Although there may be special regional menu items in some individual Vietnamese restaurants, there are some popular dishes that can be found in nearly every Vietnamese restaurant in Canada. These include:
Pronounced “phuh” , this noodle soup is a staple of the Vietnamese diet. Although beef is the most popular variety of pho, it is also served with various kinds of meat. There are some restaurants that serve a vegetarian pho, using tofu in place of meat, and vegetable stock instead of meat broth.
Many Vietnamese restaurants that specialize in pho are given their names by the number of spices that are used to make their broth, such as “Pho 24” or even “Pho 75”. Pho connoisseurs will often travel to every pho restaurant in their area in search of authentic tasting broth.
Pho is usually served with a large plate of Thai basil leaves, mung bean sprouts, and lime slices, all of which are added to the bowl of steaming noodles.
Vietnamese spring rolls are wrapped in rice paper and can be served steamed or lightly fried. They are light and airy, as opposed to egg rolls, which tend to be heavier and more oily.
Spring rolls usually contain shrimp, lettuce, and pickled vegetables such as shredded carrots. Many restaurants offer meatless options for Buddhists and other vegetarians.
Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake)
Banh xeo resembles an omelet more than a traditional pancake. It is prepared round and flat with small pieces of pork or shrimp mixed into the batter. After cooking, mung bean sprouts are placed in the middle and it is served folded in half.
Banh xeo is served with large lettuce leaves, Thai basil, and bowls of Vietnamese sauces. A large piece of lettuce is wrapped around a piece of banh xeo and dipped into the sauce bowls, then eaten with the basil leaves.
Che Ba Mau (Three color drink)
This is more of a dessert than a drink. It consists of red beans and sweetened mung beans mixed with pandan and tapioca strands that resemble gelatin. It is served in coconut milk and topped with crushed ice. The ice is mixed by the customer as the dessert is eaten, keeping it cold and refreshing.
A fine ending to a meal, Vietnamese coffee is naturally sweet and served very strong. It is brewed at the table using a metal filter that is placed atop the coffee cup, and is made to be sipped slowly and savored after a meal.