Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Hue Thuong – Date five of 19

L and I were running errands on Sunday. Since we were already in Inglewood, he suggested we go on banh mi date #5 of 19. Hubba hubba, he sure knows the way to my heart. For this post, let’s listen to “Can’t Remember to Forget You” by Shakira and Rihanna.

I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Hue Thuong in Forest Lawn. When I checked the online menu, I noticed Hue Thuong offers banh mi. I’m glad I called ahead of time because the restaurant was packed with customers enjoying steaming bowls of bun bo hue. The person who answered the phone was polite and customer service-oriented. When he realized I was in a rush and I was hesitant to wait 30 minutes, he said he would ask the chef to bump my order up. I ordered the Grilled Beef Sub ($6.55) and the Grilled Chicken Sub ($6.55). Currently, Hue Thuong is offering a promotion – each sub comes with a complimentary can of pop.

Despite the twenty-minute ride, both subs were warm when we arrived home. The baguette took on some condensation from the bag, but the bread was still good – light and chewy.

The chicken was tender, cut into nice meaty chunks. The pickled carrots and daikon were sweet. I could taste butter on the bread. I noticed both subs were lacking cucumber. No biggie, as I didn’t miss it with the addition of the sauteed white and green onions.

The beef was soft with a bit of a chew to it. I read Hue Thuong uses a homemade soy and hot sauce. We really enjoyed the spicy sauce in the meat as it reminded me of sate beef in pho. L preferred the beef, but I like both subs equally.

What Hue Thuong has over other banh mi shops is the meat taste like it is freshly prepared for every order. Pricewise, the sub with a pop is one of the best banh meal deals in Calgary. Sizewise, I found Hue Thuong more filling than Trung Nguyen but not as big as Thi Thi, To Me Subs or My Tho BBQ. Tastewise, Hue Thuong’s banh mi has more a restaurant flavour to it, similar to Pure Modern Asian Kitchen. I’m think this has to do how the meat is made in a restaurant kitchen compared to the heavy prep work involved in a banh mi shop.

I want to go back and try the bun bo hue, as well as the other dishes Miss Foodie recommended – the dumplings, rice cakes and baby clams. I have a feeling the food is similar to Song Huong, another of my favourite restaurants in Calgary. To be continued.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Deli · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Banh Mi Nhu Y – Assorted Sub

I’ve been on a banh mi rampage. Lately, all I think about and all I crave are Vietnamese sandwiches. For this post, let’s listen to “Love Story” by Taylor Swift.

On Sunday, I wanted to try Banh Mi Nhu Y in Forest Lawn. There were two people ahead of me, but each person was ordering bags of subs. When it was my turn, I ordered a Satay Beef Sub – Banh Mi Bo Sate ($7) and an Assorted Cold Cut Sub – Banh Mi Thjt Nguoi ($6).

When an employee cut into the bread, the outer crust flaked apart, showcasing a soft, airy crumb. I asked for our subs to be toasted, but I’m sure it would be just as good untoasted.

A lot of love is put into each sandwich. For L’s satay beef sub, the sauce was gently ladled on top of the beef. Pepper and peanuts were carefully sprinkled on, and then drizzled with another sauce.

My sub was generously smeared with a yellow butter and a dark pate. Three meats were added – simmered pork, head cheese, and ham. My cold cut sub was delicious. The bread was light and crackled when I bit into it. The meats had a nice chew to it. The pate was thick and smooth. The vegetables were fresh and unpickled. I didn’t find the jalapeño spicy. The heat level was mild and the pepper was juicy and crunchy like a green pepper.

I tried a bite of L’s sate beef sub. I liked how the satay sauce mingled in with the yellow butter. The addition of peanuts added a little woodiness to the sub. I enjoyed the black pepper because it added a surprisingly sharp note. I liked L’s sub so much that if I came back, I just might order the sate beef instead of my cold cut combo.

