Why I Miss Vietnam

AWWWW HELL YEAH. Top to bottom (ish), vermicelli noodles, sweet rice, shrimp, calamari, beef?, spring rolls, chicken.

It’s the post that y’all been waiting for. Yes, the food episode! There are many pictures and meals and deliciousness here, so I’m going to break them down into categories for you. I’m drooling as I write all this. :) I’m tempted to write “soooo delicious” in every single one of the captions, but that would get repetitive and boring, so take my word for it, unless otherwise specified, it was delicious. There are a bunch of other foods, but here’s a selection of them.

Drinks:

I don’t have a picture of Nuoc Mia (Sugarcane juice) because I only had it once or twice, it was nearly out of season, but that shit is bombtastic.

Sinh To Bo and Chanh Leo - Avocado Shake and Passion Fruit (with crushed ice), respectively. Avocado shake is basically avocado, ice, sugar, and condensed milk. You can get it at most Vietnamese places in Canada. The passion fruit with crushed ice is damn godly. I love crushed ice. I love chewing on it. Then there's condense milk. Or coconut milk. Probably condensed milk. And then passion fruit stuff at the bottom and you mix it all together and then you die and go to heaven, cause life is over after that. It's that good. :) This was my addiction during those three weeks.

Che - More condensed milk and crushed ice. With everything under the sun underneath. Coconut flesh, yellow beans, jelly, some other stuff that I've no clue what it is. Just general goodness. 8000 dong a cup. Or 35 cents.

Snacks:

Thit Bo Kho - Spicy beef jerky. Can't find anything like this over here. Shredded beef jerky with chili peppers and with lemon over top. Drooling. :(

Jackfruit - Vietnam has so many great fruits to offer but this is my absolute favourite, even if it is available in Canada. Very sweet and has a nice texture.

Fried shrimp. Soak it in. NOMNOMNOMNOMNOM

Fried potato and fried banana things. Crispy and delicious on the outside. Yummy and soft and yummy on the inside. My momma wouldn't let me eat this too often though (or too many at a time) because it's just deep fried in old oil on the street. Still, it as delicious. I'd still eat it.

FRESH. BREAD. SO WARM. SO HHHHNNNNNNGNGGG. Vietnamese bread is actually evolved from French baguettes (due to that whole colonizationg thing) but it has become very distinct and like.. delicious.

Oh yeah. Fried squid. Fresh out of the water. We usually eat it dry with hot sauce. But hot and crispy with hot sauce is pretty damn bomb too.

CHOCO PIE. Like Jos Louis. But cheap. But it will do when you're craving fake food.

Calamari. 'Nuff said.

Meals:

Pho - I'm pretty sure this is known as THE Vietnamese dish. Pho Pho Pho Pho. So delicious. My brother and cousin dissed it because it doesn't taste like Canadian Pho. Fuck that shit. It's so much better. Not that different, but definitely so delicious. At $1.30 CDN a bowl, really, can you complain? Though, it's a bit more impressive when you say $30,000. Or, 30,000 dongs. Yeah yeah, LAUGH. But I'll have the last laugh because you ain't never had pho like this.

Mien Kho Dac Biet - Dry glass noodles mixed with vegetables, shrimp, pork, chicken, and beef.

Mi Bo Sot Vang - Ramen noodles in a thick beef broth. It was a really sticky sauce that had the texture of snot, but don't let that deter you because it's damn delicious. It had a nice salty flavour that complimented the beef and noodles. This is the only place in all of Hai Phong (and maybe even Vietnam) that makes this stuff correctly. It's hidden in a tiny alley by my grandmother's house, and you have to enter through the kitchen to walk up to a second level.

Crab for hot pot. Look at all that orange stuff. So yummy.

Bun Reu Cua - Vermicelli noodles in a crab and egg stew. My favourite home-cooked meal. My mom makes this amazingly. So yummy. Slight tang, and the shrimp meat gives substance. Paired with small noodles? Nothing better.

Shanghai-style Chow Mein noodles. Not as delicious as in Canada (as I've never actually been to Shanghai). I was craving something familiar, but Vietnamese people should stick to Vietnamese cooking.

A fish salad with bits of sour fish, some vegetables, mint, peanuts (ADRIENNE, LOOK AWAY!), and some fish sauce (nuoc mam), among other things because I don't know how to make it. I only know how to inhale it.

Another version of the fish salad, except this one has jelly fish instead, and what looks like tiny bits of beef jerky? YUM A LUM MMMMM.

Bun Ga Long Lon - Vermicelli noodles in a light onion broth with chicken and pork blood with some sliced raw (green and white) onion.

Beef salad/stir fry thing - Beef cooked with onions and celery on a bed of fresh greens and tomatoes, topped with a healthy portion of cilantro.

Bird Stew - As it says. AHHAHA. I didn't eat this, because I'm a little squeamish, but it smelled good. It's like Trung Vit Lon (or Balut or developed/fertilized chicken/duck eggs ), I can eat them well, and they're delicious, but I just can't look at them first. This is just another version of an onion/beef broth soup.

Boiled chicken. Simple, but delicious. Meant to be eaten with this sauce: Salty soup mix with ginger, garlic, chili peppers, lemongrass, and juice of a lemon. LEMONGRASS IS MY CATNIP. I love this dipping sauce. Both salty and sour and chicken tastes so good in it.

Clams. Or oysters. Or mussels. Or something. Whatever they were, they were delicious. And I'm the kind of person that never liked oyster/clam/mussel-things.

Soup with mushrooms, onions, and shredded chicken.

Chicken wings. I'm glad this delicacy is universal.

Bo Nuong - Grilled beef. Cooked in butter. With onions and stuff. Pretty standard. Not exclusive to Vietnam.

