Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Xuan Mai

I consider Xuan Mai the BEST Vietnamese restaurant in Thailand. Lucky for me its NEW location is near my home. I do not have to travel so much anymore when I am in the mood for home coming like my grandmother used to do.

The new location is much larger, brighter, higher ceilings and more comfortable. Not only for the guest but for the chef and her staff. The kitchen they used to cook in was the size of a closet. I was always amazed that always came out with delicious food in that old small kitchen. Now; Meyung (the super woman chef) and her staff have two modern kitchens. One to make the sauces, drinks and non-cooked items and another kitchen for the cooked foods.

Nobody in town makes Chả Giò (Vietnamese fried spring rolls but this version is from Hanoi) like at Xuan Mai. I cannot name one person who has tasted the Chả Giò and was not hooked. They are unique and I think the only restaurant that serves this type of Chả Giò in town. The skin is like a tender spider web wrapped around filling. Every time; the Chả Giò arrives, they are fried a perfect golden brown. Crispy on the outside but soft & tender in the inside. Full of flavour with every bite. They are amazing!

The next dish was Bánh Bèo (steamed rice cakes). A great starter to any meal; it is white in color and typically features a dimple in the center, which is filled with savory ingredients including chopped dried or fresh shrimp, scallions, mung bean paste, crispy fried shallots, fish sauce, rice vinegar, and oil. It is considered most typical of the cuisine of Huế, the ancient royal capital located in the center of Vietnam. You cannot find these in Bangkok. So, when Meyung said that she had them; I immediately said yes. They were soft and a bit gooey. The real taste comes from all the savoury items that tops the Bánh Bèo and with a little dash of nước mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce). The combination of tastes and textures are amazing.

The next dish was thịt Bò Xào Xả Ớt (stir fried sirloin beef with lemon grass). Such a simple dish when done right. I tried once and gave up. The beef was tender and succulent. I do love lemon grass, it can turn any dish to be exotic and tasty. Lemon grass with beef is an incredible combination. For added flavour, dried shallots was placed on top of the beef.

The next dish was Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese banana flower salad). This is one of the most popular cold salads in Vietnam. The banana flower salad is mixed with plump shrimps, pineapple, crushed roasted peanuts, grilled pork, lime & lemon, fried shallots, sugar, coriander, 'ram' herbs, Vietnamese mint, chilies and I have no idea what else. Though not a difficult salad to make, but as you can see this is a very complex salad in terms flavours and textures.

The next dish was Bún Bò Giò Heo (beef and pork leg soup). Another rare dish and cannot find this soup anywhere in Bangkok. Like in Thailand, Vietnam has thousands of variety of soups from all over the country. They are so complex to make that I do not even try. So, when Meyung suggested this soup, how could we pass this dish up? Soups in Vietnam are normally a meal in itself due to the hearty ingredients in the soup. But the way I eat, they are just one dish of many. This soup was rich in flavour and abundant in beef and pork. Satisfying and delicious.

We have lived in Thailand for many years and in the beginning the Vietnamese food that existed in Bangkok were awful. The Vietnamese restaurants that existed either were a very bad impersonator of Vietnamese food, misunderstood what Vietnamese food was or simply did NOT had a clue what Vietnamese food was...until my saviour Meyung came along and opened her restaurant. She goes back to Hanoi to food shop every two weeks so that we are assured of the best seasonal Vietnamese ingredients. That goes for the rice, noodles, fruits, vegetables, special delicacies, teas, coffee, etc.

What would I do without her food!!! Learn to cook Vietnamese food? Forget it; I am totally useless in the kitchen.

351/3 Sukhumvit 55, Bangkok (on Soi Thonglor, the 3rd shophouse from the corner of Soi 17 and Thonglor).

Telephone number (66)02-185-2619.

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