I asked L to compare Banh Mi Nhu Y with Saigon Deli. He said both tasted the same to him.  I vehemently disagree. I thought the bread at Banh Mi Nhu was lighter and Saigon Deli’s was chewier. The pate at Banh Mi Nhu was creamier and not as metallic. The meats at Saigon Deli have a rougher texture. Banh Mi Nhu is more generous with the butter/mayonnaise and pate than Saigon Deli. What I love about both stores is that you can tell the pate and mayonnaise is homemade, which gives it a totally deeper flavour profile than more processed spreads.

I’m going to continue on my banh mi rampage until L gets tired of humoring my weekend sub adventures. Next up, I’m going to post about the lemongrass beef sate and cold cut combo with pate from Kim Anh Submarine. To be continued.

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Sandwiches

Shawarma Palace – Beef Donair

One of my favourite accounts on Instagram is @loaf2go. I appreciate Loaf2go’s frank and fair reviews. One place she’s raved about is Shawarma Palace. For this post, let’s listen to “Selling the Drama” by Live.

L and I have been on the hunt for a good shawarma ever since our go-to place has slipped in quality. Shawarma Palace has four locations. We visited the Forest Lawn restaurant since it was on our way back home. I heard the Falconridge location is the best, and it is frequented by members of the Calgary Police. I know this because I saw a Superintendent Asif Rashid tweet about it on Twitter.

When we arrived, there was a line-up. There was one guy who was being a real dick. He asked for extra beef and he was confrontational when the staff told him that would be a side order. When he left, he abruptly told the customers standing next to the door to get out of his way. As he pushed his way through, he tripped over the mat. I tried hard but I couldn’t help myself and smiled. Buddy, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

The line doesn’t move fast. With each order, the beef or chicken is cut and then seared on the grill. I didn’t mind because I could tell the food is prepared with care. Check out all that meat action! After our donair was rolled, it was lightly grilled on a press. 

We each ordered a large donair ($10.49). Loaf2go recommends ordering it with garlic sauce, tahini and a little sweet sauce. I ordered all the vegetables except for tomatoes. I noticed the staff are generous when it comes to the sauces and meats, but less so with the vegetables.

This was a very good donair. The lettuce, turnips, parsley, onions and spicy peppers were fresh and crisp. The meat itself was tender and tasted of the grill. 

The focus of the shawarma is definitely the meat. The ratio of meat to pita and vegetables was 3:1. L thought Shawarma Palace gave too much meat. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know him anymore. 

We both would come here again. However, the parking lot is a gong show. Someone blocked us in while we backed up, and then honked their horn. The staff and food get two fat thumbs up but the drivers in the parking lot get two thumbs down.

Comfort food · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Phu Quy – AYCE Vietnamese Wraps

My colleagues asked me what I was doing for the weekend. I informed them L and I were going to Phu Quy. They all chuckled and said they loved the name of the restaurant. Phu Quy is the name of an island in Vietnam, not a swear word. Mai told me to check out this place out for all-you-can-eat beef and shrimp wraps. As she’s incredibly particular with her Vietnamese food, I had to try it.

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There wasn’t any music playing during our visit. The silence in the room took me by surprise. I considered not playing a video for this post to replicate the experience but I prefer my blog with music. For this post, let’s listen to “Wrap Her Up” by Elton John.

We ordered the all-you-can-eat beef and shrimp wraps ($26.99 per person). We received a heaping platter of raw beef and shrimp, rice paper wraps, butter, vermicelli noodles, iceberg lettuce, sprouts, basil, mint, cucumber and pickled daikon and carrots. I noticed the portions of everything we received was generous.

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The vermicelli was chopped up, so you can easily pick up and distribute it evenly around. The noodles were separate and loose and not clumped together like other restaurants that serve DYO wraps.

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The shrimp and beef were not seasoned or marinated, so you have to be liberal with the dipping sauces and tray of condiments. Dipping sauces include pineapple, peanut hoison, and fish sauce. However, I recommend also making use of the hoison and hot sauce to liven up the protein. I noticed the sauces weren’t sweet like I’m use to Pho Hoang Viet, Golden Bell (Richmond) and K-Viet.