Mien Xao - Glass noodle fried salad - Omg. Omg. Omg. This is soooo good. Fried onions. That black stuff that is everywhere in Viet cuisine that I don't now what it is, some mushrooms, small bits of pork. MMM. FFUUUU I want this now.

Soi - Sweet Rice - Probably sweetened with coconut milk.

Bun Cha Ca - Vermicelli with fish sausage and some sort of sour vegetable. The tomato-based broth is pleasantly sour and flavoured with a bit of dill. Had this for breakfast 2 or 3 times. It was right across the street from my house in the city.

Rice noodles with pork and beef sausage and some sort of sauce/soup/thing/thatisreallygood/yum. Fried onions on top.

Squid. MMM. Home made and fresh. Tender.

With dog meat. (I didn't eat any this time though)

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Pho Nam

So, as quickly as my trip to Montreal began, it had to end and I began packing my car full of more junk to bring to Ontario. I first made sure that my dog was to stay in the house and not run outside as he often likes to do. He doesn’t run away, but enjoys exploring the area unsupervised. He always (save one time) makes his way back home though. I began piling boxes into my car along with some a bookshelf and a bunch of books to pile into that bookshelf, mostly design manuals etc. Brought my printer with no ink, and some fish for the uncle. My family has this thing with fish. They go fishing, catch too many, and then give them away. As I was packing my trunk, I come back to the front of my car only to find this:

My damn puppy sitting in my front seat just to make me sad. I could have sworn he wasn’t there when I passed before, but there he was, just sitting there, waiting to take a 6 hour drive with me to a new home. BAWWWWW. Goddamnit. So I had to pick him up and bring him inside and leave him standing at the window of the front porch to watch me leave.

Anyway, before I leave, my parents take me to this pho place that just opened up, Pho Nam. They had begun advertising in the Vietnamese newspaper before the restaurant even opened so along with that method getting their name out their, they also had people talking about it, and most people heard about the place through word of mouth. I guess it’s not that hard because Vietnamese people love to talk. So much. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the store front so I can’t show you what it looks like. It’s not even on Google Maps.

The restaurant is located on the corner of Shelley and Cremazie, which is right beside the 40 (on the south side) and Saint Michel, next to Bogey’s Billiards. Now, I’ve eaten at many a Vietnamese restaurants in my day just because that’s what my family eats when we go out, pho or dim sum, my entire life. Though I’m not a picky eater, I know the difference between good pho and bad. I judge a Vietnamese restaurant on two menu items, because that’s what I eat:

“Pho” (Beef noodle soup, soupe tonkinoise), and “bun thit nuong” (vermicelli, grilled beef, vegetables).

I usually get “pho chin”, which is pho with cooked beef, but this time had “pho tai sach bo vien.” Don’t let the long name fool you, it’s just listing what’s inside the pho. “Tai” is thinly sliced raw beef that gets put into the noodles before the boiling broth is poured in so that the hot broth cooks it as it’s going out to your table. “Sach” is beef tripe, which I believe is either stomach lining or intestinal lining; sounds gross but is actually very delicious. “Bo vien” means quite simply, beef balls.

I don’t usually expect presentation to be very important at a Vietnamese restaurant, but they seem to have done well with it on this bowl, not that there’s much you can do to it, exactly. But, I received this bowl, put in the lime, mixed it up a bit, and then added some sriracha hot sauce and hoisin sauce. Many pho puritans (ahem, my mother.. and basically the Vietnamese from my parents’ generation) insist that hoisin sauce just makes your pho taste like dessert because it’s too sweet, but no, I like it. It’s a dark sauce that’s very similar to oyster sauce.

Anyway, to put it simply, Pho Nam’s pho is damn delicious. Easily one of the best I’ve eaten at a restaurant that I can remember. (Home cooked will always remain the best though.) The broth was balanced, not too salty, nor was their too much MSG or oil. The pho noodles were the perfect size, small. I always loved smaller noodles compared to their larger counterparts with both pho noodles and vermicelli noodles.

Not bad for photos from my phone, eh?

Mothafuckin’ bun thit nuong. I love this shit so much. “Bun” = Vermicelli or rice noodles, “thit” = meat, “nuong” = grilled. It’s always served with vegetables and “nuoc mam,” fish sauce that’s mixed with some garlic, sugar, and sometimes hot peppers.It’s hard to mess up this dish, but when it goes bad, it goes really bad. There were some things missing in this dish, but I’ll get to that later.

The meat was the right thickness, so that it wasn’t so thin that there’s no flavour, but not so thick that it’s hard to eat with all the other ingredients. It was a little sweet but it was evened out with the slightly smokey flavour of the grill. This dish is super simple and super refreshing to eat. My only gripe about this particular one is that they put too many mint leaves, which I don’t particularly like, and they opted out of putting in pickled daikon radish with the pickled carrots. Pickled daikon radish adds another level to the slightly sour pickled carrots and most of the time, they are served together.

Aside from that, it was delicious, and as always, despite it looking like barely a meal, it fills you up pretty quickly. Oh, and a quick note with this, if you’re allergic to peanuts, make sure you specify that they do not add peanuts in because they will if you don’t, and then you will die. Or get very sick, as you well know. Actually, it’s not like the peanuts are hidden, you’ll just end up sending it back, and then no one will be happy.

Another thing that’s lacking is their selection of smoothies that all viet restaurants seem to have. The avocado shakes, mango shakes, etc are pretty much staple, but I assume that it’s because they’re new, they haven’t implemented these menu items yet, and after they do, the bubble tea will surely come soon after. For drinks, they have other simple drinks like soda, iced coffee, tea, and the traditional “Che Ba Mau,” 3 colour rainbow drink, or however you call it in English.

tl;dr: I would recommend Pho Nam to my friends and family.