Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vietnamese food at Blue Ginger, The Taj Palace Hotel...

Traditional cuisines hold my attention like nothing else. All the food that has stood the test of time and has evolved into a fine array of taste around a certain culture and geography is fascinating to think about, to experience and to research if you want to delve deeper. Local ingredients, seasons of the land and various colonial influences have evolved into different cuisines of the world, some of them look similar to each other due to similar ingredients and herbs etc, but the finer details and resultant taste is very very different. All south east Asian countries seem to share the same composite culture and agricultural produce, rich seafood and herb diversity. But the finer nuances of each cuisine come from a composite culture of a particular country or state. I was very curious about Vietnamese cuisine when I had an opportunity to taste it recently. I had heard about the French influence as Vietnam has been a French colony in the past, imagining French flavors and south east Asian aromas melding together was something like a mystery for me.

The mystery unfolded amidst opulence of a french-colonial style aesthetics, they say it is inspired by the the Bao dai palace in Dalat.

 A huge round mother of pearl table impressed me as I settled down for lunch at this private dining hall at the blue Ginger, capital's contemporary Vietnamese restaurant at The Taj Palace Hotel. We at CAL blogger's table, were invited for a sampling of their business Bento box lunches. Bento boxes are a Japanese tradition that I love for it's neatly arranged food in compartments, being fresh and colorful essentially. At Blue Ginger they have designed these Bento lunches with Vietnamese cuisine which takes great influence from Japanese cuisine as well.

 Executive Chef Rajesh Wadhwa introduced Vietnamese cuisine and about the french influence on a basically Thai/Japanese/Chinese family of flavors and cooking techniques. We see that French have added finesse to this cuisine. The steaming, braising techniques and stewing the vegetables and meats so they retain their best textures. The Vietnamese menu at Blue Ginger is suited for an Indian taste as they serve all the meats and seafood liked by most Indians, vegetarian options have been worked upon diligently and we saw some really good things being dished out.

The sweet people at Blue Ginger decided to make us sample the whole array of Vietnamese food instead of just the Bento lunch. And that was a 7 course meal to devour. I chose to have a non vegetarian meal for myself. It was still having loads of fresh greens and vegetables, exactly the way I like my meals.

The starters were all delicately flavored lettuce wraps. A stir fried lamb mince served with lettuce. A fresh summer roll with shrimp and chicken and a really nice raw mango salad that was exploding with flavors. Sweet and tangy mango salad that had herb undertones, very refreshing. I liked the plump and juicy shrimps and chicken into the rice paper rolls as well. The dipping sauces served along were just perfect for these rolls.

Then this soup was smooth and flavorful with freshness of asparagus. Chicken and asparagus soup, with a hint of the seasoning sauces becomes just perfect for you. I liked it.

Next on our table were the grills. I ended up tasting all the vegetarian options too hereafter. So you get more information about the food here. Peppered prawns with sea salt and Grilled chicken with lime leaf and chilly for the non vegetarians and Tofu in lemongrass and chilly marinade and grilled okra, zucchini and mushroom He tien for the vegetarians. I tasted the veggies as well and found them utterly delicious. Very refreshing hint of basil and lime, lemon grass and peppers. I loved the interplay of flavors going on. The grills left a tingle on my tongue.

A palate cleanser was in order, a frozen tamarind bomb came our way (bottom left in the picture above). This was a complete surprise element. A sweet tamarind sorbet which just stole the show. We all loved it unanimously.

 The main course included Stir fried lobster with garlic salt and pepper. I just loved it, rightly cooked, succulent and rightly herb infused. Stir fried chicken supreme with lemongrass garlic chilly sauce was rightly flavorful. Among the vegetarian options, the crispy lotus root and vegetable delicacy served with a sticky tamarind sauce was a stunner. A very chaat like dish that leaves no option of not liking it. Wonderful I say. The Hue style edemame and broad beans with gingko nuts was a nice beans mix that I would like anyways, being a total beans and veggies lover that I am.

The Lemon grass scented braised lamb shanks in caramel chilly oyster sauce was a stunner as a good looking lamb shank well served always would be.

Rightly cooked, almost melting in the pot, falling off the bone and still holding on to it. Succulent well done meat and nice flavors I would say, but nothing that I would not miss having in an otherwise lovely lunch. I am not such a meat lover you know.

 I tasted the baguette with a bowl of red cari (curry) served on the side and was amazed to find this combination. It worked like a coconut milk based stew works with appam. The baguettes are true French influence and go well with the spicy vegetable cari they serve. This cari is more like a Thai red curry but not as robust.

We were all full to the brim. Still the desserts had to be tasted if not devoured. The Lemongrass ice cream was a nice change from regular fruity flavors that I prefer tasting. One of my favorite herbs, lemongrass surprises me more often with it's capability to get into a chilled or hot dish, spicy or sweet dish. The ice cream was good. Don't miss it if you are there.

The Ginger coconut caramel custard sounded really exotic and something that I would not miss otherwise, but it turned out to be a little too firm for my taste. Something that locks the flavors and doesn't allow them to come to my palate. Avoidable.

The chocolate bombe with coffee mousse and amaretto chocolate sauce was drama served in front of us. Chocolate sauce being poured in front of you can seduce chocolate lovers. I liked the coffee mouse part more. Not much of a chocolate person, but don't miss if you are.

This journey replete with spices and herbs was quite something to enjoy. I would definitely recommend going there if you love south east Asian cuisines.

The cost of this meal experience at Blue Ginger is INR 5500 +taxes per person 
and the Bento box business lunch is priced at INR 1500 + taxes

I would love to go for the Bento box lunch again. Great opulent ambience and refreshing healthy food would be my reasons to there again and again.


  1. Just beautifully recreated. Reading your post makes me hungry for more. Such a well spent afternoon, wasn't it!

  2. HI,

    First time on your space and tehre are so many things going on...There are so many differences in our cuisine yet so many similarities in indian cooking as a whole! The spread that you had at Blue Ginger seems amazing...Not to mention that you met so many other fellow bloggers. Lovely pics...