments. Young boys from Thailand, passionate about mountain climbing, often buy one to keep in their backpack as a dried food to eat on their long journey to the roof of Indochina, Mount Fansipan.

Similar to spring rolls, Sapa salmon is also highly appreciated by the professional and experienced judges. However cooking delicious food doesn’t necessarily mean that you have reached the standard to take you to the final.

If you do not enjoy the dish no charge will be made.

Some of professional foreign chefs used to comment that Vietnamese food is fresh and delicious and abundant, but the presentation is usually quite messy.

So the idea behind this contest is for the judges to place an important focus on the presentation skills and also seeing that the teams present the dishes in smaller portions that are more attractive to diners.

They won with reckless ideas

The “Little Lady- Shop Owner” team of Thac Bac Sapa restaurant scored well on presentation. In general their party table looked like rice terraces with objects arranged in low and high positions. A sheaf of rice was placed on a bamboo tube laying on a brocade fabric that was placed under the bowls and white plates of Ly’s Horeca by Minh Long I Co. Ltd.)

The ceramic bowls and plates are blue in color to represent the energy of trees and mountains. The white color represents the small streams that meander around the highlands of the Northwest. The combination is a harmony of traditional and the modern.

Thanks to this the team won the second prize and entered the finals of the Golden Spoon 2014, which will be very intensive and challenging.

Teams that won top positions in the Northern highland region to enter to the final round of 2014 Golden Spoon contest:

The best prize:

Swiss-Bel Hotel (Lao Cai province)

Three second prizes go to:

- Bao Chau Boutique-Lao Cai

- Victoria Sa Pa- Lao Cai

- Thac Bac Restaurant- Sapa Lao Cai

Each prize is worth VND 30 million

“The presentation of team number 11 still had some defects such as not enough fish in the square sticky rice. Their rolls suffered from the same problem. Also the chef assistants didn’t wear the correct uniforms but wore trousers more like a teenage fashion” commented Mr Long Thanh Chiem.

In addition, professional judge Suong Thi Bui also said that salmon and sturgeon brought to the contest by the team was quite small (less than 2 kg). Yet a single Norwegian salmon weighs in at more than a dozen kg. The filleted salmon simply wasn’t big enough to ensure its sweetness and firmness. The skin of the sturgeon was also not thick and crispy.. Even worse the chef wasn’t careful enough and it was felt that the fish had been on the fire a little bit too long, having a detrimental effect on the taste.

Despite all the issues, Judges Suong remains a teacher who is always passionate about promoting delicious Vietnamese food. He enjoyed the food that was complemented by the seasoning, was professionally presented and had a strong taste of the jungle and mountains, as well as being rich in Chinese medicinal values. Dishes like (“móc mật” leaves, a typical spice used in grilled barbecues in the Northwest; “củ khởi” leaves (Latin name Lycium chinense or anise) which were presented by all the teams. She also discovered that most of young chefs from this highland region weren’t trained on professional courses, but most of the time dishes were passed down from master to a student during their apprenticeships. Therefore their cooking knowledge will lack some of the systems and basic foundation related to cooking skills. Hopefully, the Lao Cai Tourism department will take care of this gap.

Followed by Tan Toi
Photos:Tan Toi - Phi Nguyen
The Gioi Tiep Thi  magazine

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