"Your stars are not in alignment with your moon. Venus is exuding strange vibes and Uranus is blocked. Avoid all urges to be creative and stop pretending you can write during this period" mumbled Madame Zorra, my astrologer, as she drunkedly stumbled out of my sight. Now that my stars have moved 2 degrees south-west, the path ahead is clear. On with the show.
Inspired by noodlepie's search for the ultimate Pho, I embarked on a search of my own. This led me to My Canh Vietnamese & Thai Restaurant, in Bundang-gu. I believe “My Canh” means “my house” or “my home” in Vietnamese.
The interior here would hardly classify as typical Vietnamese by any standards. It looks more like a page from an IKEA catalogue.
Very plush, cosy, comfortable and nice use of wood. A choice of floor seating (at the back) or chair seating (ideal for those with long inflexible legs or weak ankle joints).
For starters, we had Cha Gio (or as the northern vietnamese folks would call it, Nem Ran) on the left (KRW4,000) and Goi Cuon on the right (KRW6,000).
Cha Gio is basically deep fried springrolls stuffed with yam paste, minced pork, crabmeat and seasoning. Unlike the usual cylinderical shape, here they’ve folded it into triangles. Served with Nuoc Mam sauce, a mixture of nuoc mam (fish sauce), vinegar, sugar and chili sauce. I love Cha Gio and My Canh serves a pretty decent interpretation. Tasty savoury fillings and crispy outer skin. My only gripe would be it's too puny and overpriced. :o)
Nothing like the Cha Gio here though.
Goi Cuon is basically cold springrolls which SHOULD be stuffed with rice vermicelli (noodles), fresh lettuce, raw bean sprouts, shredded carrots, thin pork slices and even shrimps.
Here, they’ve Koreanised it by using that all familiar pickled-yellow radish, pickled cucumbers, purple cabbage, alfalfa sprouts, lettuce and rice vermicelli. Very yuppie, but totally unwelcomed.
At least the dipping sauce that came with it was treated authentically – the Nuoc Mam sauce and another which is a mix of plum sauce, hoi sin sauce and grounded peanuts.
Now for the main course. I had Pho (beef soup noodles), which is probably the single most famous Vietnamese food item. KRW6,000.
The soup base is made from simmering a large pot of beef and bones for many many hours along with large onions, shallots, ginger, cinnamon stick, star anise, parsnip and season with fish sauce, salt and pepper.
The hot soup is then poured over a bowl of rice noodles (banh pho), and topped with thinly sliced beef and a sprinkling of spring onions. Add cilantro, basil, raw bean sprouts as desired and finally add a squeeze of lime/lemon, vinegared chili sauce and fish sauce to taste.
The stock has a unique fragrance and tastes surprisingly mild without the overbearing beefiness. Which is the way it should be – beefy but not overpowering. At My Canh, it’s just too mild for me. A little more beefy punch would have been nice. My tastebuds had to work overtime to find any hint of flavour. Too mild, too mild.
The other thing is that I like my Pho with rare fillet (Pho Bo Tai), i.e. Pho served to you with thin slices of raw beef laid on top, turning pink slowly as it cooks in the hot soup. That is not on the menu here. So we had to settle for the cooked beef variety (Pho Bo). I also like the “everything but the kitchen sink” Pho – all the fatty flank, tendon, tripe, brisket, cooked beef, raw beef, everything thrown in!! That’s the other letdown at My Canh, a limited choice of Pho. Pho has developed beyond just beef. You can find chicken pho (Pho Ga) and seafood pho even. But not here.
My only previous experience with Vietnamese food in Korea was at Pho Hoa, THAT international chain which also found its way here. I tried it out in their Sinchon outlet mid last year and interestingly, despite it being a franchise, I must say that the quality and taste from the Korean franchisee is dismal. I've tried Pho Hoa in other countries and can attest that it varies from location to location. But at least the menu choices at Pho Hoa are better than those at My Canh. If you want to give Pho Hoa a try, you can check out a store near you here.
(p/s : my apologies for the long delay. sometimes my real life takes precendence over my blog. please accept my apologies for this and potentially future occurences)