There has been a spurt of standalone Asian restaurants opening in Mumbai with places like Mamagoto, Oh Cha, Eat Thai, Heng Bok, Kofuku, Busago, Hometown, the short-lived Sing Kong and Aoi joining Shiro and Busabo to offer Pan Asian fare here.
Thai has been on offer for a while and now you have more reasonably-priced Japanese, a bit of Malay and Korean options too outside of the pricier five-star restaurants.
What Mumbai did miss was a Vietnamese restaurant.
Vietnamese food is much lauded across the world and many international Saigon food and travel writers such as Anthony Bourdain and Simon Majumdar swear by the subtle yet intricate flavours of the food in Vietnam.
Cities like Melbourne, Sydney and London have Vietnamese settlements. I tried the Vietnamese food there and fell in love with the rice paper spring rolls and the flavourful pork preparations on offer.
The memory of these dishes led me to Shiro in Mumbai’s Lower Parel where they are having a Vietnamese food festival till the 22nd of April. The menu is designed by a young Vietnamese Chef Vu Dinh Hung from Vietnam.
My earlier memories of Vietnamese meals in Australia and UK centered on pork and beef dishes. Both meats are conspicuous by their absence in the Shiro menu.
So the traditional pork and prawn rice paper roll is converted into a chicken and prawn one here and offers a refreshing option in the Mumbai heat.
The Vietnamese clear soup, Pho, that I have had in Australia was of beef and was marked by strong flavours of the meat. In Shiro they have a boiled chicken and sliced onion version which has a strong Chinese 5 spice flavour and is served with hoisin instead of chilli padi (paste) that I had seen in Australia.
The prawn glass noodle dish at Shiro is packed with flavours and is a show-stopper.
The classic caramelized Vietnamese pork belly dish is made with basa and gives a hint of what might have been.
There is a very nice and hearty, mildly spiced chicken and potato thick Vietnamese curry which goes very well with sticky rice.
The dessert, chocolate fondant with figs, is a decadent and heady one and is a result of the French influence in Vietnam.
Most of the dishes are made with local ingredients barring a few of them like the Vietnamese fish sauce (less salty than the locally available imported Thai one) and lotus seeds brought over by the chef.
The ‘Shiro Meets Saigon’ festival is on till the 22nd of April and is a good opportunity to get a feel of the relatively unexplored, subtle and light flavours of Vietnamese cuisine in Mumbai.
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.
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