Vietnam takeaway is a secret pleasure...
PUBLISHED: 14:24 25 November 2017
Every now and then I find a place to eat that is so good that I don’t really want to tell you about it. It can be very tricky to get a table in some of our best local restaurants, which is great for them, but not so good for us; giving more publicity only makes it harder to get in!
A Taste of Vietnam is one of these “places”, although it isn’t anywhere you can book a table; it is a little trickier than that. A one-woman business, A Taste of Vietnam is properly home-cooked food, only available on a Friday evening, and you have to go and pick it up. There isn’t a website yet, and you have to find the menu via Facebook, but once you have navigated all that, you are in for the best takeaway you have ever had.
I met Anne Harvey (also known as Hoang) when I went to pick up our order from her home in the Fleetville area of St Albans. Anne learned to cook from her grandmother and mother, and really missed the food when she moved to the UK.
Anne started the business in June, inspired after a trip to Vietnam where she met chefs and family members and really took note of how they prepare classic dishes. She advertised on St Albans Mums Facebook page, and business spiralled from there. Anne dreams of opening her own café serving Vietnamese food, so watch this space. I think Anne’s food would also be hugely popular for anyone needing private catering; you will just need to give a lot of notice!
So, to the actual food. We unpacked the parcels and as instructed reheated the pho (I used a saucepan rather than a microwave, all fine). It all looked incredibly fresh and beautiful, with wedges of lime provided to squeeze over, and plenty of fresh herbs.
The fried lattice rolls stuffed with minced pork, glass noodles and cloud ear mushrooms with dipping sauce were amazing; they are lighter and crispier than spring rolls and incredibly more-ish. Anne told me that she can’t buy the lattice papers in the UK and her mum sends them from Vietnam, so I think it unlikely that you will be able to get these in many places. Four rolls cost just £3.50.
Summer rolls were stuffed with wafer-thin vegetables, prawns, fresh herbs and noodles, which we sliced into rounds like sushi to share, but you can just eat as they are. The papaya prawn salad with fish sauce, crushed peanut, crispy onion and fresh mint was divine and so fresh – if you ate this every day you would be very healthy.
Pho (pronounced more like “pha”) is the classic Vietnamese soup with noodles and poached chicken topped with beansprouts. Hoang explained that she cooks the oxtail broth all day to get the depth of flavour and to keep the pho broth clear. If you prefer a non-meat option, just talk to Anne about the options.
We also had a delicious coconut-based chicken curry, with lemongrass, potatoes, onions and spices that are a family secret. Grilled fish curry was amazing too, with the fish keeping its delicate and firm texture in the coconut sauce. Portions were very generous and great value, with mains around the £7 mark, with rice.
To find out what is on the menu for the coming Friday, and for the easiest way to book, go to the Facebook page tasteofvietnamstalbans or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You collect from Anne’s house which is near Clarence Park, St Albans between about 5-8pm. But please don’t all rush at once!