Friday, December 17, 2010

I'll Saig On your Van in a minute

I swear it hasn't stopped raining since we got back to Auckland. It is a miserable day outside and all I can think about is the food at Saigon Van. 

Located somewhere in Dunedin (we didn't walk there so I didn't pay attention to where we were) Saigon Van, I am told, is the best Vietnamese restaurant uncle Donald has ever had. 

Saigon Van -somewhere in Dunedin..
Now I've had my fair share of Vietnamese cuisine before, but nothing like this. This seemed more authentic -but as I type this, I realise that I have no idea what AUTHENTIC Vietnamese food is like (note to self: go to Vietnam).

The atmosphere inside was warm, the staff very friendly and there was nice music in the background. The only downside was the noisy children at the next table being allowed, by their parents, to roam the restaurant. We are reminded that Grace hates kids. 

There was so much food we wanted to try so we got a little of everything and shared it around.

Saigon Van Salad
 The Saigon Van salad was strongly recommended by Kate and was full of strange ingredients that Grace and Ben had never seen before. I, being Asian, have eaten these on many occasions and took it upon myself to educate them.

Deconstructed salad
The dish consisted of: shredded chicken, prawn, cloud ear fungus (don't let the "fungus" part scare you), cabbage (green and red), carrot and peanuts covered in a light tamarind sauce. The result was a lovely crunchy salad with just the right amount of sauce.

Transparent Spring Rolls
The Transparent Spring Rolls were filled with shredded pork, rice noodles and fresh veggies which complimented each other quite well. I was very glad that I was on the end of the table where I only had to share with one other person.

Crispy Spring Rolls

Food is nice. But deep fried food is better. Always.
The spring rolls were coated in tempura batter and lightly fried. I, being the polite guest, didn't have the last one (even though I really really wanted to!)

Braised Chicken with Ginger
Even though I don't like onion, this, out of the mains, was my favourite. The chicken was very tender and cooked in a sweet, peppery sauce. The added rice wine complimented the flavours really well and I went about drowning my rice in the delicious sauce. 

Crispy Fried Fillet of Fish with Tamarind Sauce (Grace's favourite)
I come from a family of seafood eaters and I have been taught, from a very early age, to tell the difference between good quality fish and fish that's been in the freezer for a few days. This was good quality fish. Each bite was melt in your mouth and had just the right amount of batter to fish meat ratio.

Braised Pork and Egg -Vietnamese Style
This was served to the opposite end of the table first. This photograph is a testament to how appealing it was -by the time I even made it to the opposite side, half of it had disappeared! Again, the meat was very tender and I found myself wishing the portion sizes were a little bigger.

I'm not going to lie. Dessert came as a surprise. 

When I think banana cake, I think: 

Banana Cake
Steamed Banana Cake with Coconut Cream
I love trying new food but this was a little too weird for my taste. The dessert resembled a pudding rather than a cake and tasted very "banana-ry" (which, I suppose is to be expected). The coconut cream was a nice accompaniment to the banana flavour but I couldn't get past the slimy texture of the "cake." Luckily, I had enough foresight to share it with Grace but we couldn't even finish it between the two of us. 

As I looked around the table, I noticed that everyone else's plates were empty so I quickly gobble up the rest so we don't look ungrateful.

Verdict? I love Vietnamese food. I love it even more now. But maybe I'll stick to the vanilla ice cream next time..

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