The feast of spice

| Katie Hung 17 May 2019

Get a taste of IndoChina even if you are thousands of kilometers away.

Burmese fare is rather rare so grab your chance now. Pun + Projects is teaming up with Jia Group to bring a pop-up of Yangon-based brasserie The Pansodan to Third Street in Sai Ying Pun for three months.

"Sharing border crossings with China, India, Bangladesh and Thailand, the country has been at an Asian intersection for centuries - making for a culinary discourse influenced by the other nations, but distinctive enough to carve its own niche," said Pun + Projects' founder Ivan Pun, who was raised in Hong Kong, Yangon and England.

"Brasserie staples like charcuterie and oysters will step aside, allowing guests to explore courses featuring bites, salads, noodles and biryani, mains and sweets. All of which highlight the cuisine's unofficially trademarked notes of turmeric, tamarind, lemongrass, ginger and more."

A case in point is the noodles brought by the Chinese to Burma long ago. Try the "national dish" mohinga (HK$95), the rice noodles in herbaceous sea bass broth of tamarind and turmeric. Another showcase of how people transform the Indian flavors to their own is crab biryani (HK$135) with biryani masala, basmati rice, cashews and raisins.

Curry plays a vital role too. The pork curry (HK$125) is paired with pickled green mango while sea bream fillets in the rakhine fish curry (HK$150) are cooked in a rich gravy of sawtooth coriander, lemongrass and chilli.

Following the Burmese practice that tea leaves are made more than brewing, laphet thoke (HK$95), or fermented tea leaves salad, is a staple. The flavor of the soft pickled leaves is highlighted with the tart lime dressing and sweet tomatoes, while fried beans add crunch.

Wash down with some unusual herb cocktails, notably Tamarind Margarita (HK$80), a Southeast Asian twist on the tequila-based mix.

Onward to Vietnam, where an abundance of citrus and herbs are sure to cool you down on humid days. Le Soleil at The Royal Garden is offering a new lime and herbs menu.

The fish sauce and lime juice dressing gives a zesty kick to the baby lotus root and crab meat salad (HK$188). To get its crunchy texture, the root is soaked in lime water for two hours.

Dig in the baked red snapper with lime and banana leaf (HK$398) for the main. Marinated with lime and spices of lemongrass, galangal and coriander, the fish is grilled till golden brown. For the pho (HK$178), or Vietnamese soup noodles, pork bones are simmered for 10 hours to make the soup base.

Those who like fusion can try its Vietnamese-Parisian afternoon tea set (HK$438 for two) in collaboration with Ingrid Millet. Apart from baby lotus root salad, the savory items include crispy fried Saigon spring rolls, steamed rice flour pouch with minced pork and dried shrimp, as well as minced pork with prawn crackers. Finish off with Vietnamese coffee, or honey lemongrass and ginger tea, and don't forget the beauty gift pack.

And rounding off the regional tour is A Taste of Thailand lunch buffet (HK$488) at the Harbourside in Intercontinental, available on weekdays only till June 28. Start with a zesty som tam, or green papaya salad, or another salad combining fried snapper with sweet-and-spicy sauce.

Other highlighted dishes include lobsters with Thai green curry, with the curry's sweetness bringing out the crustacean's umami well.

The buffet also features a rotating action station serving either Thai-style satay or basil minced pork and prawn rice paper rolls.

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