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Food

Bun @ Pho Bac

Posted by Kim / October 17, 2007

I love pho as much as the next person. Probably more. Much more. Spicy, slurpy soup is the best way to warm up on these chilly fall evenings, but it’s certainly not the only way. My absolute favourite Vietnamese comfort food is bun, and no one does is better than Pho Bac, right in Chinatown.

Bun. AKA Vietnamese noodle salad. Kind of like pho, but without the broth. This dish is a joyous complexity with many variations and is one of my favourite meals. The standard base for the dish are rice vermicelli noodles served in the same bowl as salad greens, topped with a meat option and served with a bowl of nuoc mam (or fish sauce). But the intricacies of the dish go much further than this.
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The salad includes shredded lettuce, strips of carrot and cucumber and crisp bean sprouts, as well as mint leaves and Thai basil. The salad is cool and fresh, and sits atop a bed of room-temperature rice noodles. Then comes the meat, which can be shredded pork, or grilled marinated beef or chicken, all of them hot. As if this isn’t enough, it’s all topped with some sprigs of cilantro, green onions and a palmful of crushed peanuts. The variation on temperature alone is enough to keep the mouth interested, and this is even before your taste buds kick in.

Bun is served with a bowlful of nuoc mam, a fish sauce prepared with a heavy dose of chilis combined with sugar, lime and garlic. Etiquette tells me I’m supposed to dip pieces of meat into the sauce bowl, and then pick up some of the noodle salad and enjoy it that way. However, etiquette clearly does not know how to appreciate full flavour, and so I pour the entire bowl out over dish and toss the noodles lightly. The combination of flavours is truly stunning: the sweetness of the nuoc mam accents the meats and the vinegar of it mellows with the salad. The surprise bite of mint and coriander is a fantastic touch, as are the occasional crunch of peanuts.
20071017_pho bac.jpgThis dish is a plethora of varying flavours, temperatures and textures, and every bite is different. My favourite choice of bun, as there are many at Pho Bac, is the imperial roll and beef version, which includes two gorgeously fried imperial rolls and a healthy handful of grilled beef on the top. I like to add some hoisin sauce and hot sauce to the bowl, but the dish stands completely on its own without it.

Pho Bac does this dish extremely well, and I have yet to have better anywhere else. They’re pho is also fantastic, just oily enough to be considered “real” pho, but not enough to make you regret it. Also tasty are their spring rolls, an appetizer of two coming with enough peanut sauce to cover four of them. Rarely crowded, cheap, and with a menu that cannot be beat makes Pho Bac one of Chinatown’s starring restaurants.

Pho Bac
1016 St-Laurent
(514) 393-8116

Discussion

7 Comments

Latest Day / March 29, 2016 at 08:49 am
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