A visit into any of Scarborough's Vietnamese restaurants fills our noses with fragrant bowls of pho. Rice noodles swim with fresh basil, cuts of beef offal and flank in a rich, slow-simmered bone broth. Joined by other rice dishes--many made from xoi (cooked sticky rice)--along with crispy vegetables and herbs, and the long histories of cultural exchange and empire, the menus of our Vietnamese spots are as diverse as the city itself.
They are light, balanced, and savoury--but are marked by the strength of ingredients such as pungent bird's eye chilies and complex nuoc mam (mixed fish sauce).
They are found all over the city, but we can most easily dig into these Southeast Asian delights in and around Scarborough’s Chinatown, west of McCowan along Sheppard and upwards through Steeles.
Pho might kick off your culinary journey, but more crispy and aromatic--but equally delightful--dishes such as bánh xèo and bún riêu await.
Banh xeo (savoury crepe)
Imagine this: you seat yourself at a roadside eatery after a long day on your feet, rice flour, a hint of coconut, and fish sauce perfuming the air.
Bun rieu (crab noodle soup)
Whereas other dishes might take you to the busy streets of Hanoi or into the kitchens of virtuous home cooks, bun rieu sets us sail on a fishing boat, through rivers and the shores of Vietnam, through tropical sun or ... View More or Locate
Goi cuon (fresh spring rolls)
Soft packages of edible jewels nestled into soft vermicelli and vegetable shavings, fresh spring rolls are a treasure of the Vietnamese home. Dipped into a light richness of tuong xao (a blend of hoisin, peanut, and fish sauce), the crisp ... View More or Locate
In many street corners and strip malls in Scarborough, you can find stores dedicated to this beloved national dish of Vietnam.
Opening the door into a waft of spices is a step into settling the restlessness of daily life.
Within the quiet intimacies of Vietnamese restaurants in Scarborough, a broth well-seasoned shares the wisdom of family. Enjoy the evening invitation of a warm soup, or mull over the day with a cup of coffee.
With fresh ingredients and rich light flavours, there is a reminder that the simple act of sitting and eating together is vital to balance out the bustle of the city.
Vietnam's various climates lend to different regional expressions of food. Southern Vietnam is characterized by fresh and green ingredients and tropical fruits, because of its geographical location. Central Vietnam, with its harsh weather and lack of green space, is known for strong and bold flavours; here, salt and fish sauce are especially enmeshed into the local fabric. Northern Vietnam, near China, boasts bountiful noodles. Pho, then, finds roots in the north.
The French, too, in the 19th century brought radical changes to local foods. Bánh mì, made of baguettes blended with rice flour, and the meat-heavy pho itself--made from the scraps of French colonial kitchens and the ingenuity of its Vietnamese staff--are part of the long colonial history of continental Southeast Asia, expressed in the sandwiches and noodle soups that we know and love today.
After the 1954 partition, mass migrations into the South brought Northern dishes such as pho with them, blending with the flavours of lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, cinnamon basil, Hoisin sauce, and hot chili sauce. Since the Vietnam War, people and their palates migrated around the world, bringing their cuisines and cultures into nations such as France, the United States, and Canada.