Hoang Yen Supermarket


Sweet basil, Vietnamese mint, purple perilla, fish mint, betel leaves, sawtooth coriander, three crabs premium fish sauce… You don’t need all these things to cook good Vietnamese food but if you have all of them then you have no excuse not to!

I’ve all but given up hoping for a good Vietnamese restaurant* in Brum, one with a decent repertoire of grilled things and rice based products loaded with the intoxicating blend of herbs they use in Vietnam. For me it’s the herbs that make it special. But freshness is key, trying to keep it that way is difficult and expensive for a restaurant. Without it Vietnamese food can seem muted. Wing Yip have a limited selection and the Asian Mini Market in the Brimingham Indoor Market is good too but a £3.50 bunch of sweet basil in those places costs just £2 in Hoang Yen. Go on Friday after the late Thursday afternoon delivery and you’re good for a whole weekend cooking and bingeing on bun cha, bun cuon and salads of amazing complexity yet lightness. Perfect summer food.

18 Holyhead Rd, Birmingham, West Midlands B21 0LT

Bun cha; chargrilled lemongrass pork, rice vermicelli, dressing and a bucket load of herbs

* Pho, the London chain of noodle shops is coming to Brum’s new shopping behemoth Grand Central. The pho is pretty decent there and the rest of the menu is serviceable, a little skimpy on the fresh herbs other than coriander and mint. No doubt Birmingham foodies will hail this as the holy grail of Vietnamese food. It’s ok for a start.

Bamo Freshnaan


IMG_3249.JPGThere’s a direct correlation* with how pissed off your Middle Eastern baker is and the quality of his bread. I have never seen the bakers in Bamo smile or make small talk with non Kurds, but blimey their naans are tasty. So much better than the lank dishcloths in Pars supermarket (the folk in there are preternaturally smiley and friendly). The shelves of Bamo are pretty bare, the shop is no more than a front for the constant motion of tandoor and two deck bread oven. This is what they do, just churn out as much flat bread as humanly possible. Nemrut next door takes its fair share, which if you haven’t been yet has probably surpassed Istanbul in my mini league table of best Turkish restaurants in Brum.

Pop in if you’re driving by or have a craving for keema (chicken or lamb) naan. It’s £1.50 and is basically a perfect thing. The freshly baked crusty crispy chewy bread folded over soft juicy lamb seasoned with sumac and a little chilli. I don’t even know how they make money from this, one is perfect lunch sized. If they open in town they would lay waste to every indie cafe and eatery in sight.

16a Holyhead Rd, Birmingham B21 0LT

Keema naan, just about the best £1.50 you can spend on food

* sample size may not stand up to statistical scrutiny