Vietnamese cuisine is on the rise again. After we have reached the familiar terrain with Vietnamese street food for several years now, it is high time for someone to up the ante. Chef Nam Quoc Nguyen quickly rose to the occasion by accepting the challenge with the opening of NamNam Noodle Bar in Jakarta.
When NamNam Noodle Bar was introduced for the first time in 2012, Chef Nam Quoc Nguyen and the restaurant quickly became the idol of Singaporean crowds. By introducing the trendier version of Hanoi-style pho and banh mi, the chef has set up a new standard for Vietnamese cuisine in Southeast Asia.
The year of 2015 is the time for Indonesia. NamNam Noodle Bar initiated its conquest with a beautiful outlet in Pantai Indah Kapuk and now in Plaza Indonesia. The Foodie Magazine wastes no time to meet the man himself and asks him about the visionary breakthrough in Vietnamese cuisine that he brought with NamNam.
Chef Nam remembers his roots very well. From the cuisine, you can sense the authenticity of the flavors and the reason for choosing Hanoi-style pho instead of the rich-in-herbs Saigonese style was quite apparent. He’s a traditionalist as well as an open-minded chef who learns the way of the market.
“With NamNam, I wanted to introduce Vietnamese street food in upper class establishments. That’s why it has to be both soulful and also playful”, he says. He emphasizes also the need to adapt and understand the taste bud of Indonesian people.
“That’s why I personally oversaw the creation of our own bakso and sambal. I know Indonesians love stronger flavor and that’s why we are putting the effort to make our dishes memorable for the crowd here”, explains the chef. He’s also noting that their commitment of not using any MSG at all proved to be challenging at first and NamNam successfully created the desirable result in the end.
While originality is the backbone of NamNam Noodle Bar, Chef Nam also prepared many months ahead to plant the seeds and stems of Vietnamese native herbs as the authentic addition to the traditional pho. For dry spices and sauces, he imported directly from Vietnam in large containers.
In addition to that, he likes to take advantage of the freshest ingredients available in the market. “Our kampong chicken pho has a complete offering from soft boiled egg, sliced chicken, gizzard, and also the immature egg”, says Chef Nam. “For the banh mi, I even created a version using catfish. Usually in Vietnam, people are only using canned fish”, he adds by saying that he might even be using lamb in the future for the menu.
Thanks to bountiful availability of ingredients and the diversity of flavor in Indonesia, Chef Nam happily put more effort in devising more dishes for NamNam here.
“From learning how to make a good bakso from a 75-years-old man who has been selling meatballs for 60 years, creating a fiery sambal that suits the Indonesian taste buds, and also making the best out of so many quality ingredients available here; I am confident that we will open more NamNam in Jakarta soon”, says the chef surely. The crowd hit NamNam non-stop as we’re speaking.
NamNam Noodle Bar presents not only the rich selections in pho and banh mi, Chef Nam also adds more color from the appetizers, dry noodles, desserts, and also good old Vietnamese coffee. With his professional background as chef and proven restaurateur, Chef Nam is currently readying himself to challenge the world with his proud and creative take in Vietnamese food.
NAMNAM NOODLE BAR
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians
- Plaza Indonesia, Basement Floor, Jakarta – Indonesia
- Ruko Crown Golf Blok D no. 21-23, Pantai Indah Kapuk, Jakarta – Indonesia
Opening hours: Daily, mall opening hours
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE July 2015 edition
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Photography by Dennie Ramon