nom nom, nam!

Huong Viet received “Best Restaurant/Best Bargain Restaurant” Awards for the past five years from Washingtonian Magazine.

One of the greatest “perils” of reading and reviewing food-related books is hunger.  *pant, pant*

If the writing is tantalizing enough, this hunger surpasses mere curiosity and borders on obsession. After reading Noodle Pie, I had to had to had to try some Vietnamese food. And I couldn’t wait until I found the right brand of fish sauce to make some of the recipes included in the book — no, I had to try some right away, and wanted to sample Vietnamese cooking that was as authentic as could be found in the greater D.C. area.

Perhaps you’re wondering how I could have reached my dotage respectable middle age without ever having ventured into at least one Vietnamese restaurant. My life has been happily blessed with Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, and Indian food aplenty, but never Vietnamese. I suppose since I wasn’t exposed to it growing up, it simply wasn’t on my food radar.

Until I read Noodle Pie. All those descriptions of fresh veggies, sizzling woks, fried rice and noodles, minced fish, and the ubiquitous staple, pho, a beef noodle soup (!) which apparently originated in North Vietnam (the setting for the book), left me drooling and ravenous.

Eden center shops

A little research told me that Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia, was the place to go. This bustling enclave of restaurants, curio shops, bakeries, delis, and Asian grocery stores is also known as “Little Saigon.” Since local reviewers favored Huong Viet Restaurant, we decided to go there first.

They currently have over 160 items on their menu, including several “interesting” items such as squid, frog legs, quail, abalone, jellyfish and organ meats. (I do NOT do organ meats.) We were told they excel at their fried noodle and rice dishes, rather than pho. Saw a lot of seafood, lemongrass, and a ton of soups. There were very few things I wouldn’t try, i.e., pork blood soup, which somehow reminded me of blood sausage in the UK.

We decided on some pretty safe bets. Goi Cuon (Fresh Garden Rolls):

 Refreshing and delicious: liked the soy dipping sauce with peppers best.

Mi Xao Mem Thap Cam (Fried Beef, Shrimp, Chicken Lo Mein):

Savory, great blend of spices, renewed my appreciation for cilantro!

Tom Xao Rau Thap Cam (Shrimp Sauteed with Mixed Vegetables):

 Yum: giant mushrooms soaked with gravy!

And we loved everything! As a whole, Vietnamese cuisine is strongly influenced by Cantonese cooking (my favorite, as opposed to Szechuan or Hunan). We’ll definitely be going back — it seems to be a soup lover’s paradise — and those rice noodles and crepes are calling to me.

After dinner, we browsed some of the shops. Of course I couldn’t resist wandering into one of the bakeries, where I was tickled to find some childhood favorites: lichee, steamed rice cakes, and coconut tarts.

Coconut tarts were delightful — not overly sweet. Rice cakes not as good as the ones in Hawai’i.

Next time, we’ll get some lichee.

 Nice carry-out counter with a variety of warm dishes.

 My favorite table: confections! They even had mochi.

Next time we go to Eden Center we’ll try some authentic pho at Pho Xe Lua, who specializes in it. And I finally learned how to pronounce “pho!” It’s not “foe,” it’s “fa!”

Sigh. I was just thinking how we’ve lived in Northern Virginia for over 25 years and never ventured to Little Saigon. But a good children’s book finally got me there! ☺

♥ My review of Noodle Pie is here.

♥ Last summer, author Debbi Michiko Florence and her husband Bob visited Vietnam. Her posts are fascinating; lots of food photos and raves about the beef pho! And check out the giant prawns!

♥ More Foodie Field Trips here.

♥ More 2010 Summer Soup posts here.

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Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “nom nom, nam!

  1. I’m getting hungry now! I love pho noodle soup, but I’ve tried very few other Vietnamese dishes. I think it’s time to remedy that – your photos are delectable.


    1. I’m still “investigating” Vietnamese cuisine. Luckily there are some good restaurants not too far from home. This is the perfect season for pho. Need another bowl soon! :9


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