Monday, July 11, 2016

Pho An on Sandy: Fresh, Traditional Vietnamese Fare in Portland, Oregon

Pho An, located on Portland’s Sandy Boulevard, is well-respected. People go there for the Pho, or noodle soup. It is always packed at lunchtime. It's a small, unassuming place but inside, you will find traditional Vietnamese foods, service and decor.

Venture past the Pho on the menu and you may be in for a treat. I had the pleasure of dinner at Pho An with a group which included a helpful Vietnamese friend. Our group was to have a traditional Vietnamese group dinner and the choice was Bánh hỏi (#69) on the menu. Bánh hỏi is known as dish featuring very thin rice noodles formed into bundles. It is often topped with finely chopped scallions or garlic chives. It is served with meats, herbs and lettuce.

You'll get rice paper and a bowl of warm water.
Dampen the rice paper and it softens immediately.

At Pho An, the dish is accompanied by rice paper so we could roll the ingredients in the paper and dip the roll into a delightful light sweet and sour sauce. The rice paper arrived in dry paper-like sheets and so we needed to wet each sheet and let it soften before rolling. There will be a plate for setting it aside to moisten. Fortunately we had our friend to lead us through the process.
We ordered Bánh hỏi and were instructed on how to eat the dish. We moistened rice paper and rolled the ingredients on our plate in the paper. Then it was dipped into the sweet and sour sauce. Excellent!
What was on the plate was interesting. There was aromatic grilled beef, shrimp paste cakes on a sugar cane stalk, and grilled pork which was like sliced Spam. Taking up a third of the plate was fresh-from-the-garden herbs and lettuce. And with that, were small slices of marinated carrot… delicious and sweet.

We spent the evening drinking tea, dipping our rice paper in water and rolling the contents of our plates, dipping and savoring each bite. There was more than needed on each plate, which was a bargain at $15 per person.

Bánh hỏi is a South Vietnamese dish that is often served at ceremonies and family gatherings. It is not easy for the cooks to make and requires multiple ingredients and multiple steps to prepare. I understand that Pho An Sandy is one of the few restaurants that serves it to the public.

Pho An Sandy
Address: 6236 NE Sandy Blvd Portland, OR 97212
Phone: 503-281-2990
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.