Last update 5/8/2011 6:35:00 PM (GMT+7)

Artisan recreates royal banquet of Nguyen Dynasty

VietNamNet Bridge – Sixty-five years since the last feudal dynasty in Vietnam, an artisan who is the offspring of the chief chef of the last Nguyen Dynasty, re-produced a royal banquet with delicacies.

The last maid of Nguyen Dynasty

The artisan is Ms. Ho Thi Hoang Anh, a descendant of Mr. Ho Van Ta, the chief chef of Kings Khai Dinh and Bao Dai. Hoang Anh made a royal banquet with unique cuisines for distinguished guests of Nguyen Kings at the recent Hue Traditional Craft Festival (April 30 – May 3).

Based on eight special dishes in the ancient Hue royal court, Hoang Anh made six original cuisines: khoi bo, bao ngu rim (simmered abalone), vi ca – tom ba oan (shark’s fin – shrimp), chao bong bong ca duong (rice gruel with swimming-bladder), hai sam don thit – cu sen nhoi nep (holothurian) and yen sao chung hat sen (bird’s nets with lotus seeds).

On the evening of May 1, the royal banquet was organized at the Duyet Thi Duong Theatre in the Hue royal citadel.

In the quiet atmosphere, each delicacy was served to lucky guests. Each delicacy was served with a melody of Hue court music.

Cuisines were decorated beautifully in gilded plates and bowls. Guests used one-time bamboo-made chopsticks as old custom.

This was the first royal banquet that has been restored in Hue.

Hoang Anh said that it took a lot of time and efforts to organize such a banquet. Chefs had to prepare materials very carefully and practiced cooking skills.

The cooking style was different in each dynasty of Nguyen King. The banquet on May 1 was based on the taste of cuisines under King Dong Khanh afterwards.

“When I did the cooking on the yard of Duyet Thi Duong Theatre, which is very near with the royal kitchen in the past, where 65 years ago my grandfather worked. I was very moved. I thought that it was my luck to have a chance to restore cuisines that my grandfather cooked,” Hoang Anh said.

“Cuisines in Nguyen Dynasty’s royal banquets that use rare materials like holothurian, shark’s fin, bird’s nest have been gradually forgotten after the Nguyen Dynasty ended. Many people thought that these cuisines are delicacies of Chinese. But I would like to confirm that these delicacies are processed from Vietnam’s specialties and in Vietnamese cooking style, which were noted in historical books. We need to quickly recover these cuisines to develop our unique gastronomy,” the artisan said.

Called the “culinary diplomat” and “artist of royal gastronomy”, businesswoman and food expert, Ho Hoang Anh has made it her mission to bringing the best of Vietnamese cuisine to the world.

She declares: “Vietnamese food is not only our cuisine, but also the painting of the country’s rich natural resources, the people’s hard work and their talent”.

Hoang Anh was born in the ancient village of Phuoc Yen, on the bank of the Bo River, 13km from the Hue royal citadel. Many villagers there were chefs for the Nguyen Dynasty. Hoang Anh is the offspring of a chief chef of Khai Dinh and Bao Dai kings.

Her résumé is impressive. A nuclear physics graduate; a student of restaurant management; a cooking teacher at the HCM City Tourism School; the owner of Phu Xuan restaurant in HCM City and in Tokyo; and a Vietnamese cuisine expert.

Hoang Anh once “brought” an ancient Gia Lac market from Vietnam to Vietnam Week in Munich, Germany. This is a special market of over 200 years old, normally only open during the three-day lunar New Year festival in Vietnam. This market was first organized by a Nguyen dynasty’s prince to allow ordinary people to taste royal cuisine and play folk games.

Hoang Anh decorated the market with traditional handicraft items, like paintings of Sinh village, paper flowers from Thanh Tien village, wood sandals and toys.

Her meeting with Chinese American chef Martin Yan is also an unforgettable memory. Yan, who travels around the world teaching people to cook Chinese cuisines learned about Hue cuisine from Hoang Anh.

Meanwhile, a meeting with South Korea’s Mrs. Hwang Hae Sung, 80, director of the Institute for Korean Royal Cuisines, inspired more new ideas.

The director of the Woosong University, South Korea, after tasting Hue cuisines and learning the history of Hue food at Hoang Anh’s Phu Xuan restaurant, invited Hoang Anh to an international workshop on food organized by Woosong University, KBS channel, and the US’ Johnson & Wales University.

Hoang Anh is also the main model of female photographer Dao Hoa Nu. She appears on many photo collections featuring Hue ao dai, etc.

Close-up of rare cuisines in the royal banquet on Dan Tri newspaper:

Khoi bo (process from beef).

Bao ngu rim – banh ke (simmered abalone – millet cake).

Vi ca – tom ba oan (shark’s fin – shrimp).

Hai sam don thit – cu sen nhoi nep (holothurian – lotus).

Chao bong bong ca duong – gan nai (rice gruel with swimming-bladder, deer tendon).

Yen sao chung hat sen (bird’s net – lotus seeds).

Lotus tea.