|Beef brisket Pho with Vietnamese coffee. Photo from urbanspoon.com|
Thursday evening I was craving a really good vietnamese Pho. The previous night I had discovered a packet form of Pho at my local asian grocer. This packet promised an authentic Pho where my only contribution to what is normally a day long process would be to add beef stock, herbs and noodles. Big mistake. Once you have tasted really great Pho there is no way that your taste buds will settle for less. It would be like pouring passion pop into a Moet bottle and drinking it. So, not satisfied by the salt and MSG ridden impostor I had previously ingested I went in search of some truly great vietnamese food.
Luckily, Brisbane has some of the best vietnamese food outside of Indochine itself. Trang which is located on Hardgrave Rd in West End is by far the best there is. It is all you could want in a good viet joint. Really great cheap, fast, fresh food, in a family run setting that is suitably kitsch and casual with its compulsory plastic chairs, laminated menus, melamine plates and weird bamboo posters. Now, before I launch into a love letter about their food there is two things you need to know about Trang. Don't worry it is nothing like there are rats, or that no-one speaks english. Firstly parking is a bitch. Westend parking is now premium as too many hipsters are getting tired of their "fixie" bikes and are buying cars. So you will have to trawl for a park in some side street.Secondly, BOOK AHEAD! I don't care if it is a rainy tuesday night, you really, really have to book. Otherwise prepare to join the large hoard of over hungry diners outside waiting for a table. This is a good way to make friends if you have none, but it is otherwise a torturous wait outside while you watch everyone else slurp down some delicious chow. So, don't be lazy and just give them a call during the day really is not hard.
So now that is done, the food. Really if it is your first time to Trang you have to order a Pho, there a about five variations smack bang on the front page of the laminated menu. Do not be tempted to order from the chinese section as it is really just there to appease those who "don't want none of that weird soupy stuff. Do ya have any sweet and sour pork?". It is a vietnamese restaurant, so order what the vietnamese do best, Pho. To those unacquainted with this staple of the vietnamese diet, Pho is a rich clear beef based broth with rice noodles, beef shin, thinly sliced rare beef, basil and mint. All across vietnam this hearty dish is slurped down from early hours of the morning to late at night.
Because I am a greedy individual I love Trang's Pho with rare beef and fatty brisket. There is a great combination of fatty melting brisket and just cooked lean beef. Plus you have a little melamine tray with the usual accompaniments of basil, lemon, chilli and bean sprouts. I normally choose to go heavily on the herbs, lemon and bean sprouts and I use the fluorescent red chill sauce on the table instead of the actual chilli. If you don't want to eat Pho, there are plenty of other really great options. There vietnamese salads are great and unusually generous with the protein component as are all their other soups. My sister particularly likes their sugar cane prawn salad which has grilled little balls of sweet prawns with lots of crunchy fresh salad and vermicelli noodles. As are anything porky or with duck.
|Pork hock thick noodle soup|
I would also really recommend ordering a vietnamese coffee even if it is just to watch the sweet strong expresso drip down out of its cute little coffee maker. Vietnamese coffee is already on the sweet side but clearly not sweet enough for the vietnamese as you have a generous layer of condensed milk in the bottom of the glass which you stir in after all the coffee has dripped through. If it is too sweet ask for it without, but really you are missing out on something great, teeth rotting, but great.
I hope, after you have bothered to read all the way through this, I have encouraged you to give Trang a go. It simple don't cook tonight, give them a call and get over to West End and grab yourself a steaming bowl of joy.