A Taste Of Vietnam In The Heart Of Hauz Khas

A Taste Of Vietnam In The Heart Of Hauz Khas

Hauz Khas market’s myriad shops sell everything from groceries to books, but had no real food identity to speak of. That is, until, Chef Hana Ho brought a little bit of Saigon to this South Delhi neighborhood. Former Chef de Cuisine at the Vietnamese restaurant, Blue Ginger (now closed), Hana’s first independent venture is noteworthy because it introduces Delhi to lesser-known delicacies from her home.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the Vietnamese chef explains why she chose to bring Little Saigon to the national capital. “I was determined to do it in Delhi, because while there are so many different cuisines here, Vietnamese food has no representation.” The city’s new breed of experimental, adventurous eaters couldn’t agree more and it wasn’t too long before most Sunday lunches were being scheduled at Little Saigon.

A large part of Hana’s culinary training happened at her family-run restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City where she “had to do a lot of chopping and cleaning and basic cooking like soups, salads,” she says in an interview with Livemint. When the restaurant shut down, she moved to the Marriott hotel and then the Intercontinental, in Vietnam.

However, it was during her time at the former that she made her first acquaintance with India. She was sent to Mumbai in 2008 to help curate a Vietnamese food festival that was being organised at the Marriott in Mumbai. Two years later, she was appointed one of two Vietnamese chefs at Blue Ginger.

Today, the sight of her bustling around Little Saigon, ensuring the food meets the highest standards of freshness and deliciousness, is a reminder that this chef from Vietnam has realised her food dream, in India. One that’s been in the making for at least six years, if not longer.

For a city that knows so little of Vietnamese food (perhaps the toasty Banh Mis and Pho were the only real insight into this nuanced cuisine), a plate of the flavourful, light rice paper rolls stuffed with shrimp and meat (Goi Cuon Tom Thit) at Little Saigon is a great first course.

Lesser-known Southern Vietnamese dishes like their take on a stuffed crepe, the Banh Xeo, and curries from Hana’s hometown find place on a limited menu – seek Hana out and ask her to share her recommendations. She’s extremely thoughtful about things like spice tolerance, and her suggestions are always on-point.

The home-made ice creams of Little Saigon deserve a paragraph on their own but let me say this in the interest of brevity - the Strawberry Cheesecake and Coconut ice cream, served with little cubes of jelly, should be at the top of your to-try list.

Wash everything down with a glass of iced coffee, and relish the feeling of rare lightness after a hearty meal. Vietnamese food doesn’t weigh you down, and Hana’s menu is truly uplifting.

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