Vietnamese food is very distinct, relying on a balance of salty, sweet, sour, and hot flavors. This is achieved through use of fish sauce, cane sugar, and juice of citrus fruit, lemongrass, tamarind, and chili peppers. Vietnamese dishes use plenty of fresh herbs but tend not to be overly spicy, as chili sauces are often served separately. MINT Vietnamese Pho & Snacks is a new restaurant on the Pinnacle Plaza strip in Shunyi. It replaces Tapas Plus, which I shall miss mainly because of their croquettes, which were incredibly moreish.
MINT serves up a range of classic Vietnamese dishes, including their national dish pho. A noodle soup, eaten at any time of day but primarily at breakfast, the basic bowl of pho consists of a light beef or chicken broth flavored with ginger and coriander, to which are added broad, flat rice noodles, spring onions, and slivers of chicken, pork, or beef. MINT also offers a seafood pho, cooked in coconut sauce or tomato bisque (RMB 48-68).
Another traditional dish is spring rolls. Goi cuon or “summer rolls” are shrimp or pork layered with coriander, rolled up in rice paper, and served cold with a peanut or fish dipping sauce. Nem ran/cha gio are deep fried bite-sized crunchy spring rolls. MINT serves up a traditional Vietnamese version, filled with soft vegetables and meat (RMB 38) and a plain vegetable version (RMB 32), both of which were delicious.
Goi is a generic term for "salad" in Vietnam, but rather than lettuce the base is instead a pile of thinly sliced green papaya or mango, lotus root, cabbage or pomelo. Unfortunately, MINT’s roasted lemongrass chicken salad (RMB 58) was lacking in papaya and mango, but it was crisp with shredded carrots, cabbage, and cucumber. The pile of chicken on top was incredibly tasty, moist slices finished with a crisp layer of skin.
The stir fried beef with black pepper (RMB 68), married together perfectly cooked slices of beef, red chilies, and onions, all of which were enveloped in a rich peppery sauce. My favorite dish was the chicken curry (RMB 48). The thick and creamy curry sauce was packed full of flavor, with just the right amount of heat from the fresh chilies. The meat was both tender and plentiful, and was cooked alongside chunks of potato and cherry tomatoes. Jasmine rice with lemongrass oil (RMB 12) made the perfect accompaniment.
Other dishes include pork with shrimp paste, grilled or braised shrimps, beef with peanuts, and black pepper chicken, or you can indulge in a selection of Vietnamese meat sandwiches or banh mi. The menu is rather light on vegetarian dishes, with just a couple of stir fried vegetable options. I’m not a big fan of Vietnamese desserts, but of you like to finish your meal on a very sweet note, choose from mango sticky rice pudding, coffee brulee, or a banana sago pudding.
MINT Vietnamese Pho & Snacks
Daily 11am-11pm. Delivery is available. 709 Pinnacle Plaza, Shunyi (6143 8910, 6143 8951, 130 4117 7292)
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.
Photos: Sally Wilson