NHAU NHAU’s highly-anticipated NHAU NHAU – SESSIONS launched (along with the rainy season) with a bang this week with Elliot Faber flying in from Hong Kong to impart his extensive knowledge of the intricacies of sake brewing and tasting notes upon some of Saigon’s most discerning sake-loving geeks.
Elliot is Beverage Director at Yardbird, RONIN and Sunday’s Grocery in Hong Kong. He’s perhaps better known in Saigon as the co-founder of Sake Central (Hong Kong/Saigon), Renkon and Irusu Lounge (Saigon).
Elliot created a special sake menu just for the evening that ensured a tantalising epic clash of culinary cultures where Japanese izakaya culture crossed paths with Vietnamese nhau culture (both rowdy and drunken) – and he didn’t let us down.
Prior to the main event in the evening, Elliot kicked off with an exclusive afternoon masterclass for some of Saigon’s most talented young bartenders. His tasting selections were masterfully paired with NHAU NHAU executive chef and resident Vietnamese food savant Peter Cuong Franklin’s latest creations in mind, some of which were making their appearance in public (and mouths) for the very first time.
Peter’s Japanese-Vietnamese hybrid dish the “tsukemen dipping pho” with wagyu beef rib, marrow, black truffle and chilled pho noodles is one such dish that Peter himself believes may be the very first of its kind to hit a menu anywhere.
The dish is perhaps best described as one that’s a bowl of high-end pho eaten in reverse. The dish is served “dry” with an accompanying bowl of beef bone broth for dipping the noodles in before eating. It has Peter’s signature written all over it.
Whereas a traditional bowl of pho would be highly impractical and messy to have with drinks at a cosy inner-city bar, Peter’s tsukemen dipping pho gets around the problem of having a large bowl of piping hot noodle soup sitting precariously on a bar top just waiting to be nudged over, but still manages to maintain all the characteristic flavours of Vietnam’s unofficial national dish. It highlights the innovative imagination and skill of Chef Franklin.
Attendees learnt that sake pairs with all food, making it the ideal partner to Vietnamese food. They also discovered that there are just two kinds of sake – one kind made from highly-polished rice with fewer umami characters, the other from unpolished rice that’s flush with them.
While this definition of what sake is appears overly-simplistic at first, with tasting, direction and education, it quickly becomes apparent that the world of sake is, in fact, vastly diverse.
With that in mind, Elliot and Peter came up with a pairing menu to showcase that diversity and how well sake can be paired with Vietnamese cuisine.
Highlights of the menu included a pho roll (VND145,000), essentially a cha gio (fried spring roll) but with a pho bo (beef noodle soup) flavour that included beef, rice noodles and various herbs with a nuoc cham dipping sauce.
Another clever innovative dish was the pork and foie gras “dim sum” (VND145,000) made with steamed banh mi pieces, spring onion, peanuts and herbs.
Spruiked by Peter as a breakfast dish and inspired by his liking for soft, easy-eating breakfast dishes first thing in the morning, this dish again uses familiar Vietnamese ingredients and tastes remarkably similar to Shanghai dumplings, but without that tricky sack of soup at the bottom. Clever.
Then came the wagyu banh mi with wagyu bavette (flank), brisket, pate, tomato and cucumber (VND145,000) with, of course, that delicious tsukemen dipping pho (VND225,000) to follow.
Wrapping things up was a mochi ball (VND145,000). Mochi is glutinous rice that’s pounded into a paste then molded into shape. Peter’s mochi came with poppy seeds, candied kumquat and an orgasmic chocolately-filled centre. Amazing.
Next up for NHAU NHAU SESSION #2 (Sat. May 18) will be bartender-artist Richie Fawcett from The Studio Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City. Do not miss that session!
NHAU NHAU is at 89 Ton That Dam St., District 1, HCMC. For more info, click HERE