I just heard an interview with Tony Bourdain and Mario Batali. They asked each other if they could only eat one cuisine for the rest of their lives, what would it be. They both agreed on Vietnamese. I'm intrigued as I usually only order Pho. I'm looking for suggestions of other dishes to try and the restaurants that make them. Unfortunately the only Vietnamese restaurant close to me is Cam Rahn Bay in Eden Prairie but am willing to travel.
Banh Tom Chien (shrimp and battered yams) and Vermicelli Salad's at Quang are excellent.
The Coconut Hot Pot at Jasmine 26 is to die for.
Fried Spring rolls are usually pretty good anywhere, but I particularly like Kihndo's version. Their curry is also very good.
I used to love Hoa Bien for just about anything they serve, but haven't been since the remodel.
Just about every Vietnamese joint in the cities knows what to do with pork, so if you're drawing a blank, that's always a good default.
I agree with Tony and Mario 100%. ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3275... :-)
My favorite Vietnamese dishes:
- Papaya salad (though I also love the Thai and Lao versions)
- Banh xeo (a crepe filled with pork, shrimp, and sprouts) *
- Laab (spicy salad with ground meat)
- Spring rolls (love the grilled pork version at Saigon in St. Paul)
- Grilled whole fish
- Caramelized grilled chicken (or pork or shrimp) on broken rice
- Shrimp on sugar cane (ground shrimp paste, formed around the cane and grilled)
- Banh mi (sandwiches on French bread with meat, spicy mayo, shredded veggies, and cilantro)
- Non-pho noodle soups, like Mi Bo Vien (meatball soup)
... and so very much more!
Head to Eat Street and try almost any of the Vietnamese places there. Quang is wildly popular, as is Jasmine Deli (get a sandwich) and Jasmine Orchid (try the sweet apple salad). I especially love Pho Tao Bay, which is at the dead-end piece of Nicollet Ave.
St. Paul's University Ave is further away, but worth the trip. Hoa Bien is still great. Saigon has great grilled pork - I love it in the spring rolls, but you can get a big 'ol pile if you order the grilled pork rice plate. (I've loved everything I've tried at Saigon.) Trieu Chao is bare-bones but wonderful. And if you're hankering for Pho, hie thee to Pho Ca Dao - that's all they have on the menu, unless they've made some papaya salad, too.
If you have a group, go to Hoa Bien for the Bo 7 Mon - a seven-course dinner of beef dishes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%B2_...
Then go to Ngon to try their fusion Vietnamese food.
Enjoy your explorations!
P.S. * Banh xeo is a hard to find in town, so see this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/537819
I know the OP wanted non-Pho recommendations but i have to second Anne's suggestion of Ca Dao on university if thats what youre looking for. It all-pho all the time, there is only one non-beef pho and no non-pho items on the whole menu (Anne is right that they do make papaya salad but its posted on a sign on the wall, not on the menu itself).
Ive been hankering for some for a while, i may have to get there soon.
I love Papaya Salad...so much that I started making my own. I've never seen Papaya salad at a Vietnamese restaurant but would be interested to try their version.
I have had Banh Xeo and liked it. It was at a Thai Restaurant though which coincidentally also served Pho. The owner is from Laos as are may owners of Thai restaurants. I also thought Laab was a Laos dish but considering the proximity of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand it gets confusing.
Dave, I think you're right about Laab - I don't think it's originally Vietnamese. My mistake. Yummy stuff, though.
The "jasmine" trio of restaurants have papaya salad on the menu - Jasmine Deli and Jasmine 26 on Nicollet, and Jasmine Orchid at the U of M. Jasmine Orchid has both Vietnamese-style and Thai-style papaya salad (the others may, too), so you can compare. My uneducated opinion is that the Vietnamese version is lighter and sweeter. It doesn't (usually) have tamarind or much lime in the dressing.
This thread has more info on papaya salad - you've seen it already (you were the most recent poster), but I'm including the link for other readers:
I can't say that I have tried all the Vietnamese restaurants in the Twin Cities. But, as far as I know, Que Nha on University Ave is the only place that serves lotus root salad, and Hoa Bien, also on Univ Ave in St. Paul, is the only place that has catfish soup (a family style large bowl of clear sweet & sour broth w/ catfish and pineapple).
Having seen some of the responses, I have a lot of things to try, but my favorite so far hasn't been mentioned yet--the rice noodle dish called bun. It is a big bowl with a mound of rice noodles, with it some various greens, bean sprouts, cucumber. A choice of meat and roasted peanuts goes on top. I usually get it with seasoned chicken. Add some of the hot pepper oil, soy sauce at the table--very good.
Last couple times I've had it was at Trieu Chao, on University Ave and it's great there.
I just got back from Asian Direct in Savage. I originally went to stock up to make some papaya salad but found out they have a cook from laos who makes Laab, Papaya salad, Bun, Bahn Mi and other things. I got the Laab which was excellent. The store is huge and everything was fresh...the owner Dar is a really nice guy also.
For me it would be Thai cuisine, but only the authentic stuff (which doesn't include much that I've had in the Twin Cities, unfortunately).
V. food that I like (whether authentic or not): spring rolls, Quang's version of flan (and I'm not a dessert eater), the DIY spring rolls at Que Nha, Quang's sea bass soup (weekends only), meatball salad.
The Pho 79 on Nicollet is pretty similar to Jasmine Deli - it's perhaps a bit more "informal" (or was, the last time I was there a few years ago). There's a slightly fancier (VERY slightly) Pho 79 in St. Paul, near the State Fairgrounds, but I think there are different owners, so no guarantee of the same stellar pho (it's good stuff, though).
Take hubby to Jasmine 26 in Mpls or Ngon in St. Paul. They're quite fancy, decor-wise, at least by local V. restaurant standards.
Hoa Bien is quite nice, too - not fancy at all, but recently remodeled with nice tables and chairs.
Definitely don't take him to Pho Tau Bay (Mpls) or Pho Ca Dao (St. Paul). Both are quite "informal" (as in bare-bones and quite worn), though they both have excellent food.