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The Dance of Spices – the Road to Championship

Monday, 12/19/2016 08:00
Spices and ingredients with pure Vietnamese characteristics were skillfully used in dainty dishes of Binh Quoi 1 resort (HCMC), which helped this team to seized the championship of The Golden Spoon contest 2016.


Chefs from Binh Quoi 1 resort flexibly improvised the given ingredients and chose appropriate spices to create purely home taste.

Binh Quoi 1 resort team (team #16) included chef lead Le Vo Anh Duy, Le Thi Vi, and Nguyen Minh Tri. Chef lead of this team used to be super chef from The Next Iron Chef TV-show. Studying in Law school but he started as a kitchen assistant in Binh Quoi 1. With relentless try, he became a famous chef after numerous TV-shows, such as Southern morning, Skillfully to Work, and Housewife’s notebook. Moreover, he has taught at culinary school in HCMC.

The other two members are excellent talents in which Nguyen Minh Tri is experienced main chef of Binh Quoi 2 Resort and Le Thi Vi is in charged of Dessert section in Binh Quoi 1 resort. Last season, this team remarkably doubled 1st prized in preliminary and semi-final round.


Chef And Duy created classy and dainty Vietnamese dishes.

These 3 chefs conquered the “Oscar of Vietnamese cuisine” by their talent, bravery, and robust creativity when dancing with Vietnamese spices. In the final round, they were challenged by the black box with these given ingredients: black tiger prawns, Japanese white button mushroom, duck breast, Moringa leaves, and aloe vera.  By well knowledge of endemic spices in different zones and flexibly improvising methods, by solid base of traditional food and abundant creativity, those chefs skillfully exploited and combined given ingredients with compatible spices to release purely home-taste yet classy dishes. A professional judge, Mr. Paul Le, commented that the 4 courses menu of team 16 was like a dancing performance of Vietnamese spices. The menu worth 1 billion vnd contained 8 dishes, which were 1) Salmon rolled wild leaves in roasted sesame and peanut sauce, 2) Wild pepper in shrimp paste, served with grilled-pineapple fish sauce, 3) Mushroom paste, 4) Grilled duck in Moringa sauce, served with egg plant salad, 5) Purple yam cake and Moc Mat leaves, 6) Duck shank paste and So Cho leaves, 7) Vam Nao seafood with Kaffir lime leaves, served with fresh rice noodles and mushroom, 8) Sweet-rice cake served with aloe vera and blue berry jelly.


The jury marked displayed table of Binh Quoi 1 Resort.

With sensitivity and carefulness from years of experiences, chef Anh Duy intended to mark each dish with side spices in seasoning or sauces. For examples, Salmon rolled wild vegetables went with roasted sesame and peanut sauce, which its flavor was the delicate mixture from soy sauce, roasted sesame and peanut while its scent was pushed to highest sense by root beer essence from Doi seeds – a Northwest feature. After that, the concert of spices changed into lower tone with wild pepper in shrimp paste, served with grilled pineapple fish sauce. A slice of pineapple was grilled enough to dry its surface then smashed with other seasonings, in which lemon grass pepper (from Ba To mountain area) mostly contributed to push flavor of the dish into climax.

The transition dishes were technique improvised in both ingredients (duck breast) and spices (Moc Mat and So Cho leaves): Grilled duck breast in Moringa sauce, served with eggplants salad and Purple yam cake and Moc Mat leaves. So Cho wildly grows in Quang Ngai coastal area, which was discovered and introduced last season. While in The Golden Spoon 2015, So Cho tree humbly sat at a corner in farm market, this year many chefs had known about it and well exploited its essence (young leaves are spicy and aromatic as mint leaves yet a hint of bitterness; mature leaves have scent as dried mandarin zest). Chef Anh Duy used So Cho and Moringa for duck meat through sous vide process and side dishes in order to emphasize the flavors as well as to balance out the fatty farm-raised duck meat. His sauce contained 5 types of leaves (Moringa, dill, green onion, mint, and Ngo Gai) and totally impressed judge Paul Le.

The main course was push to summit by the feature from Seven Mountains Area (An Giang province): Kaffir lime leaves. Thai Lan first industrialized Kaffir lime leaf and it has made its journey to many countries in the world as “Thai lime”. An Giang province of Viet Nam has similar wild leaves and recently, they have been used widely. With Kaffir lime leaves from farm market, team 16’s chefs skillfully combine with Vam Nao seafood (a town in An Giang) and fresh rice noodles. Fish skin and fish bones were deep-fried then stir-fried with rice wine, tomatoes, and Kaffir lime leaves. After that, the whole product was boiled and filtered to make transparent broth. Fish was marinated with Kaffir lime leaves by cooking them together. Especially, the delicacy of chef Anh Duy was that he blanched Kaffir lime leaves before using them to marinate because strong essence in those wild leaves could turn bitter.

