Savour pho-bulous Vietnamese delights

Saigon Avenue has an extensive list of appetisers that include (clockwise, from top) Chicken Salad, Fresh Spring Rolls, Crispy Spring Rolls and Lemongrass Prawn Roll. — Photos: LOW BOON TAT/The Star

THE secret to any great noodle soup dish lies in the broth. A hearty broth will keep you coming back for more.

Saigon Avenue co-owner Katy Nguyen Phan knows this as she explained the meticulous planning and plentiful patience to conjure the broth that goes into each bowl of her much-loved pho – the classic Vietnamese beef soup, noodles, herbs and meats.

For her beef stock, Phan starts by soaking beef bones in salted water for three hours to get rid of any impurities.

Then the bones are simmered in water for more than four hours until the beef bones render all their flavour, with the addition of aromatic herbs, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, star anise and ginger as well as onions.

“It starts with good quality meat, and I only use the bones from the animal’s back as it is less fatty.

“Essentially, there are few ingredients that go into making the stock, so I have to make sure they are good quality ingredients, ” she said.

This philosophy was also evident when the beef pho was served with a generous portion of fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil and a wedge of lime.

The light-coloured soup is flavourful and not oily at all. Thin strips of rice noodles, beef tenderloin and beef balls completed the dish.

Phan and her partner Iris Tan started the restaurant as a way to promote classic and authentic Vietnamese home-cooked food, mostly from Phan’s own family recipes.

The duo are also into broader Vietnamese specialties, especially appetisers and desserts. There are quite a few to choose from.

The Fresh Spring Rolls are tightly wrapped and bursting with sweet prawns, carrot and cucumber.

An interesting one was the Vietnamese Crispy Pancake filled with prawns, squid and bean sprouts served with rice paper, side vegetables and sauce.

This is a do-it-yourself dish where you can tear off a piece of the pancake and decide on how much of the components to put into each rice paper roll. It certainly got the appetite going.

The Chicken Salad and Lemongrass Prawn Rolls are notable mentions and pair well with any of the noodle soup dishes.

Wildly popular is banh mi – the sandwiches made with rice-flour baguettes inspired by the French who occupied Vietnam for 70 years.

Saigon Avenue offers three different versions, almost all of them around RM10 each.

The Vietnamese BBQ Chicken Baguette was not too sweet and the hint of sweetness from the barbecued chicken was enticing.

For desserts, the Vietnamese Steamed Layer Cake was reminiscent of kuih lapis but with the addition of coconut milk and peanuts.

Also recommended is the Coconut Ice Cream Coffee Vietnamese Lotus Seed dessert.

SAIGON AVENUE, P-G-29, Tropicana Avenue, 12 Persiaran Tropicana, Petaling Jaya

(Tel: 017-486 8869). Business hours: 11am to 10pm, daily.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.

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