Le Coin des Gourmets
|Right Bank |
38, rue du Mont Thabor
Tel. 01 42 60 79 79
5, rue Dante
Tel. 01 43 26 12 92
Indochina was France's crown jewel during colonial times. As a reminder of the past, the streets of Paris are dotted with Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian restaurants ranging from holes-in-the-wall to trendy and upscale establishments, but finding a restaurant that serves authentic cuisine from the region can be difficult. When the Ta family opened Le Coin des Gourmets in 1981, they made it their mission to introduce Parisians to their culinary culture. Back then, Vietnamese immigrant Mrs. Ta manned the kitchen with two of her eight children: her son Khim and daughter Barbara, recreating the mouth-watering dishes from Vietnam and Cambodia--her husband's native country--that the family ate at home.
Two years later, British-born New York restaurateur Brian McNally recruited Barbara and her husband to come help him launch Indochine, a fixture on New York's Lafayette Street since 1984, and one of the first restaurants to adopt the glamorous "French colonial" style. After a few years in New York, Barbara returned to Paris to open her own restaurant, also called Indochine, on the right bank. Last year, the Ta family decided to merge both restaurants, entirely renovating Indochine and renaming it Le Coin des Gourmets, like the original Left Bank locale. Both Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes are served in each restaurant, with an emphasis on freshness and authenticity. The Vietnamese dishes are light and clean tasting, while the Cambodian cooking is slightly richer, resembling Thai cuisine with less spice. The Cambodian specialty, Amok, a fish and coconut milk curry seasoned with lemongrass paste and steamed inside a banana leaf, is among the menu's many highlights.
Khim now oversees both kitchens while another brother, Chhim, a wine aficionado, acts as sommelier. Chhim recommends Chardonnays or white Burgundies to accompany Southeast Asian fare; these wines are powerful enough to complement the cuisine's spices without drowning them, and are fruity and well-suited to herbs like lemongrass or cilantro.
For other authentic specialties from Southeast Asia, the Ta family recommends two restaurants in Paris' Chinatown:
|La Lune |
36, Avenue de Choisy
Tel. 08 99 78 26 95
30, Avenue Porte de Choisy
Tel. 01 45 85 56 64
Amok: Steamed Fish and Coconut Milk Curry
Amok is a classic Khmer dish and a staple eaten throughout Cambodia. As is often the case with popular dishes, recipes vary, depending upon who is in the kitchen. This is the version the Ta family serves at their restaurant:
Leftover lemongrass paste can also be used to marinate beef or chicken before grilling.
6 stalks fresh lemongrass
1 2-inch (5 cm) piece galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic
¾ teaspoon saffron
1.1 lb (500 g) white, firm-fleshed fish such as cod, catfish or snapper divided into 4 portions
4 tablespoons Nuoc Mam
2 teaspoons sugar
7 oz can coconut milk
2-3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced (or more to taste)
3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
½ white cabbage sliced into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces
1 fresh banana leaf
|1. Prepare the lemongrass for the paste by cutting off the bottom of the bulb and trimming the stalk to leave 8-10 inches. Remove the tough outer leaves then chop lengthwise into 4 pieces. |
2. Put the lemongrass along with the other ingredients for the paste into a food processor and blend until smooth. This mixture will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Makes 1 cup.
3. Cut each portion of fish into 2 to 3 pieces and put all of the pieces into a medium-sized bowl. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the fish, turning the pieces evenly to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour but not more than 2.
4. Meanwhile bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and blanch the cabbage leaves 8-10 minutes or until soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain; pat dry with paper towels.
5. Spread the banana leaf out on a work surface and wipe clean with a wet cloth. Using a sharp knife or scissors, remove the thick spine that runs along the edge of the leaf then cut out four 10-inch (25 cm) squares. Soften the squares to make them pliable by quickly dipping in boiling water or running over the flame of a gas burner.
6. Position a banana leaf square over a small bowl, shiny side down, and press into the bottom to form a well. Place 3 cabbage leaves in the well. Add one portion of the marinated fish, then a quarter of the marinade liquid. Bring up the sides of the banana leaf and fold over the ingredients to form a packet. Secure the edges with toothpicks. Continue with the rest of the ingredients to form 4 packets.
7. Place the packets in a steamer and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Reduce the temperature to low and continue steaming for another 1012 minutes. When cooked, the packets should feel firm to the touch.
8. Transfer the packets to a warm platter and serve with sticky rice.
From Publishers Weekly
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