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This picture above doesn’t show accurately how much beef and shrimp we received. It was piled high and too much for us to eat. Usually at Vietnamese restaurants, I find I don’t get enough of the mint and basil. I didn’t find that problem at Phu Quy. One of the best parts of this meal were the vegetables. The pickled daikon and carrots were sweet, tart and crunchy. The mint and basil were fragrant and fresh.

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In our first attempt of cooking, we didn’t realize the grill was too hot. The owner came out to replace the grill because he said the burned remnants of food made the grill unusable. I’d like to note that we didn’t set the temperature, our server did.

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There was a bowl that’s strategically placed by the grill to capture the drippings from the grill. I didn’t realize this and when L told me not to move it, I retorted that I didn’t like it when he tells me what to do in an Asian restaurant.  He didn’t say anything until 10 minutes later, when the water leaked onto our table. Oh god, I don’t deserve such a nice man.

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The shrimp was small and you have to remove the tails yourself.  Since it’s all-you-can-eat, it’s not a big deal. The shrimp wraps were light and needed extra help from the condiment tray.

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If you want just all-you-can eat beef, the price lowers to $23.95. Beef, shrimp, squid and fish cost $27.95. per person. I think the prices Phu Quy charges is well worth it. If I bought these ingredients myself, it would be around the same amount. Also, making this at home would be time-consuming and messy to clean up afterwards.

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The beef was lean and thinly sliced. I preferred cooking the beef until it caramelized on the grill. The hoison sauce in the squeeze tube bottle paired best with the meat.

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When I wrapped the beef filling with the rice paper wrap, the roll dripped with the sauces. I used the lettuce to wrap around the rice paper. I’d alternate between using the lettuce and rice roll to wrap my food, and in some cases both vessels.

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The family that operates Phu Quy are kind and genuine. The female owner came out and asked if we wanted another platter of beef and shrimp. No way we said, as we were too full. L forced himself to finish the remaining meat because he didn’t want to waste it.  I asked our server if customers eat more than one plate. He responded that usually the guys would eat two plates to themselves. Once, two guys came in and ate three plates. They told the owners they would stop at three plates because they were a family business, but they could eat more.  I told our server that I felt bad leaving all the fresh vegetables. He smiled and said not to worry about it.

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I’d recommend Phu Quy for their wraps if you want something healthier and different from what your accustomed to at Vietnamese restaurants.  The food wasn’t as sweet, greasy or as saucy as Korean or Japanese BBQ restaurants. I noticed all the customers dining here spoke Vietnamese and they were eating traditional Vietnamese dishes, like steamed clay pots with steamed rice. I’d like to return to try their 7-courses of beef ($49.99 for two). As we left, we saw a table being set up for a group of ten. I can see how this restaurant would be ideal for families or group of friends. Grilling your own wraps was  a communal and social experience.

Phu Quy Vietnamese Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pho Da Bao

For a long time, I’ve been salivating over Pho Da Bao’s Instagram photos of their sate pho with bone marrow. On Sunday, I convinced L to make the drive over to Forest Lawn. For this post, let’s listen to “Long Time” by Blondie.

I was expecting a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We were surprised to see that Pho Da Bao was anything but your typical pho joint. The branding of the sign was modern and eye-catching. The ceilings are pretty with the dropping stars. The fish swimming in the tank are gorgeously coloured and looked healthy.

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I ordered Pho Da Bao’s signature dish – Pho Sate Ga Hoac Bo Hac Do Bient – a spicy sate beef ($13). I didn’t add the bone marrow because I looked up the calorie content and saw it was 1,000 calories. I tore up basil leaves and dumped all the sprouts into my bowl.

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The beef broth was creamy and tasted like there was coconut in it. I enjoyed the deep, spicy notes. The meat was silky smooth and tender. The broth was served piping hot and  remained warm for a good 15 minutes. I thought the pho was very good.

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L ordered Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio ($13). The grilled pork was nicely grilled and of good quality. The bowl contained the usual suspects – fresh lettuce, bean sprouts, chunks of cucumber and carrots. The fish sauce was pungent and not overly sweet. I thought the bun was noodle heavy compared to the proportion of meat.

