Thursday, June 26, 2008

Xuan Mai

There is a someone in town cooking authentic and delicious Vietnamese food. Her name is Meyung. An ex FBI agent, yes, you read that right. She was an FBI for 25 years (her story will take a book to explain, so instead, I will write about her cooking). She is retired now. She got bored and decided to open a Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok. It is called Xuan Mai (her daughters name). A few years, I met Meyung and complained that there was no good Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok. She asked what I wanted and I explained, I wanted home cooking like my grandmother in France cooked. And ever since, I have been happy having fantastic Vietnamese food in Bangkok.

The restaurant is a basic hole in the wall. If you don't pay attention, you actually will miss the restaurant. It is a very small shop house in a cluster of shop houses. The restaurant is so small, there are only six tables. The kitchen is as big as a closet. But you can't believe what comes out of it.

Before you start your dinner, the waitress brings a big bowl of Vietnamese herbs and vegetables and Meyung's home made pickles. She cuts pineapples, carrots, cucumbers & radishes. Then she dries them in the sun and then pickles them. They are very tasty and refreshing before your dinner arrives.

The first dish was banana shoot salad with grilled lemon grass pork. The banana shoots were very fresh, the pork had a nice taste. All the textures and tastes in this dish make it the perfect starter.

The next dish was cha gio (deep fried spring roll). Meyung's version is from the north of Vietnam. The cha gio have a very unique skin that we do not have in any other restaurant in town. The cha gio skin is more fine, delicate and light. It almost looks like a spider web. The minced pork filling is also very tasty and light (you might notice that half the dish was eaten before I could take the photo. My friends & I were so hungry we started eating and I realised that I have not taken the photo yet).

The next dish was pork stewed soup with large rice noodle. This is a typical soup you would get at home. Meyung makes a very good one. The taste is rich and intense.

The next dish was spareribs with pea pods. Another very nice dish. The spareribs fall off the bone. The pea pods are so fresh and are cooked perfectly that they still have a slight crunch.

The next dish was deep fried frog legs. I consider this dish one of the best in town. Deep fried perfectly and has such a deep gold colour. Each frog leg is also semi coated with something sweet. The sauce is the most basic of sauces but one of the best in the world. Lemon and pepper sauce. You dip the frog let into this sauce and you get the blend of sweet, sour, tangy and spicy all at once. Its quite amazing.

The next dish was cha ca. A specialty from Hanoi. This is a stunning dish. I first had this dish when I visited Hanoi and loved it. I am so happy that we can get it here now. A big clay pot arrives on your table with a fire under neath it. In the pot has fresh water serpeant fish frying in a yellowish oil, fresh dill and peanuts. The main ingredient of dill makes this dish very unique and so tasty. This dish comes with a sauce that I could not even begin to describe to you. It only exist in Vietnam.

The next dish was dessert. It was durian ice cream. You thought you were actually eating the real fruit. The ice cream was very creamy and intense.

And finally, we ended with a mini cup of frozen cinnamon tea. This is to cleanse & refresh your mouth.

We are never disappointed when we eat at Xuan Mai. Believe me when I say this is the best Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok. Meyung flies to Vietname every two weeks to get her fresh ingredients from Hanoi. You will be guaranteed that her vegetables, herbs and even her noodles are fresh and from Vietnam. You are eating authenticity. On top of all this. Meyung loves making desserts. The are not Vietnamese, they are American desserts, but if you have the space in your stomach, then you definately should try her desserts.

Xuan Mai, 32 Sukhumvit soi 13, 02 251 8389

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