Archive for September, 2010

Those who know me know of my OBSESSION with pho. There’s something about a bowl of aromatic soup noodles that is so darn comforting. Call it chicken noodle soup for the Asian soul, I guess. HK Island is dotted with Vietnamese joints and I’ve sampled a fair bit, though I must admit I get stuck on my favorite, Nha Trang. However, I’ve found a worthy pho rival on the streets of Wan Chai: Pho Saigon. This place makes steaming bowls of brothy goodness just like the stuff I had in Hanoi. Go. If you appreciate authentic pho, you will not be disappointed.

Rare-beef pho, which I realized might have been a bit risky for takeaway...but I can think of it as beef carpaccio if it doesn't cook, right?

The broth!

My first experience with Pho Saigon was take-away, and honestly, I’m glad it was. That’s because they packed my broth and noodles separate and I think I got extra broth (which is my favorite part of the dish!). It was amazing to taste them separately because it seemed as though the already-amazing brother underwent a metamorphosis when I poured it into the bowl with chilis, lime, and marjoram (OMMMMGGG the marjoram! So good!). Pre-noodles, the broth had the most wonderful taste of cloves and star anise that I haven’t gotten in any other pho place in town. So heavenly.

I loved the pho so much I went to the restaurant later that week. The manager/host is super-nice; he’s Vietnamese but speaks really good English, and quite good Canto, from what I could tell. He actually remembered me from earlier in the week; when we came in, he immediately said, “Welcome back!” (to the amusement of my dining companions, P and W). We ordered the pho again, the sweet potato curry, rice paper rolls, and the original bahn mi. Truthfully, I think the pho is the best out of those dishes; I’ve gotten better for  both the latter two items. However, the sweet potato curry was really unique – the sweetness came not from coconuts, as is usually expected, but from the mashy sweet potato. The manager also told us if the curry wasn’t thick enough we could stir it up or ask him for more. I liked that; service felt very personalized. It seemed like he actually cared if we had a good dining experience, which is a pleasant departure from some other places in town where they expect you to eat it and beat it, so long as they get your money.

Sweet potato curry

P also got a hot Vietnamese coffee at the end of the meal. He pronounced it one of the best ones he’s had; the coffee itself was just a little bit sweet but still boldly biting.

But the pho! Every time I think about it, I want to pull a Joseph-Conrad-Heart-of-Darkness moment and just cry out, “The pho! The pho!” Except what I’m dying of is happiness.

Pho Saigon
G/F, 319 Hennessy Road
2833 6833
Cost: ~ Takeaway $31 for small bowl of pho; $80 for dine-in dinner


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Top Chef Season 7 Rant

Ok, so I know this topic is a bit beyond the scope of my blog, but OMG Bravo, what the heck are you doing to Top Chef? Last season featured such unbelievably talented cheftestants. This cycle feels like something the Salad Shooter spit out. For one, there are so few likeable candidates. It’s hard to root for anyone when they’re all douche-baggy! On season 6, there seemed to be a real respect among the candidates. It was kind of like, “Wow, you’re a great chef. I really gotta push myself to out-cook you.” This season, with Ed admitting on the finale, Part I, that he was trying to get under Angelo’s skin, reads more like, “Hmm, you’re a good chef and I’m intimidated by you. I better put you down to make me feel better.” Come on, folks. You’re supposed to be cooking professionals, right?

And what’s up with all the gimmicks? Tom charging in and demanding two dishes from all contestants in the finale? Staging a TEAM CHALLENGE in the finale? How the heck can you suss out who deserves to stay and who deserves to go? I remember thinking “gimmick!” when watching earlier episodes, too, but at the moment, I can’t dredge up all the moments.

And what’s up with all the dramatic subplots a la Ed and Tiffany flirting, and Angelo’s mentoring of Tamesha, which may or may not contain ulterior motives? Perhaps the producers realized the cheftestant’s cooking was subpar this go-round, and the only way to keep people watching is to take the focus OFF of food and divert the audience with Real World antics.

I miss my Top Chef, when good cooking was the focus. Anyone else have any thoughts?

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I’ll admit it: I’m a bit slow on the uptake. At least, I was with Shake ‘Em Buns. I couldn’t believe I’d lived in HK for two years without ever trying their (in)famously named naughty nibbles. But you know what? Now I know. And IMHO, Shake ‘Em Buns (at least in Wan Chai) has some of the best burgers in town even topping – dare I say it – BLT Burger.

When P and I ambled into Shake ‘Em Buns last week, we immediately liked the gothic-sitting-room-cum-western-saloon vibe, compete with the burger bar overlooking the grill. (If that description sounds weird, just visit the place in person. You’ll see.) The menu was quite large; we hemmed and hawed over poutines vs. chili fries vs. San Francisco Fries, and chicken vs. burger. For some reason P had his mind set on chicken, so he ordered the Hot Chick and I got the Debbie Does Dallas, mainly because it has my favorite sinful treat: bacon. We also got some San Francisco Fries to split.

While I will say the Hot Chicken (a spicy chicken sandwich) was good, the burger stole the show. I will never be getting anything else at Shake ‘Em Buns. The bun was buttery and moist and the patty was both seasoned and grilled to perfection. The BBQ sauce added the right degree of juiciness without overwhelming the taste of the beef. I think I can safely say this is the only food that ever made me want to make sounds reminiscent of its namesake.

Ohhhhhh Debbie!

Got the hots for the Hot Chick?

The San Francisco fries were all right; the olive oil was a nice departure from plain ‘ol salted fries…though next time I think I’ll go for something with a bit more flavor. Perhaps the chili cheese fries? I’m sure P, representing his Canadian heritage, will want to critique the poutines as well.

Hippie fries

Rest assured I will definitely be back. These are buns I’m not ashamed to booty call.

Shake ‘Em Buns
60 Johnston Road (but the entrance is on Ship Street)
2866 2060
Cost: ~ $90/person

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