I really like Vietnamese food, it’s more subtle than Chinese, lighter and more herbal, but can be hot like Thai. Vietnamese cuisine uses a lot of mint and coriander and ranges from soups to curries to salads and skewers and much much more.
In Perth there are 3 establishments that I particularly like. For very casual dining, Wanneroo markets has a Vietnamese food stall – they make the most delicious soups – my favourites are braised beef which is a rich thick beef and carrot soup with hot warm spices, and pork and prawn which is light and fragrant with lots of herbs and onion. With the pork and prawn noodle soup, the broth looks so clear that you think it must be water, but when you taste it, it has so much flavour – I would be happy to drink the broth on it’s own.
With the soup you get a plate of beansprouts and mint and a little dish of fresh cut chilli. When I have watched the Vietnamese diners, they add a lot of mint leaves and chilli and a handful of beansprouts, then use their chopsticks to mix all of the ingredients thoroughly. The stall gets a lot of Vietnamese diners because most of the fruit and veg stalls at Wanneroo markets are run by Vietnamese people – I have never been to Vietnam, but I imagine it is pretty authentic at Wanneroo. In vietnamese the soups are called pho and bun, I think the pork and prawn soup is bun and the thicker beef stock is pho.
The second place that I like is called Viet Hoa and is in William Street. It is a cafe style restaurant with a huge menu, serving lovely starters such as beef skewers and pork and prawn rice paper rolls. For main course you can have all of the usual soups, various flavours of chow mein, and stir fries. They also make a lovely fresh lemon drink. I am particularly partial to the beef skewers with wine and herbs, and have managed to replicate them at home – look out for my recipe in a future page.
My favourite Vietnamese restaurant is To-To in Vic Park on Albany Highway. The food is delicious, but it is crowded, hectic and noisy and the food will arrive in the order it is cooked, which may not be how you expect it to arrive. The menu is very extensive and my particular favourite menu items are the chicken and prawn salad, the tamarind prawns, the special fried rice (which is so nice it could be a meal in itself), and the peking style ribs which are generally boneless and yummy. To-to also do a lot of Vietnamese drinks such as ‘To-to special drink’ which you can have with or without durian. It is made from either condensed milk or coconut milk, with lots of ice and jelly and ‘jewels’ of brightly coloured fruits and beans – it is really unlike anything else I have ever tasted. They also make fabulous milkshakes like pineapple and kiwifruit – made with fresh fruit.
I haven’t been to a Vietnamese restaurant in London for at least 5 years, but when I lived there, most of the restaurants were concentrated around Kingsland Road. Song Que and Viet Hoa used to be my favourites, and I remember sitting on long canteen style benches and eating the most delicious rice paper rolls, noodles and stir fries. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot more Vietnamese restaurants in London now, but 5 years ago they were a rarity.