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2nd prize of Southern semi-final round:

Remarkable variation of fine seafood

Tuesday, 11/22/2016 00:45
Because of the promise with preliminary judges that semi-final round would have all golden dishes, the whole team 31 had spent their time looking for unique specialties from the sea and dry lands to bring to the contest.


Young chefs from Sea Links City company always work in detail in The Golden Spoon contest.

Chef lead Dao Minh Hoa said with his Binh Thuan ascent, “After a round, my hair got whiter. Too many things to handle, from finding ingredients to complete cooking process. A dozen times of cooking could not satisfy me yet”

During November, the team was so busy preparing the next round’s menu and completing new dishes in Sea Links official menu. In the semi-final round, all 4 dishes of Sea Links team, which carried and passed on their homeland’s cha were deserved to introduce to domestic and international visitors.


The winning menu of team 31 includes: 1) Grilled young sponge gourd leaves wrapped coffin fish, served with guava sauce; 2) Sea pangolin wonton and Kim Cang root, served with marinated young melon; 3) Leaf lard rolled beef marrow and baked beef tenderloin, served with vegetable in syrup fruit sauce; 4) Grilled banana wrapped in sweet-rice with 3 flavors in wild tongue cactus sauce.

The first dish – Grilled young sponge gourd leaves wrapped coffin fish in guava sauce – included 3 unique ingredients as coffin fish, young sponge gourd leaves, and guava. Coffin fish is a famous specialty in La Gi beach (Binh Thuan province). Local people named this fish as his weird appearance with rectangular outer skeleton. It was also called “sea chicken” because of its flesh – white and firm as chicken. Except the spiral bone, the whole body of coffin fish is fleshy and boneless. Especially, its flesh is not fishy at all. The team had to pre-order this type of fish to get the freshest from the sea at 220,000 vnd per kg.


Grilled young sponge gourd leaves wrapped coffin fish in guava sauce.

Coffin fish rolled with young sponge gourd leaves had an impressive aroma. Born in 1989 at an unproductive countryside, the chef was used to rustic dishes from backyard vegetables, such as boiled sponge gourd tips with fish in hot pot or grilled young sponge gourd with fish. The scent of this typical leave and coffin fish really stimulated the taste. The mark was thick guava sauce, which was made from ripe toe-sized guava – a wild fruit with red core and sweet and sour taste. Guava was peeled, cored, grinded, and combined with chopped pepper, lime juice, fish sauce, MSG, salt, and sugar to taste.

In the second dish, another exotic ingredient was introduced, Sea-pangolin wonton and Kim Cang root, served with marinated young melon. Follow the locals, the team had reached inhabitant sea around Bau Trang region, where was rocky and crystal clear. Every month, on 22nd – 26th in Lunar calendar, people can find sea-pangolin from 10am to 4am in that area. This weirdo was found lately and named as its odd shape, which had a back like pangolin and a bottom like abalone. All 3 members of the team caught those sea-pangolins themselves.


Sea-pangolin wonton and Kim Cang root, served with marinated young melon.

Sea-pangolin flesh was mixed with pork paste at 8:2 ratio, then added chopped Whesl onion, wild purslane, and seasonings to make wonton filling. Boiling water of sea-pangolins would be seasoned with lemongrass, hot peppers, and Kim Cang root. Kim Cang is also a new yet useful culinary produce. Raw Kim Cang roots are jicama-like, but crunchier. Folk tales said that Vietnamese soldiers had survived in forests because of these magical roots. When it’s ready, chefs added a tablespoon of pickled melon water to taste. The side dish was marinated young melon, which to balance out the fishy broth.


Leaf lard rolled beef marrow and baked beef tenderloin, served with vegetable in syrup fruit sauce.

Team 31’s chefs invested a lot in sauces. Their ingredients ranged from familiar fruits (guava) to wild produce, such as tongue cactus and syrup fruits. Syrup fruits are toe-size, pinky, and mature fruits turn purple with sour taste. It was sophisticated to make this sauce. First, they burnt red wine and sugar to make caramel then cooked syrup fruits in this caramel on low fire to get rid of sourness. After that, they added salt, black pepper, and butter to taste. This sauce is exotic with sourness of syrup fruits, sweetness of caramel, and salted.

This dish - Leaf lard rolled beef marrow and baked beef tenderloin, served with vegetable in syrup fruit sauce – had been cooked 15 times to complete its recipe. In some first trials, the chefs rolled beef marrow and beef (marinated with cinnamon and ginger) in pork skin then steamed before baking but the result came out with chewy texture. When the deadline came closed, they had come up with leaf lard wrapper and the final product was perfect.


Grilled banana wrapped in sweet-rice with 3 flavors in wild tongue cactus sauce.

The lead chef’s homeland specialties appeared on classy party table as Grilled banana wrapped in sweet-rice with 3 flavors, served with wild tongue cactus sauce. English restaurants started using cactus leaves, branches, and fruits to make salads, sandwiches, or juices. Cactus juice and cactus jam has begun their shelf lives in gourmet markets lately. In this dessert, tongue cactus was cleaned and slow-cooked in sugar and fresh coconut milk to make sauce while bananas were burnt in red wine before being wrapped in sweet-rice. The dessert was an impressive combination.

After all, their efforts of finding, discovering, and relentless practicing had paid off. Team 31 with chef Dao Minh Hoa, Nguyen Van Ninh, and Nguyen Van Anh finally subdued the jury to seize a ticket to the final round.

By P.Vi

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