Pho is the poster child of Vietnamese cuisine.
But in Toronto, Vietnamese restaurants have proven there’s plenty more than bowls of noodle soup to order off the menu.
Despite the fact that many prolific Toronto Viet spots use “Pho” in their name—Pho Metro, Pho 88, and Pho Hung (to name just a few)–Vietnamese restaurants in Toronto serve a variety of dishes that should not be ignored.
Here are five items (that aren’t Pho) to try the next time you’re looking for Viet delights.
Seasoned fish sauce (Nước Chấm)
Fish sauce is prevalent throughout East Asian cuisine, and Vietnam has made it central to its cuisine. Nuoc Cham is a sweet and tangy fish sauce combined with fresh lime juice, sugar, water, garlic, and chili.
The finished product is used as a dipping sauce or dressing for many dishes (see below) and adds a heap of flavour to everything you eat. Try it at Pinky’s Caphe (for example) where the squid and mango-papaya salad is dressed with nuoc cham.
Spring Rolls (Gỏi cuốn)
Vietnamese spring rolls are one of the most beautiful dishes out there. Translucent rice paper wraps together vermicelli, vibrant greens and herbs, and shrimp. Dunk it into nuoc cham and it’s ready for your taste buds and stomach!
Find these cold rolls on menus across Toronto, including Golden Turtle on Ossington.
Cold Vermicelli Noodles (Bún thịt nướng)
Grilled pork, fresh herbs, peanuts, an egg roll, and pickled daikon and carrots sit on a bed of soft vermicelli noodles. Nouc cham dresses the noodles and toppings in coat of salt, garlic, and spice. A perfect alternative to pho if you’re looking for dry noodles.
This dish is a menu staple found at places like Pho East on Gerrard.
Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà)
Curry is often associated with Indian cuisine, but many countries in Asia have their own variations.
Like many South East Asian curries, Vietnamese curry uses coconut milk to add creaminess. Lemongrass brings the “Viet” flavour to the dish with a minty sweetness. Accompany yours with steamed rice or a French baguette and violà.
Find it on the menu at local chain Pho Xe Lua Vietnamese Cuisine which boasts five locations spanning Toronto and the surrounding area.
Coffee (Cà phê sữa đá)
Since Vietnam is one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, coffee is a staple in the menus of their restaurants. Sweet condensed milk balances the bitter coffee to churn out a decadent mocha flavour. Order it hot or iced… but be sure to order it.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Vietnamese spot that doesn’t serve coffee, but Saigon Hustle on Queen Street West is a good place for a first taste.
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