While wrapped rolls found in cuisines of most countries are cooked, Vietnam is the only place where people eat the rolls, popularly known as summer rolls, uncooked. A fine example of this is ‘Nem cuon’, or wrapped roll, with the rice paper cover vermicelli, vegetables, herbs and a slice of chicken or shrimp.
Offering such interesting culinary insights to the guests gathered at the opening of Vietnamese Culture and Cuisine Festival on Sunday evening, Nguyen Hoang, Ambassador of Vietnam to Qatar, announced that visitors to the festival have the opportunity to try the authentic Nem Cuon, or summer rolls, here, at the venue of the festival — Sridan restaurant at Shangri-La Hotel, Doha — prepared by guest Vietnamese Chef Vu Van Dang.
With the restaurant awash with all things Vietnam — authentic handicrafts decking up the place, the corridors filled with photographs of Vietnamese heritage sites, traditional Vietnamese music pouring out of the speakers — the Festival, which will be on until November 12, sure provides an enchanting glimpse into the Viet food, fun and lifestyle.
In attendance at the opening night’s dinner were several Qatari dignitaries and also ambassadors of ASEAN countries with their spouses, among others. Following an enthralling performance by a traditional Vietnamese dancer, Ambassador Hoang extended a warm welcome to the guests.
During the next two weeks, until November 12, Qataris and expats living in Qatar can dig into the choicest of Vietnamese delicacies at Sridan, Hoang said. “The Vietnamese Culture and Cuisine Festival will not only showcase an authentic and sumptuous Viet cuisine but also feature an exhibition of Vietnamese culture through handicrafts, paintings and designs and creation of the mixture of Arabic and Vietnamese culture, giving all Qatari locals and expats living in Qatar an opportunity to enjoy a unique cultural adventure and experience,” Hoang said, in his speech that marked the opening of the festival.
Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of dairy and oil, complementary textures, and reliance on herbs and vegetables, explained Hoang. “With the balance between fresh herbs and meats and a selective use of spices to reach a fine taste, Vietnamese food is considered one of the most healthiest and delicious cuisines worldwide. Some of the Vietnamese dishes nowadays become one of the most famous dishes and the symbol of Vietnamese food to the worldwide, such as Nem (Vietnamese Spring Rolls) or Pho (Pho Soup) and Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette),” he said.
The ambassador also thanked the hotel and its team for organising promotional events for the past few months, and also Emirates airlines for the support and “giving all the guests a chance to visit Hanoi, the capital of Vietnamese cuisine”.
Hoang further said, “It is my firm confidence that this event will not only bring about the promotion of Viet food in Qatar, but also serve as a cultural gateway to strengthen the people-to-people relations between Qataris and Vietnamese as also with people from all over the world.”
The Vietnamese Culture and Cuisine Festival is currently running at Sridan for both lunch and dinner, and features iconic dishes, such as Hanoi Crispy Seafood Rolls, Steamed Sea Bass in Banana Leaf and Indochina Devilled Crab Cake. Not to mention that the experience won’t be complete without having a bowl of traditional national favourite, Pho, for which diners can choose between beef or chicken broth infused with fresh coriander, lemon and chilli. While the lunch buffet is priced at QR109 per person every day, excluding Friday, between noon and 3pm, the dinner buffet is priced at QR139 per person daily from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.
Hoang told Community, “The only way to truly discover the joys of authentic Vietnamese cuisine is to taste it for yourself. That is why it’s great that we have the opportunity to showcase our cuisine through a Vietnamese Chef — Vu Van Dang — the visiting chef from Shangri-La, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi’s Hoi An restaurant, who is known to use fresh, traditional ingredients, and bring to life the gastronomic flavours of Vietnam. Also, this is the first time that we have organised such an event in Doha, focussing on our culture and cuisine. We would like a lot of people to attend this event; not only Qataris, but also expats living in Qatar.”
Traditional Vietnamese cuisine is marked by delicate spicy and fresh flavours, incorporating five essential elements. Each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavour which reflects one or more of these elements. Chef Vu Van Dang explained to Community, “I devised this menu on my own, pulling out notes from my 18 years of experience as a Chef. I have gone to great lengths to ensure that the food offered during this festival is authentic Vietnamese, which means they are packed with a lot of quintessential herbs such as ginger, lemongrass, mint, Saigon cinnamon, and lime. Our cuisine is known for its use of fresh ingredients, sparse use of oil, and a focus on herbs and vegetables along with a perfect balance between herbs, meats and a selective use of spices, to deliver a unique, delicious taste. Not surprisingly, Vietnamese food is also regarded among the healthiest cuisines worldwide.”
Dang is also happy with the glowing feedback he has already begun receiving for the dishes. “I spoke to the guests and was pleased to know that they loved the food. Moreover, Vietnamese people enjoyed it a lot. They were surprised how well the skin of the Hanoi Crispy Seafood Rolls, for instance, had turned out. I explained to them unlike most restaurants, I make those outer skins by myself. It’s quite easy but requires some instinct. I prepare it by mixing 70 per cent corn flour, 30 per cent rice flour, and water. But the exact amount of water needed is tricky. I go by my gut and it works fine for me,” Dang said. “It was a relief that the guests loved the beef Pho a lot. That’s because the Vietnamese Pho is a signature dish and carries a huge reputation. If that doesn’t taste good, the whole menu gets affected.”
Drawing notes from his experience of working with other Asian cuisines such as Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, and Singaporean, Dang dares to put a tiny spin on even the authentic Vietnamese cuisine on offer. “I do that to keep things interesting,” he said. “I feel very happy to represent the rich heritage of Vietnamese cuisine to the world by making people of Qatar familiarise themselves with it. I have met a lot of people who aren’t aware of what Vietnamese cuisine comprises, and when they eat it for the first time, they always ask the same thing — why didn’t I know of this before!”
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