Got Phở? Thiên Kim Vietnamese Restaurant
Back in November of 2009, Ben from Chowtimes wrote about a phở joint in East Van. Not your normal phở joint, mind you. This is one that serves up a variety of Vietnamese fare not often found in these parts.
Since Ben’s post, Thiên Kim Vietnamese Restaurant spiffed things up with a new awning, some paint and a new handle. This is how it looked just over a year ago.
Thiên Kim’s menu, for a Vietnamese restaurant in Vancouver is quite diverse. From their specialty soups to a wide-ranging appetizer menu, there’s a whole bunch of discovery to be made. The one thing that grabbed my attention was Bánh Cóng.
To get the most out of my visit appetizer-wise, I asked for a half order of Chả giò (spring rolls) and a single Bánh Cóng.
Bánh Cóng are Fried Shrimp Cake. A ladle of batter is topped with mung bean and taro, covered with whole prawns, tail and all. After a spell in hot oil, you’ve got a really tasty, savory and crispy “muffin”.
These are hefty. Fresh, tasty and delicious but a touch stodgy. Half the batter would’ve been fine.
The shrimp cake and a big ol’ spring roll alongside filled me up. These appies are a meal in themselves.
The requisite sides are all good, through and through…a table of flavor. A big portion of Thai basil atop a load of crunchy bean sprout, a fresh slab of lime, salty-fishy nước mắm, sriracha, hoisin and a dollop of roasted chili paste. The only thing missing is soup.
Today’s choice is Hủ Tiếu Bò Kho.
OK. I’ve had me many a bowl of Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew). Normally, it’s stated, simply, as Bò Kho on the menu. Here at Thiên Kim they’ve thrown Hủ Tiếu in front. Curiosity, as usual, got the better of me. I searched high and low for a clear description of Hủ Tiếu. LovingPho did their best to sum it up.
“To me, at the most basic level,
1. There are hu tieu the noodles (bánh hủ tiếu,) and then there are hu tieu the dishes,
2. Hu tieu dishes may be cooked in dry (fried) or wet (soup) style.
You go to the supermarket to buy a package of hu tieu noodles and other ingredients to prepare the meal yourself, but in a restaurant you will be served hu tieu as the completely prepared dish. Confusing I know. Vietnamese tend to use the same word for different things and this is one of those instances. As you may notice on a typical menu, you can order fried hu tieu or hu tieu in soup; ‘dry‘ or ‘soup‘ hu tieu, so to speak. So in your conversation about hu tieu, knowing which you’re talking about (the noodle or the dish, and dry or soup) can be helpful. For a Vietnamese, it’s always understood what is what and which is which.”
Yup…confused even more. In this case, Hủ Tiếu, means “with noodles”, I think. Multiple descriptions notwithstanding, this bowl of Hủ Tiếu Bò Kho is well close to what is should be. Cubes of slow-braised, kinda fatty chuck are marinated with lemongrass, pepper, garlic, soy, sugar and five spice powder.
This bowl is pertnear perfect. Very good & marbled beef. A chewy noodle. The carrots cooked tender. A lot of herbage…shredded banana blossom included. Crunchy bits of garlic and shallot. A deep, rich broth brimming with chili and lemongrass. A great bowl.
If you’re about to start in on the unique side of Vietnamese fare, Thiên Kim is well worth a few visits.