China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TASTE -

For Viet­namese food lovers — who form a sub­stan­tial por­tion of food­ies in Bei­jing — a new Viet­namese ca­sual din­ing restau­rant has just popped up in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal.

Last week, Saigon Mama, a restau­rant chain that has been op­er­at­ing in Shang­hai since 2015, opened a branch in Taikoo Li in the bustling San­l­i­tun area, show­cas­ing some home­style fare.

The restau­rant chain was founded by Kevin Chu, a Viet­namese Cana­dian, and the recipes have been fol­lowed by the fam­i­lies of Chu and head chef Hung Ham’s for at least three gen­er­a­tions.

Viet­namese food is very pop­u­lar in many coun­tries as com­pared with other South­east Asian cuisines, Viet­namese food typ­i­cally has more sauces and fresh herbs and veg­eta­bles to go with the main dish, cre­at­ing com­plex fla­vors.

Saigon Mama shows its din­ers the ideal way to eat the dishes so as to bring out the fla­vors, says Chu, whose fam­ily also run a Viet­namese restau­rant in San Fran­cisco.

As fresh veg­eta­bles and low amounts of oil are used in the prepa­ra­tion process, Viet­namese food is also seen to be healthy, he says.

Chu chose San­l­i­tun for his first restau­rant in Bei­jing be­cause of the mix of both lo­cal and for­eign cus­tomers.

“It’s a good place and op­por­tu­nity for us to in­tro­duce our food,” says Chu.

“We call it home­style Viet­namese be­cause the recipes and the way we eat and serve the food is how we would eat home.”

Blend of fla­vors

Chu says that over the years, Viet­namese food has evolved and changed to such an ex­tent that most peo­ple are of­ten not aware of the orig­i­nal recipe.

But he adds that while the restau­rants are not afraid to evolve and mod­ern­ize, they will never com­pro- mise by ad­ding in­gre­di­ents that are not Viet­namese.

The food at Saigon Mama is a blend of north­ern and south­ern Viet­namese food, and the restau­rant’s ex­pan­sive menu fea­tures many items that din­ers may not see else­where, from var­i­ous pho noo­dles to sand­wiches and sal­ads.

He says that many of the in­gre­di­ents are home­made, such as the hams and the pate used in sand­wiches, and the sauces.

Chu also says that his restau­rants mainly use in­gre­di­ents that are ei­ther im­ported from Viet­nam or from other coun­tries.


As for menu rec­om­men­da­tions, Chu points to the egg rolls for starters.

The egg rolls, which are fried in a spe­cial rice wrap, should be eaten with wrap of fresh herbs and let­tuce, dipped in the house fish sauce, which gives them a unique fla­vor.

For the noo­dles, Chu recommends ox­tail pho. The pho is slow­cooked for over 12 hours and sea­soned that the meat falls off the bone. The rich beef fla­vor, in a very light and re­fined soup, is very sa­vory.

For a stronger and spicier kick, Chu recommends the bun bo hue, the only spicy noo­dle on the menu. The pork and beef broth for the dish is made with lemon grass, herbs, spices and shrimp paste, and has a very sa­vory and dis­tinct taste.

Chu says din­ers in Bei­jing like the ox­tail pho, and more of­ten than not go for strong-fla­vored dishes, in­clud­ing bun bo hue.

No meal in a Viet­namese restau­rant is com­plete without Viet­namese drip cof­fee, but Chu recommends drink­ing it cold as af­ter hav­ing the hot soups, din­ers are very likely to be sweat­ing.

Con­tact the writer at li­uzhi­hua@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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