Sunday, February 9, 2014

Saigon Spring

It's no surprise that J and I are pho-natics. While Kim's Vietnamese is usually our go to for pho noodle soup, Saigon Spring excels at other classic Vietnamese dishes. My parents weren't able to come down for Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, so I wasn't able to get my share of homemade traditional foods. I had a hankering for bun thit nuong (grilled pork with rice noodles) and they make the best version of this dish up in Clifton Park. The pork is a great balance of sweet and savory with fragrant flavors of lemongrass, fish sauce, and garlic and grillled til there's a nice fatty char. Nothing is more disappointing than dry, overcooked pork but here it is juicy and mouth-watering good. But at the last minute, I had a change of heart and decided to celebrate New Year's with something more decadent. 

Another favorite dish that I use to get as a kid but haven't had in ages was mi xao don aka crispy noodles. While this dish is mostly Chinese influenced, it is a popular dish at Vietnamese restaurants and would be a special occasion dish to order. What better way to celebrate a holiday that is shared among Vietnamese and Chinese cultures alike. Saigon Spring's version is a seafood medley called do bien xao xa made with a lemongrass sauce. A bed of crispy noodles is covered in an array of giant plump shrimp, scallops, and mussels sauteed in sweet and spicy sauce with hunks of peppers and onions. It's a messy dish as you try to maneuver getting shards of crispy noodles into your mouth but the sauce softens some of the noodles creating a fun mix of textures. 

J rarely deviates and stuck with a bowl of pho dac biet. The broth here is significantly different than Kim's proving that every family has their own special recipe. Here it is a lighter broth, its beef flavor not as intense and hearty. J called it a "summer broth," something he could go for more during warmer weather, which is when we usually frequent Saigon Spring more anyway; it's conveniently on the way up to the family camp. The broth was still slurp-the-bowl-clean good and he really appreciated having slices of rare eye round. 

We also splurged a bit and shared an appetizer of canh ga tom, or stuffed chicken wings. These trio of crispy chicken wings are stuffed with a filling of crab and shrimp and brings together some of my favorite flavors in one crispy bite. A savory seafood "sausage" is effortlessly stuffed into a boneless wing (minus the wing tip as a convenient handle) and fried to perfection. Dip into some nuoc cham fish sauce and you've got some magical Vietnamese flavors going on. A side of classic pickled carrots and daikon refreshes your palate for more bites. Good luck sharing three wings between two people. 

A New Year's celebration wouldn't be complete without a cocktail drink. The bar makes a pretty mean drink and J and I were pretty happy sharing a Singapore Sling. Whether it's Chúc Mừng Năm Mới or Gong Hey Fat Choy, cheers to a prosperous and healthy New Year! 

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