It’s finally happened. After much anticipation – mainly from me – Norwich now has its first Vietnamese restaurant eatery. I’m particularly excited, as Vietnamese food was one of my staples when I lived in London. Then in 2013, during a month-long escapade in Vietnam, I literally spent most of my time, not seeing the sights, but attempting to eat as many of the 500 regional dishes as possible. I ate my way around street food vendors, home stays and roadside cafes. It was an adventure. Still to this day, I have the best food memories from Vietnam.
Norwich’s First Vietnamese Restaurant
Norwich’s new eatery is located on Dereham Road, in the same spot where Planet Wok once was. ‘Vietnam Pho’ has of course been named after the country’s most famous and loved dish, Pho soup.
Vietnam Pho’s interior is simple yet welcoming. Canteen in style. Perfect for some lunchtime fuel. Jenny Ha, the mastermind behind the eatery is a very warm and engaging host. It was lovely to spend some time chatting to her about her plans and the new menu.
Northern Vietnamese Specialities
The food celebrates many of the traditional dishes found in Northern Vietnam. Things such a Banh Cuon, which is a delicate steamed rice crepe filled with pork and wood ear mushrooms. Jenny Ha is very happy to accommodate and make these vegetarian, as she is with many of her dishes. Although she doesn’t need to, as lots of the dishes are already veggie or vegan!
There’s Pho Chay soup is served with tofu or quorn. Plus there are six other Pho soups on the menu including ones topped with chicken, rare steak, tender brisket and king prawns.
Pho soup is the dish that Vietnam is most known for: Smooth rice noodles in a slow cooked broth and packed with exotic ingredients. Served with fresh beansprouts, limes, chillies and sweet basil. Slurp away. It’s a hearty meal. I always find the last few spoonful’s the most satisfying – the depth of flavour is hidden in those last precious slurps. I enjoyed the soup but the depth of flavour I’m used to was lacking.
Today I also met Hyn, who was helping Jenny Ha front-of-house. We also had a great chat about Vietnam and the food and he was keen to show me other dishes form the menu, including this dish – Bu Riey Cua: a soup made with crabmeat and vermicelli noodles in a rich tomato broth, it has a unique and complex flavour he told me.
In addition to Pho, there are a wide range of starter options including fried sweet corn, green mango salad, spare ribs, fresh summer rolls (these use a soft, almost transparent, rice wrapper) as well as the deep-fried spring rolls, Cha Glo, which are so much tastier than your average Chinese spring roll! The coating is crispier and thicker, the filling tightly packed, and the dipping sauce is incredible.
Also on the menu are a selection of sides including Morning Glory (a personal favourite) and a wide-range of different rice dishes. Other mains include stir-fried aubergine with garlic, tofu with broccoli and cauliflower and a range of other curries.
Take-Away Banh Mi
Banh Mi is a Vietnamese baguette, freshly made to order (vegetarian options are available). I used to live on these when I was on the road in Vietnam. Often they are packed with a sweet sauce, fresh pickles and mayonnaise. Trust me. Although I haven’t tried one from Vietnam Pho as yet, this combo really works. It’s just one you have to try!
Fresh Soya Bean Drink
Jenny Ha hopes to have an alcohol license very soon but until then, there are lots of other soft drinks on the menu. I was also lucky enough to try a sample of Jenny Ha’s homemade freshly made soya bean drink which she serves ice-cold. It was delicious! So creamy and rich with a wholesome flavour. Very tasty. And for fellow Vietnamese ice-coffee fans, you’ll be pleased to know this will be on the menu soon.
Thanks for having me today guys – I really enjoyed my crepe pancake and the soy bean drink. Back again v.soon. Also a big thigh-five to the lovely Jaki @PapayaVerte on Instagram, who, in knowing of my Vietnamese obsession, alerted me as soon as she heard the news that Vietnam Pho was go!
67 Dereham Road