A twist in traditional food

Chef Duong Huy Khai uses traditional ingredients and gives a twist to original dishes, elevating them to a higher level as he introduces them to foreign diners.

Born in a big family of 12 siblings who are good at cooking, Khai did not discover his talent until after he had moved to the US at 14 years old.

At first, he only ran around tables in his family’s restaurant and took care of his brothers and sisters’ children.

A few years later, Khai realized that he could cut fruits and vegetables into beautiful shapes, decorating dishes with animals or flowers.

His love for cuisine took off from there.

Leaving Vietnam as a teenager, Khai had little knowledge of his homeland’s food, thinking that it would not be so different from French cuisine.

That is why he decided to go to France and learn basic cooking principles.

“When I learned a dish, I automatically created 5 others in my head.

Thanks to the teacher, I felt like I had a key to the culinary world,”

recalled Khai.

After finishing his course, Khai, like a fish that could not wait to get out of his little pond, continued to study cooking in New York whilst not forgeting his big dream:

Going back to open a restaurant in Vietnam.

He visited home two or three times a year to do research on Vietnamese cuisine, especially rural dishes.

“Finding a tasty dish is like winning the lottery.

There are some local specialties which were banned for introduction to the public, meaning they could be lost in oblivion,”

said Khai.

Khai finds that restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City have similar recipes, cooking and decorating styles.

It is essential to research and recreate new dishes to make a difference to cuisine, stimulating diner’s appetite by both appearance and taste.

“If everyone does that, the culinary scene in Ho Chi Minh City will be varied and foreigners will be more fond of Vietnamese food,”

He said.

In January this year, Khai finally opened his own restaurant, Bun K’, on Vo Van Tan street.

Martin Yan [a famous chef among Vietnamese audiences through his cooking shows] was invited to share his cooking skills at the restaurant.

Previously, when Khai was nominated to the Culinary Academy, it was Martin Yan who handed him a certificate.

“We have since been good friends and have done charity and career activities together.

Yan has supported me a lot,” shared Khai.

Khai thinks that to promote Vietnamese dishes, which are already original and delicious, it is necessary to add some extra technique and effort to elevate the cuisine to a higher standard.

He takes an example of Pho or noodle soup, which initially had no herbs or vegetables.

However, when introduced to the south, sprouts, coriander, and basil were added, bringing color to a bowl of pho.

It later became one of the world’s most famous dishes.

Giving a twist to Vietnamese cuisine also means using local ingredients to create new dishes.

For example, a dish called “Water God’s Eyes” at Khai’s restaurant is sea tuna’s eyes stir-fried with Ipomoea aquatica salad and kumquat juice.

These ingredients are bought in the local market and are revitalized with a western style of cooking.

To make it more special, the restaurant only serves 50 portions a day and limits one to each diner.

Although there is much to learn in Vietnam, Khai has not given up his dream to promote his homeland’s cuisine.

“I want foreigners to see Vietnamese cuisine as high class and erase their concept of the country:

That there is only war, flooding and poverty,”

Shared Khai.

Source: Tuoi Tre Online

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