Over the weekend I flew to Vietnam for a little rest and relaxation, and also to meet friends and enjoy good food.
From the airport, I drove straight to Vung Tau, leaving the busy Ho Chi Minh City behind and catching scenic views of the countryside.
It’s still painful to think that such a beautiful country had to endure over 30 years of war.
Vung Tau is a popular seaside resort renowned for its incredibly long stretch of sandy coast.
I stayed at newly refurbished Bella Vita Hotel, which was founded by a Chinese-Vietnamese who had returned from Switzerland.
I wanted to open my laptop to catch up with some work, but instead I sat there at the balcony, mesmerized by the breathtaking view of the sunset.
For my nourishment, the hotel did away with typical Vietnamese dishes like pork sausages, spring rolls, vermicelli and beef pho.
It invited Cantonese master chef Man Gor to prepare for me a special feast of seafood delights.
The banquet started with cold spanner crabs – my first taste of the delicacy. It’s quite simple to prepare, actually. The crabs are steamed and left to cool without any seasoning, thus preserving the authentic, fresh taste of shellfish.
On top of that each of us was given a seven- or eight-catty steamed flower crab. The water used to steam the crabs was used to boil the clams, which yielded an impressive combination of umami and sweetness.
Then came the salt and pepper zebra mantis shrimp. For the record, these creatures could grow as long as an adult’s forearm.
I still found the finger-long mantis shrimps from Chaoshan in southern China richer in flavor, but these zebra mantis shrimps were also amazing as their shells were easy to remove and the meat was fresh and crunchy.
Before attacking the giant grouper, we had crystal prawns as well as their fried peers.
Though medium-sized, they were anything but cheap. They were rare and cost more than the wild giant grouper. Anyway, what matters is not the cost but the taste.
The seafood banquet the following evening began with lobster done in three ways: poached lobster with egg white, poached lobster in chicken broth and baked lobster with cheese.
At that point I was already quite full.
But the chef insisted that we try two more dishes: crispy rice in fresh shrimp broth and stir-fried shrimp. They were so delicious I couldn’t help but take eight pieces.
Ah, Vietnamese seafood, they’re simply excellent!
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 31
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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