The dancing performance of spices lightly ended with delightful fruity sweet-rice cake, served with aloe vera and blueberry jelly. They made jelly from aloe vera and a few pomelo segments to increase tactical effect, and sweet-rice from the northwest highlands was combined with mangoes, oranges, strawberry, and a hint of vanilla.

During tasting time, professional judge Paul Le (Chief Secretary of Escoffier Association in Viet Nam) eagerly praised, “You guys have calculated and built a thoughtful menu. Your dishes vary from only-one flavor to a harmonic blend of many spices. I love how you guys approach fusion cuisine. By both Asian and European ingredients (salmon), you guys did an excellent job combining and raising up the values of Vietnamese spices. I’m also impressed by your sauce from 5 types of leaves. So interesting!”






The menu worth 1 billion vnd of Binh Quoi 1 resort included 1) Salmon rolled wild leaves in roasted sesame and peanut sauce, 2) Wild pepper in shrimp paste, served with grilled-pineapple fish sauce, 3) Mushroom paste, 4) Grilled duck in Moringa sauce, served with egg plant salad, 5) Purple yam cake and Moc Mat leaves, 6) Duck shank paste and So Cho leaves, 7) Vam Nao seafood with Kaffir lime leaves, served with fresh rice noodles and mushroom, 8) Sweet-rice cake served with aloe vera and blue berry jelly.

In HCMC preliminary and Southern semi-final round, Binh Quoi 1 Resort team also had won double - 1st – prize by its talents and creativity of exploiting spices and elevating common food. Super chef and professional judge David Thai enthusiastically praised “Excellent decoration! Every dish links to each other as a harmonic concert. Every dish has its own remarkable flavor” in HCMC preliminary while in southern semi-final round, Elite artist and guest judge Kim Xuan excitedly commented “Usually people get fed up when they try so many dishes but after your appetizer, I just feel wanna eat more. You are extremely careful and skillful. Your dishes are delicious and nice-looking, too. That’s what keep diners’ interest and appetite.”

Becoming the champion of The Golden Spoon Contest 2016 was a noble and worth reward for all efforts that the team and chef Anh Duy had been invested. The chef said, “Every time attending The Golden Spoon contest is a challenge of creativity, research, and discovery. I’m not afraid of being here many times because each time is a chance to learn from our shortages and from other teams’ strength to keep moving on. Culinary career requires hard word and creativity every day. When you stop receiving new things, you have missed a chance to subdue progressive diners’ need.”


Champion of The Golden Spoon, 4th season, Chefs of Binh Quoi 1 Resort, HCMC.

In the same time, other important prizes of the 4th Golden Spoon contest were handed to Indochine Palace Hue (Creative dishes), Naman Retreat Resort Danang (Decoration), InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort (Nutritious Dishes), and Nhi restaurant of Can Tho province (Remarkably traditional dishes) with 100,000,000 vnd of each reward.

In December 6th, the final round of The Golden Spoon took place in Military Zone 7 Gymnastic (Phu Nhuan dist., HCMC) with 15 excellent teams. In summary, after 6 months taken place in Southern, Middle, and Northern areas the Golden Spoon contest 2016 officially ended. With the topic of “Homeland taste – Journey of Vietnamese spices”, the contest recorded amazing numbers, which are 312 professional chefs, 104 teams from 39 provinces and cities of Viet Nam. Over 600 tasty dishes and dozen of exotic spices were first introduced this year. One new special detail is the attendance of “Chef of the Century” Eckart Witzigmann as a professional judge, who had shared in own valuable experiences and had consulted to Vietnamese chefs how to chase career’s passion, how to catch modern culinary trends, and how to succeed in culinary industry.


After 4 seasons, The Golden Spoon contest has gathered a creditable jury. One new special detail is the attendance of “Chef of the Century” Eckart Witzigmann as a professional judge.

In the celebrating night, Mr. Ly Huy Sang, Deputy General Director of Minh Long 1 company, Deputy Head of The Golden Spoon contest asked people to work together by everyone’s ability and concrete action to introduce Vietnamese cuisine to the world. He said, “Right in the first season of The Golden Spoon contest, we’d determined 5 specific targets of our enduring journey to search, to preserve, and to develop our rustic yet featured homeland dishes, as well as to honor talented chefs, and to acclaim those hotels and restaurants which have been contributing to enrich culinary culture of Viet Nam. From thatstarting point, we have a bigger hope to connect people in culinary world, both domestic and international, and to make tourism – cuisine field of Vietnam more important for the economy. Good food brings good health. That’s what we believe.”

At the Press conference in Dec 7th 2016, Mr. Ly Huy Sang also announced that The Journey of Vietnamese Spices 2017 would be paused. During the year, they will refresh and rebuild contains and rules to rebirth a brand new contest, which should be more professional and appealing.

By Nguyen Trang/Nguoidothi

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