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I was still hungry so I ordered Cha Gio Banh Trang ($8) – gluten-free taro and pork spring rolls. This appetizer is a winner. Reminds me of a simpler version of Duncan Ly’s imperial rolls at Foreign Concept.

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To assemble this masterpiece, you take a piece of iceberg lettuce, basil leaves and a spring roll, then wrap it up and dip it into fish sauce. I found this appetizer refreshing. A tantalizing mix of cool from the basil and lettuce and hot from the crispy spring roll.

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It’s messy to eat – the water from the lettuce would intermingle with the fish sauce and drip on my hand. If you visit Pho Da Bao, I would recommend the pho and taro pork spring rolls.

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The portions are smaller than what I’m use to. I told Loaf2go and she said her husband gets the large sate pho and he’s stuffed, so it’s likely just me. The pho is worth the price, as it’s a step above their competitors.

I’m curious to compare Pho Dau Bo with its next door neighbour – Noodle World. I hear Noodle World has more uncommon dishes, like dried noodles with crab, sweet and sour soup with fish, braised fish clay pot, caramelized fish, and red fried rice. Beep Beep is coming for my birthday next week. I will likely convince her to go with me as she’s easygoing and doesn’t really care where we eat.

Pho Dau Bo Vietnamese Beef Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Saigon Deli

I’ve been meaning to check out Saigon Deli for ages. Asian Persuasion told me she’s been eating here since high school. She recommended the beef or chicken bahn mi (Vietnamese sub). Asian Persuasion and I both love cold cut subs, but she told me to not order it at Saigon Deli because they put too much pate in their subs and the metallic flavour is strong. For this post, let’s listen to Yellow Submarine by the Beatles.

Saigon Deli is a tiny store in a strip mall. Cash only. This place is busy! There was a constant stream of customers. We only had to wait about five minutes.  Three employees assembled subs in the front while two employees prepped vegetables in the back of the store. L was surprised to see the butter jiggled like jello. I informed him it wasn’t butter, it was mayonnaise.

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The flavour of L’s chicken was cold and it tasted off. The texture of the chicken was hard and dry. We thought the mayonnaise didn’t really add much flavour to the sub. The meats in both our subs were minced up. He gave his sub 2.5 out of 5.

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The cucumber, carrots, and onions tasted fresh but they weren’t pickled like Thi Thi (Chinatown location). The jalapeños added a juicy, non-spicy crunch. The nuttiness and dryness from the crushed peanuts contrasted with the sweet, sauciness of the beef. I would give my beef sub 3.5 out of 5.

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The baguette was light and chewy. I prefer the toastier and airier bread at Trung Nguyen. I also prefer the mayonnaise from Thi Thi and Trung Nguyen over Saigon Deli. The vegetables at Saigon Deli taste fresher and crunchier than its competitors – possibly because the vegetables aren’t pickled? Saigon Deli wins in the price department – six bucks for a meat sub is cheap. Plus, the portions of vegetables and meat are generous.

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The reviews on Saigon Deli are high, so I think we might have come on an off day. L and I agreed that we wouldn’t come out of our way to get subs from here again. There are too many other restaurants I want to hit in Forest Lawn. Next on my list – La Cay Subs, Noodle World, Noodle King and Pho Dau Bo.

Saigon Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Fast Food · Restaurants

Popeyes Louisiana Chicken

Veronica and I wanted to get together for dinner. I suggested Pad Thai Restaurant or Africana BBQ Curries. Veronica said she felt like Workshop Kitchen + Culture. Her husband Jughead didn’t like any of our suggestions. He wouldn’t bite until I offered to host a fried chicken dinner at my place. For this post, let’s listen to Tom Sawyer by Rush, Jughead’s favourite band. When I told Jughead I never heard of Rush, he looked unimpressed. Get in line buddy.

