Don’t be intimidated by the lack of English on the specials menu at Vietnam House. Here’s a primer on what to order.
Vietnam House has always been a go-to for comfort food in the refugee community. The loud banter, the aroma of steaming broth — it conjures images of food stalls and honking mopeds on the streets of Saigon.
But for outsiders, Vietnam House can be intimidating. The posted “house specials” on the wall aren’t in English. Often you’re left to your own devices to figure out what to order during the lunch rush.
We’re here to help.
1038 S. Jackson St., Seattle
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. except Tuesdays when it closes at 7 p.m.
Etc.: major credit cards accepted; parking lot; beer but no hard liquor; wheelchair accessible
The menu: Around 100 different vermicelli bowls, rice, congees, pho and other soups are offered. But the regulars come for the “broken rice” special, Com Tam Dac Biet. It’s a mound of rice served with a grilled pork chop, fried egg, shrimp paste, deep- fried bean curd and fish sauce.
What to write home about: That popular broken rice (No. 49 on the menu). Chewy, nutty, with an al-dente-like texture, it comes with an umami bomb of a pork chop that’s coated in fish sauce and caramelized over the grill.
Banh Hoi Thap Cam (No. 57 on the menu) is a noodle entree made popular at Huong Binh restaurant up the street. Vietnam House’s variation is a carnivore’s delight. It comes with street-style meatball and pork skewers, grilled beef nuggets wrapped in leaves and shrimp paste. The thin rice noodles are woven into Triscuit-like squares and glistened with scallion-scented oil. Their spongy texture is perfect for soaking in the fish sauce.
Check out the Banh Coun (No. 8 on the specials board), sheets of silky steamed rice noodles rolled with ground pork and topped with crunchy fried onions.
What to skip: The pho special was anything but, a simmering light, bland broth with dry, rubbery cuts of beef floating on top.
The setting: At noon, Vietnamese Americans and other Asians put their name on the list and wait for a table, a contrast to the Tamarind Tree, the Vietnamese restaurant next door, which draws more of the mainstream crowd.
Summing up: Pho ($8.95), Banh Coun ($8.75), the broken rice dish ($9.75) and the Banh Hoi ($15.95) totaled $43.40, enough food for three to four.