When Goa Girl posted that she missed the banh cuon from the late lamented Northern Vietnamese restaurant Truong Thranh, I thought it was time to revisit Thanh Xuan, a Kingsway hole-in-the-wall that I knew specializes in this Vietnamese delicacy. I blogged about this place around the time I first encountered it, and I haven’t really been back for quite some time, so I finally found an excuse to return.
Banh cuon, a simple steamed rice flour crepe, is a common breakfast dish originating from Northern Vietnam. Like most of Vietnam’s indigenous food, however, banh cuon’s true origins are in Southern China – specifically from the familiar cheong fun, the rice roll you will find in all dim sum menus. The methods of preparation are quite similar – rice starch batter (often augmented with wheat, tapioca or other starches) is steamed to form a thin sheet over boiling water. While cheong fun is steamed in shallow metal trays, bank cuon is steamed in a specially constructed pot which has a fine cloth tautly stretched over the opening.
4801 Victoria Drive
88 Supermarket is one of the many reasons why I feel privileged living in the East Side.
As an avid cook and general enthusiast in all things pertaining food, I’m always on the lookout for great sources for ingredients. When I am cooking Southeast Asian food, I would usually head on over to stock up.
Pho Century Fine Vietnamese Cuisine
Billed as a “Place for Noodle Lovers”, this second location of Pho Century recently popped up at the intersection of Kingsway and Sperling, basically directly across the way from the National Nikkei Heritage Centre where the beloved Hi Genki is located. I’ve never visited their first outlet (which is also on Kingsway – at Willingdon), so have no point of reference to compare, but this just opened spot sure took me a bit by surprise. While carved out inside a shabbier looking building that I think housed some kind of ESL/math school run by Chinese until recent times, they had really spruced up the tiny interior with a clean and fresh modern look. Parking is brutal – limited to a few spots right in front – and street parking nearby is hampered by the ongoing construction of a tall condominium building right across the street, with all the trucks and machinery needing to get through.
As you can see from the signage, there is a grand opening going on, with special dine-in pricing of 10% off, which is slated to end January 15th. So perhaps by the time you read this post, it could be over. Nevertheless, the price point for their main dishes are reasonable – case in point, the small pho is $6, and the large bowl is $7. Congees, and barbequed (insert any meat here) with rice dishes also fall in the $7~$8 range. There were also some Viet Subs (chicken, meat ball, minced pork, Vietnamese ham) available priced $3.95 and up; apparently they are only here at this second location. Combo plates with rice or vermicelli run in the $7 to $11 zone; this “touch of everything” caught my attention for my lunch.
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.
X.O. Vietnamese Style Food
Yaohan Centre, 3700 #3 Road
The food court in the Yaohan Centre is probably the first time I’ve ever experienced an Asian mall food court in the GVRD, thinking back on it now it probably goes back a good decade or so. While my memories are somewhat faint, I recall the supermarket there (before the arrival of the T&T’s of the world), as the only place that had those distinctly Asian food products and ingredients all under one roof. Strangely, I can also remember once upon a time, there being a ramen place in this exact food court and having it there are a youth.
Its pleasing to know this place is still around and seemingly prospering. I usually stick to one side of this area where the fast food chinese stalls are, and the noodle place on the corner. And thus this time, I thought I’d venture to the opposite end and see if there was anything of interest. After doing a walk-by of all the spots, passing on some barbecued duck, noodles, etc. the hot pans of simmering curry dishes at X.O. Vietnamese Style Food caught my eye. Kind of an unusual combination I thought. Though they did have the typical Vietnamese soup noodle item that I have way too much of these days.
Its been said many times, but there is something special about the big blue skies of summer in Alberta. On a recent visit to Edmonton, I had the pleasure of driving around a bit, seeing some rural and urban landscapes that reminded me of how great the scenery can be where there isn’t that abundance of grey clouds and gloomy rainy weather that dominates the west coast in June. I guess that has something to do with the large quantities of great produce and livestock product that comes out of this oil-rich province. Good eats under sunny skies, what could be better!
During my stay, I made a completely random jaunt to 97th street just north of the downtown core of Edmonton that resulted in a trio of stops all within the span of about an hour! While the Alberta capital’s Chinatown isn’t as pronounced nor expansive of say Vancouver’s version, it does have some of the same classical appeal and is worth checking out. Alas, this early Saturday morning resulted in stopovers at least than traditional Chinese places for the most part, but hope you can follow the story…
Pho Thai Hoa
Pho Thai Hoa is one of the best and most well known Vietnamese restaurants in Vancouver. It has a lot of competition along Kingsway – Vancouver’s version of little Saigon. Pho Thai Hoa differentiates itself from most of the other Vietnamese restaurants in the area with its clean premises, extensive (and nicely photographed) menu, and generally good food. It is known for its good pho and other Vietnamese classics. Now it is doing something new for this town: a hot banh mi with grilled meats.
Now, I am perhaps presumptuous in my pronouncement that hot banh mi is a recent phenomenon here in Vancouver. After all, I have certainly not eaten at all the Vietnamese places in town. However, in my explorations along Kingsway, known to be on a cutting edge of authentic Vietnamese food, this is the first I have seen this. More recent second-hand reports from others indicate that there are a few places that serve a grilled meat banh mi – but none seem to be attempting it to this scale. Is it perhaps grilled fillings are really only possible in a full kitchen – something a typical banh mi joint does not usually have? Also it is somewhat unusual for the pho-centric restaurant to be serving banh mi.