Mini Mango – Edmonton, AB
1056 91 Street SW
True to its name, Mini Mango is a tidy little space set up within a strip mall (of which there are many in Edmonton) on the city’s southside. But contrary to so many Vietnamese noodle joints that I’ve frequented, this establishment has applied some more modern touches, thus resulting in a chicer, compact environment that should appeal to those who are less inclined to visit more hole-in-the-wall type of restaurants. Four and two-top seating arrangements, a corner booth, and even a special section with high stools for solo diners completes the picture here, though I imagine they do get their fare share of take away customers. According to my local contact, the lunch hour here can get hectic, and seemingly a popular place for the stay-at-home moms who perhaps want to have a mid-day meal that is more on the “exotic” side. Such is the life of Alberta suburbia I suppose…
The system in place was very much like Famoso, that I’d visited a few days earlier. Step up to the front counter, place your order, pay there, and then go to your seat and your food would be brought out to you. I don’t think I saw any menu cards or booklets at the tables themselves and my only reference of what there was to eat was the sign board pinned to the wall in the employee-only area connected to the kitchen. Appetizers hitting on things like Vietnamese spring rolls and salads were interspersed with a few other Asian-themed dishes such as kimchi and “Thai” deep fried prawns in wonton wrappers.
These Green Onion Cakes ($3.95) served with a sweet chili sauce was another of the small starters available and the only one we tried on this visit. I usually associate green onion cakes as being more doughy and extremely oily, but these were the complete opposite. Crispy, flaky texture but still retaining a delicious chewiness inside and not greasy at all. Lovingly baked and the accompanying sauce added to bolstering the flavor. A whole plate of this could probably make a complete meal for me.
The literal meat of the menu here at Mini Mango lies in the vermicelli and rice bowls. There is a process here which begins with your choice of either vermicelli noodles, regular steamed rice or even coconut rice. Then you choose your main topping – in the form of a marinated protein (prawn, beef, chicken, pork, pork chop; or spring rolls) or a tofu (fresh, or in the form of a veggie spring roll, or even one of their combinations. Followed by your instruction as to whether you want the stuff wok fried or the meat grilled. If you don’t get a multi-meat combo, you can just double up the amount as well for an additional charge. Whew, a lot of thought goes into getting what you want. Alas, I didn’t go this route but a dining partner did. What you see pictured above is a 5 Meat Combo Bowl (priced at $10.95). It looked really hearty and good, just off the visuals alone.
Skipping past the Bahn Mi and Salads portion of the menu, my eyes fell onto the Thai & Vietnamese Soups. Pho Ga ($7.95) in particular was my craving. A really delicate, subtle and clean broth was what came in my bowl. No MSG or overly salted soup here, very nice. The noodles were well cooked through and the fragrant herbs in the liquid soon warmed me up on this cold winter day. The garnish plate had the raw sprouts and lime wedge, but no basil. All in all, a decent bowl with delicate flavor. Coupled with the fresh and clean atmosphere, I’d say Mini Mango is a pretty nice place to visit for a taste of southeast Asia in the heart of the Canadian prairies, and given its geographic location has carved out a small tiny niche for itself with its modern take on this immigrant cuisine.