Emeril arrives at the Top Chef Chalet and divides the contestants into three groups of five for their Elimination Challenge. Each team must prepare a meal of Vietnamese cuisine, and one of the dishes must highlight shrimp. Sounds easy, especially if you are Travis, the self-proclaimed Captain Vietnam despite being a white boy from Colorado.
Eddie Huang is the guest judge and takes the chefs on a party bus around New Orleans to learn about Vietnamese cuisine. I mean that’s how everyone soaks up a culture, right? Their first stop is a bakery for bahn mi sandwiches. Next are the shrimp docks to watch the catch arrive. Shirley is clever and asks the Vietnamese fishermen’s wives for recipes. The last stop is a noodle house, and now I’m hungry.
Shirley is ably heading up the Red Team. Along with Captain Vietnam and Sara, who worked for Wolfgang Puck, the Green Team has Bene who is preparing traditional Vietnamese cooking with tomato sauce but definitely not at all lemongrass. The Orange Team looks pretty solid with some soups, but there’s still potential for failure.
Time is up, food is served.
The Orange Team presents black pepper fried squid, gulf shrimp and pork belly spring role, fish head soup with pineapple and tomato, beef broth pho. The spring roll is called “almost dead on,” but the tomato in the soup makes it taste like minestrone. Tom misses the aromatics in the pho, which are nonexistent.
The Red Team is next. They serve raw beef salad with pickled vegetables, Vietnamese barbeque shrimp, beef pho with rice noodles and lettuce, and lemon custard with caramelized bahn mi. The judges are very impressed with the pho dish, and Shirley’s shrimp dish is amazing. The raw beef salad is not traditionally Vietnamese, and the custard is called an afterthought.
The Green Team is last with their lemongrass-free meal which includes grilled pork sausage with lettuce wrap, oxtail rice wrap with pork and shrimp, fresh gulf shrimp with ginger Vietnamese tomato sauce, and coconut macaroon with coffee flavors. The judges seem underwhelmed. Then Padma wants to know if we can “talk about this atrocious rice,” and Gail thinks the macaroon tastes like something she has every year at her seder.
The Red Team had the judges’ favorite dishes. Shirley’s shrimp dish was a surprising hit since the judges did not expect to find so much butter in Vietnamese cooking. Shirley explained that everyone on the shrimp dock said that they cooked their shrimp in butter. She gets the win, and Justin’s pho gets honorable mention.
Then the judges want to see the Green Team. Sara immediately reaches for tears over how much she loves Asian cuisine and just love Asian cuisine, and did she mention how much she loves Asian cuisine? Well if you love it so much, Sara, maybe stop butchering it! Travis claims that he has had an Italian sauce in central Vietnam over and over and over again and it totally baffles the judges who suggest that the next time he is in central Vietnam, he should maybe try not going to Italian restaurants. Sara falls on the sword of the horribly cooked rice, and really, getting rice wrong is Vietnamese cooking is unforgivable. Yet somehow it’s Janine who is going home for double frying the shrimp, so I’m confused. I guess she only knows how to cook shrimp on the barbie.
Next week, Padma’s mommy and Lea Michele hosts a Halloween costume party.
Reprinted from HealthyWayToCook.com