Pho, pronounced “Fuh,” is a noodle soup that is the unofficial national dish of Vietnam.
And there’s no shortage of places specializing in the dish, many with punny names; What the Pho, Pho Sure, Pho, Yeah! And my favorite, one that combines Pho and BBQ is called Pho Q! (All right, I made that last one up, but you get the idea.) I enjoy a good bowl of pho, but my favorite Vietnamese dish is the Banh mi sandwich.
A traditional Banh mi may be a little too exotic for most tastes; it combines liver pate and head cheese with Asian ham or pork roll, mayo, jalapeňos, and pickled vegetables on a crispy baguette. Since the ingredients in a traditional Banh mi are off-putting for some westerners, you can find plenty of places offering Americanized versions with everything from fried chicken to avocado, Chinese BBQ pork, or tofu.
The constants of this magnificent sandwich are the crusty baguette, mayo, jalapeňos, and a slew of pickled vegetables. The slaw consists of thinly sliced carrots, onion and daikon, a mild Asian radish. It is essential to the Banh mi. Not only does the slaw add a nice acidic element (needed with all the fatty fillings), but it also provides a nice crunchy texture. Without the pickled vegetables, you’re just eating a sub sandwich.
We were in Lake Worth visiting relatives and decided to grab dinner and were lucky enough to stumble upon Yến's Kitchen. The brother-sister team who owns the restaurant named it after their mother, who operated a street food cart in Nguyen Binh Khiem. She moved up from the food cart to opening a small station where she was able to establish her roots with the community. In 2003, Yến and her family came to America. It took her another 17 years, but she was finally able to fulfill her dream and open Yến's Kitchen. Located in a storefront in a mall, it still feels like a small family-run business and continues to focus on popular Vietnamese street foods, served at very reasonable prices. Four of us feasted with multiple courses and the bill was only $65.
The star of the menu is the Banh mi, which ranges in price from $1.50 for a plain baguette to $7.95 for a jumbo shrimp sandwich. Try the Vietnamese seasoned ham caramelized in a red sauce, with mayonnaise, paté, cucumber, jalapeños, pickled daikon and carrots, scallion, and cilantro. It’s an incredible bargain at $4.95. Sandwich filling options include, pork sausage, shredded chicken, fried tofu, fried pork, fried egg, sardine, pork chop, and sautéed shrimp.
Other Vietnamese favorites on the menu include egg rolls (pork or vegetable), spring rolls with a variety of fillings, green papaya salad, coconut waffle, and an excellent version of the egg and rice flour crepe called bánh xèo, filled with bean sprouts and your choice of everything from beef tendon to shrimp. As with most dishes it is accompanied by an array of fresh greens and herbs. Of course, pho is available. Large bowls brimming with fresh-made noodles and a choice of proteins, from the familiar (beef meatball, tofu, chicken, brisket, steak, and shrimp) to the exotic tendon, tripe, and Vietnamese sausage).
Service can be a bit haphazard, and foods come out of the small kitchen at an erratic pace. But everyone is friendly and eager to please. There are a variety of exotic carbonated soft drinks and teas available and a few traditional Vietnamese desserts. An appetizer and a bowl of pho or a Banh mi and a soft drink make for a filling meal for less than $20, tip included.
7364 Lake Worth Rd., Lake Worth
If you’re craving the interesting blend of Asian and French cuisines, check out the Vietnamese fare in some of these places.
Banh Mi 2020
10041 Sunset Strip, Sunrise
Basilic Vietnamese Restaurant
218 Commercial, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea
What the Pho?
2033 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
6836 Stirling Rd., Hollywood
1394 N State Rd. 7, Margate