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
* 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.