Tuesday, April 30, 2013

getting fresh at Pho Hoang Minh

I'm sure you know, having already liked the Halifax Food Bloggers facebook page, that we are challenging our local blogging community with monthly themes. This month we kept things simple with FRESH. And the posts couldn't be more varied.

I don't know about you but when I close my eyes and envision what fresh means to me, I'm immediately transported to a hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant where cilantro, fish sauce and cold vermicelli noodles reign supreme. Aren't the best ethnic restaurants always tucked away in strip malls? Well, they are here.

If you have yet to be acquainted with Vietnamese cuisine, let me introduce you. Five tastes make up the Vietnamese palate: spicy, sour, bitter, salty, sweet with common ingredients including fish sauce, shrimp paste, lemongrass, basil, cilantro, star anise, chilli peppers, Saigon cinnamon, lime, ginger, vegetables, rice, and noodles. Sounds amazing right. Vietnamese cuisine is all about fresh herbs and vegetables plus the use of broth instead of oil, making it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. No joke.

The first vietnamese dish I fell in love with back in my university days was vermicelli noodles with spring rolls, quite the original title. It starts with cucumber, lettuce, and bean sprouts hidden under a mountain of cold vermicelli noodles then topped with warm sliced spring rolls. The accompanying nuoc cham, a sweetened fish sauce, ties it all together. It was warm and cold and salty and sweet and fresh all at once. I was instantly addicted.

There are several Vietnamese restaurants in town to get your Vietnamese fix including one on our side of the harbour in Dartmouth, Pho Hoang Minh. We've been hitting it up for years and I even hear of folks actually crossing the harbour to eat there. And for you folks not familiar with our twin cities, crossing the bridge to dine in Dartmouth is a big deal. Folks don't just cross the bridge for nothing.

While everything on the menu isn't my favourite of Vietnamese dishes, it's become our go to. So, even though the salad rolls (fresh spring rolls) are unfortunate bundles of mostly noodles, lettuce, shrimp, and a sad shaving of dry pork rather than the fixings of vermicelli, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, cilantro, and mint that I prefer, Pho Hoang Minh still satisfies. At the heart of that satisfaction is the infamous #15. I mean, it's even right there on the wall.

For years, I'd been ordering the same vermicelli with spring rolls until one day good ol' instagram showed me the error of my ways. The #15 has since changed my Vietnamese cravings forever. It's like a noodle bowl on crack. The usual suspects are present but then things get all crazy with crushed peanuts, green onions, pickled carrots and daikon and the most incredible sweet grilled pork shish kabob meat. Fresh, you've met your match. Now, I can't imagine ordering any thing else. In fact, I was even gushing about it to my cooking class today after serving up tofu salad rolls and cilantro infused Jasmine rice. I'm happy to report many of them are now on the fresh train and will no doubt be visiting Pho Hoang Minh soon.

Oh, and then this happened. Let's hope so.

Pho Hoang Minh Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon