cha gio thit ga, or chicken egg rolls in rice paper
Vietnam is, in my book, by far the most photogenic country I’ve ever visited. The food is vibrant and full of freshness, and it also helps that the people there are just about the nicest, too. Whenever I just can’t think of anything that I’m hungry for, usually a good Vietnamese meal sets me right again.
On one blustery cold night last week, we piled into the car to check out Pho Sate, one of the Vietnamese noodle houses near our house. Pho is the perfect winter food. Nothing warms a freezing night more than a steaming hot bowl of five spice-flavored broth, created after days of stewing. The soup arrives with a bed of nestled flat rice noodles, and the best way to eat them is to order it with thinly sliced flank steak. The steak is kept raw and plunked into the hot pho just before serving so that it cooks while it travels to the table to a perfect pinky medium. Along with the fresh array of vegetables – crispy bean sprouts, sprigs of fresh mint and Thai basil, and wedges of juicy lime — it’s basically comfort in a bowl.
Top left: all you need to know about pho is that the thinly sliced flank steak is a must; top right: these stir-fried flat, wide noodles, tossed with beef, carrots, bean sprouts, onions and scallions in a spicy sate sauce, were the business (menu item 701); bottom: Meimei loves pho
What I loved in particular about Pho Sate was that its name doesn’t reveal that there are a heck of a lot of other noodle dishes going on at this fine establishment. The menu contains page after page of noodle options, from stir-fried to egg noodles to wide flat rice noodles. This place was to noodles what Bubba Gump was to shrimp — all noodles, all the time. And we were just fine with that.
Crispy noodles sautéed with mustard greens, chicken breast, carrots and shiitake mushrooms (menu item 602)
We were also thrilled to discover that Pho Sate makes a mean crispy deep-fried noodle. This type of “bird’s nest,” popular in Chinese cuisine, was a special treat for me growing up, and I started happy clapping as soon as we arrived at a page with six — count ’em — six different types of crispy noodles. The art of these noodles is that they’re deep fried into a solid mass, and a juicy stir fry sauce filled with vegetables and meat are piled on top. As the dish continues to sit at the table, the noodles under the sauce gradually soften, creating a wonderful textural mix of sauce-laden noodles with crunch from the virgin, untouched noodles. If these noodles weren’t so gosh darn unhealthy, I’d probably be investing in a countertop deep fryer just to make them night after night.
Actually, why don’t I own a countertop deep fryer? Does Santa believe in aiding and abetting high cholesterol and heart disease?
If he does, then I have a request to make.