After the formality of a cup of tea we set to work with Madame Hà, her daughter and six assistants. Our job was to create dishes for an Imperial meal for lunch time guests at Tịnh Gia Viên without harming the restaurants reputation!
Fortunately the assistants had already done the elaborate carving that included hollowing out a pineapple to create a lantern, turning pineapples into peacocks, tomatoes into swans and carrots into flowers. Our job was to cook paper-thin duck egg omelettes*, wrap the various force meats we had made in the omelettes, won ton pockets, spring roll wrappers and grape leaves. Deep fry them without burning ourselves and cut various shapes with razor sharp knives without drawing blood.
Again with this particularly arrangement it is not possible to caption the various photos but a left click will take you to a slideshow for a closer look.
Of course you couldn’t serve Emperor Tự Đức plain old springs rolls – they had to be cut into bite size pieces and arranged on the back of a peacock. Fortunately Madame Hà’s assistants provided the dazzle and we the sizzle.
The same applied to the Lantern – beggar’s purses of vegetables, won tons, stuffed grape leaves and French cheeses (!) required artful arrangement before the candle could be lit.
The Dance of the Phoenix – okay that was a bit of work. Omelettes were sliced to form a necklace of feathers on a bed of noddles, pigeon eggs were nestled around the white radish head, fried rolled omelettes stuffed with pork, mushrooms, red pepper and asparagus were cut into pinwheels, and then artfully arranged. Anyone for a dance?
Well that was three down and only forty-seven more to complete the menu for Emperor Tự Đức’s evening meal. And all it took was one master chef, six assistants and two bumbling tourists.
The two Chefs (??) with Madame Hà and their (???) creations.
*Did I mention that Madame Hà said mine were the thinnest and most perfect she’d ever seen in all her years of cooking? Just saying!
The word for September 29th is:
Phoenix /ˈfēniks/: [noun]
A unique bird in classical mythology that lived for five or six centuries in the Arabian desert, after this time burning itself on a funeral pyre and rising from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle.
Old French fenix, via Latin from Greek phoinix ‘Phoenician, reddish purple, or phoenix’. The relationship between the Greek senses is obscure: it could not be ‘the Phoenician bird’ because the legend centres on the temple at Heliopolis in Egypt, where the phoenix is said to have burnt itself on the altar. Perhaps the basic sense is ‘purple’, symbolic of fire and possibly the primary sense of Phoenicia as the purple land (or land of the sunrise).
Isn’t it also the name of a city in the Southwestern US where old people go to burn in the sun?