Wednesday, November 22 2017

VietNamNews

Quán Ăn Ngon offers a refined taste of home

Update: January, 15/2017 - 09:00
Perfection: Crabmeat spring rolls that take you back to your childhood and your mother’s specialties. Photo courtesy of Quán Ăn Ngon
Viet Nam News

By Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

Vietnamese cuisine has already carved a niche for itself as a tourism attraction, but most visitors to the country are likely to know of one place even before the arrive in Việt Nam – Quán Ăn Ngon, or simply Ngon.

The word means delicious, but the visitors are referring to a chain of restaurants that have become a popular destination, for both local and foreign tourists.

There are valid reasons for such widespread face. Each of the chain’s restaurants enjoy a choice, spacious location in every city, are tastefully designed and decorated to offer a fine-dining ambience.

It is no surprise then, that the Quán Ăn Ngon restaurants are usually the first choice for big meetings and parties during the holiday season. The restaurants also have space for smaller groups or duo dining with reasonable privacy. Single diners are quite rare, though they will also receive the same hospitality as others.

Homely warmth: The restaurant’s ambience will give people coming to Việt Nam for Tết the feeling of home-comfort. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà

We held a party at Quán Ăn Ngon on Phan Đình Phùng Street recently. Following the tradition of such gatherings, we ordered food that everyone could share.

For appetizers, we chose the green mango with shrimp salad (VNĐ130,000). It’s a popular fresh appetizer from the south, with mangoes julienned and mixed with dried shrimp. But Ngon made it their own way, with soft thin slices of green mango and fresh steamed shrimps. It looked and tasted good.

The soft, sun-dried squid, tempura style (VNĐ305,000), the second appetizer, was gone in the blink of an eye, so you can infer how good it was.

Palate teaser: Green mango salad with seafood. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà

I am a bit hesitant to say what we ordered next, because it goes against my normal dining rules. I prefer to stick to one cuisine at a time, whether it is Vietnamese or Chinese or Japanese.

But this time, we all craved a bite of salmon sashimi (VNĐ295,000 for 150gr), so an exception was made to the rule.

We were not disappointed. The lush fatty salmon belly tasted so good that we went even further out of our way to order a shrimp tempura (VNĐ195,000). But when it came out, I avoided reaching out for it, because I wanted to save some room for the crispy, delicious, inviting crab meat spring rolls (VNĐ120,000) that came out at the same time.

Nem Sài Gòn, or spring rolls must be every Vietnamese’s soft point. Or may be I feel so because I’m such a big fan and can’t imagine others not feeling the same way.

Delicacy: Sauteed salmon on greens. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà

The original meaning of “nem” in the north has nothing to do with rice paper, minced meat or vermicelli, main ingredients of the deep fried spring rolls.

Nem in the north means raw, pounded pork, cured with golden sticky rice flour and mixed with boiled, julienned pig skin. This nem is usually served in fist-size buns wrapped in tender guava leaves to make sure your stomach won’t get hurt. This description might not be attractive enough to give this dish a try, but one of our former colleagues from Canada got to try it in the office party, and she kept saying, “Oh, what is it? It’s so delicious!”

As a patriarchal Vietnamese saying goes, Tay cầm bầu rượu nắm nem, mảng vui quên hết lời em dặn dò; roughly translated: a liquor gourd in one hand and a nem bun in the other, a man goes astray and forgets everything his woman told him.

The spring rolls came to the north under the name of nem Sài Gòn, or that’s how my grandmother tells it. The little thumb-sized rolls are made by wrapping minced pork, chopped vermicelli and vegetables in rice paper with a chicken or duck egg to glue the filling together with a dash of salt and pepper in rice paper and deep frying them until golden brown.

What makes nem Sài Gòn stand out is the dipping sauce and the beautiful mix of fresh lettuce and herbs to be consumed with the rolls. Each housewife has her own family-handed down sweet & sour sauce recipe. Each child grows up eating his or her mother’s spring rolls, believing it’s the best in the world. I am not an exception. I absolutely adore my mother’s spring rolls, but mine cannot taste anywhere close, despite getting her recipe first hand.

I am not straying away from the review. The mini-treatise is meant to show how good the spring rolls at Quán Ăn Ngon were.

Food for a rainy day: The down-to-earth, simplest way of cooking vegetables becomes warmth-spreading special when dipped in this special sauce. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà

Well, what we’d had thus far was enough, because it was lunch. But the men in our table would not feel they have eaten without a bowl of high-carb rice with sour shrimp soup (VNĐ110,000) and boiled vegetables dipped in reduced fish sauce with julienned belly pork meat (VNĐ85,000), another southern delicacy.

On a grey, chilly, drizzling day, there’s nothing to warm one’s heart like a bowl of hot rice with vegetables dipped in this special sauce.

The newest Year of the Rooster is almost upon us. For many Overseas Vietnamese returning to the country of their origin during the Lunar New Year and looking to get an authentic flavour of home, Quán Ăn Ngon is a great option. — VNS

Quán Ăn Ngon

Address: 34 Phan Đình Phùng

Tel: 04) 3734- 9777

Comment: Delicious Vietnamese food in a fine setting; salmon sashimi must be ordered 24 hours in advance

Delivery: 9-11am and 14-18pm only

 

Made to order: Salmon sashimi may be cut and styled differently than in a Japanese restaurant, but it is equally yummy. The restaurant needs a 24-hour notice to prepare this. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà
Paper thin: Bánh xèo, southern style pancakes, is a signature dish at all Quán Ăn Ngon outlets. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà

 

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