L and I arrived at Popeyes in Forest Lawn at 3:45 p.m. There was one car ahead of us but I could see the restaurant itself was packed. We ordered a 10 Piece Family Meal ($35.99), which came with two large sides and six biscuits. I picked mashed potatoes and rice and beans. I also ordered a large coleslaw ($5.99) and four cinnamon apple pies ($1.29). L wanted to order chicken strips to eat on the way home. I don’t like chicken strips and didn’t want any. Chicken breasts are my least favourite cut. I suggested he get a kid’s meal ($3.99) instead.

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The young male cashier was obviously new, but sweet and polite. It was a little confusing at first to order and he forgot L’s drink. We waited seven extra minutes for the spicy chicken. The whole process took us about 15 minutes.

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L insisted I try his chicken strip so I could experience ‘his people’s food’. The meat was soft but the batter wasn’t crunchy and the flavour wasn’t there. The Cajun fries were barely warm and tasted old. L gave the chicken strip 7 out of 10. I’d give it a 5.

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Veronica, Jughead and their daughter Judge came over to our house at 6:12 p.m. I reheated the chicken, biscuits and sides. For beverages we drank Italian gin with a splash of soda and lime and sparkling sake.

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I prefer the spicy chicken over the regular, which lacked any obvious seasoning. The spicy chicken has a hot kick to the batter. Despite being reheated and eaten over two hours after we picked it up, the batter still had a good crunch to it. The meat itself was silky smooth. There was no discolouration or veiny bits on the wings.  Solid 4 out of five.
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The biscuits were buttery bliss. The exterior was a dark golden brown that shattered on your tongue. The innards were soft but not particularly flaky or light. For a loony plus a couple of dimes, the biscuits were worth it. Make sure to ask for some honey to drizzle on top of the biscuit.

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The mashed potatoes and beans and rice were fine. Better than KFC but that’s not saying much. The beans were too salty.

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The coleslaw was not as good as KFC, it had a nice tang to it but too sweet. If I had more time I would have make my own salad, mashed potatoes and rice and beans. I suspect Popeyes is making the biggest profit from the sides. The ingredients are of cheap quality and the portions are small.

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The apple pie tasted like a scrumptious churro. The pastry crust was thin and crisp, covered with a fine dusting of cinnamon and sugar. The apple filling had a gel-like consistency but it still tasted like a delicious balance of apples, cinnamon and sugar. I would order this again.

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After dinner we sipped on one of my favourite wines. One thing I like about having dinner at home versus eating out is that the quality of my beverages goes way up.

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L was surprised he liked Popeyes. He would go again. I thought for fifty bucks, this was a tasty meal for five people. Hitting the Sauce gives the spicy chicken, biscuits and apple pie two fat thumbs up.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vietnamese

Pho Binh Minh

I already finished my lunch when Mindy and Crazy Girl asked if I wanted to join them in Forest Lawn with Buzzy for pho. I said no a few times, but when they asked me right before they were  about to leave, I decided to go. I never get to see Buzzy or go to Forest Lawn, so I figured, what the hell, I’ll eat two lunches.

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We dropped by to check out Buzzy’s new work digs and then over to Pho Binh Minh. When we arrived at 12:00 p.m., the restaurant was quiet. By the time we left, Pho Binh Minh was almost completely packed. We received tea the moment we sat down.

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I ordered a small pho sate ($8.00) while Buzzy, Meetz, Mindy and Randy ordered a large sate pho ($9.99). Crazy Girl ordered the chicken vermicelli with spring rolls. We received fresh bean sprouts (I forgot to ask for them to cooked), fresh basil and a herb that tasted like cilantro. FYI, If you don’t request cilantro, you’ll get it automatically in your soup.

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My small pho would be a good size for a child. The meat was served pink. The portion of meat was a little scanty. Not too spicy, broth had a subtle spice to it that hit your throat. The clear broth had a slightly tart taste to it, flecked with drops of oil. I was informed by my friend Asian Persuasion that the noodles are homemade. I couldn’t detect the difference.

Service was prompt and friendly. The restaurant is clean and neat. If you like a clean, simple beef sate pho, I’d recommend Pho Binh Minh.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Pho Binh Minh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato