South Vietnamese fare in Hanoi has been mainly limited to banh xeo (sizzling crepe), bun bo Nam Bo (southern-style stir-fried beef noodle), or lau ca keo (keo fish hotpot).
Ga Nuoc Dua – a special southern speciality
However, city foodies now need to look no further for another southern speciality – ga nuoc dua (coconut chicken hotpot). A newly-opened restaurant in Hanoi has not only introduced this dish in its menu, but also has named itself after the dish.
The elegantly furnished Ga Nuoc Dua displays a solemn design of green accents with living plants on its wall and light-green velvet-cushioned chairs. The green monochromatic scheme leaves the diner fresh and relaxed.
Master chef Tran Cong Danh, who has had a career spanning more than 20 years, uses his creativity and two popular ingredients — chicken and coconut — to make his dish a pleasant treat. Chef Danh is also the principal kitchen conductor of two other famous fine-dining restaurants in Hanoi, the seafood special San Ho and the Vietnamese Nam Phuong.
“Ga nuoc dua is a popular dish in the south. People simply cook chicken with coconut juice and add several other ingredients, as per their taste. They even add water to the coconut juice,” chef Danh said.
Unlike the original version, the dish prepared in Ga Nuoc Dua restaurant uses only chicken and coconut juice. “The purpose is to bring out the freshness and natural sweetness of each ingredient,” he said.
As the waiter poured clear coconut water into a pot placed on an electric cooker, we noticed that it contained thin slices of coconut and water chestnut. He then added chopped chicken into the stock, before placing a small sand timer by the pot. The timer runs for exactly six minutes — the perfect lapse of time for the chicken to get done.
Meanwhile, through the restaurant manager Le Ba Khang, we got to know more about the food that we were about to sample.
“Good food can be created from good ingredients only. So, our restaurant procures coconuts only from the southern coconut land Ben Tre, and free-range chicken from Hanoi’s Ba Vi mountainous district,” he said.
The manager said that only hens that weigh about 1kg, and have hatched eggs for the first time are selected. “Such hens have the best quality of meat,” Khang said.
To allow its diners to focus completely on the natural taste of chicken and to enjoy all its flavours, Ga Nuoc Dua does not add any other hotpot ingredients such as green vegetable, mushroom, or deep-fried beancurd sheet with the chicken.
After six minutes, the chicken is scooped out from the pot and placed into a bowl of dipping sauce. Do not ignore this step, or you will regret it, because the sauce is a key element that guarantees the flavour of the dish. Created mainly from soya sauce, the dipping sauce, containing minced hot chilli, ginger, galangal and kumquat juice, is a secret recipe of chef Danh
As we took the first bite, our tongues experienced a harmonic combination of a variety of tastes; the light sweetness of the chicken, the warmth of the minced ginger and galangal, and the hotness of the chilli.
After the chicken is cooked in the coconut juice, it absorbs the sweetness of the juice and becomes more tender. It even bears the light scent of the coconut.
Once they have enjoyed the chicken, diners can ask to add other ingredients such as coconut apical bud, fresh fragrant mushroom, white crab mushroom, pak choi, and glass noodles.
The restaurant also offers some special rice dishes, such as rice with braised pork-belly and Chinese sausage in clay pot (VND100,000); rice with braised chicken thigh in coconut (VND120,000); and rice with stir-fried chicken with basil leaves and century-egg in clay pot (VND100,000).
Although we were almost full, we still wanted to sample the rice dish and so, we picked rice with braised pork-belly and Chinese sausage in clay pot.
As the waiter opened the lid, the pleasant smell wafting out of the pot made us go “wow”. The pale brown, toasted, and lightly chewy texture of the rice is enhanced with buttery pork-belly and sausage. However, the best treat was what lay at the pot’s bottom — a thin layer of crispy rice. We then finished our sumptuous meal with some fresh dessert — water drop mochi and coconut jelly.
Where to enjoy GA NUOC DUA – COCONUT CHICKEN HOTPOT
- Address: 15B Ha Hoi Alley, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
- Hotline: 0916193883
- Opening hour: 11am-2pm; 5-10pm
- Comment: Elegant venue, relaxed atmosphere, comfortable seats, attentive service, tasty food, wallet-friendly price.
- Delivery service is also available. Discount 15% for hotpot and rice combo every Saturday until September 10. Discount 20% for first five booking in advance everyday.
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