Fragrant fare worth getting to ‘nose’
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Move over plain salad, Vietnamese restaurant Pho My Lien’s Lemon Beef Salad ($10.95), with its heavy dose of aromatics, is anything but boring. Mixed with chopped romaine, cucumber and tomatoes, and topped with crunchy toasted peanuts, fried onion flakes and parsley, thin-sliced tenderloin is first infused overnight in a potent puree of lemon-grass, garlic and ginger resulting in flavor that makes it to your nose before it even reaches your mouth.
This is the kind of intoxicating fragrance that conjures up visions of Vietnam’s markets bustling with hungry cooks gathering fresh ingredients to prepare for that day’s meal. It is this liveliness that epitomizes the inimitable cuisine of Vietnam and what Pho My Lien’s owners, husband and wife team Tommy Dang and Lien Biu, capture so well via recipes that hail directly from Biu’s mother, who still lives in her native country bordered by the South China sea.
Akin to the fresh and hearty aforementioned salad, Rice Vermicelli ($11.50) is another vibrant dish that’s both refreshing and satisfying. Take your pick from several options to customize your bowl. In one version, smoky barbecue pork, crunchy hand-made spring rolls, silky vermicelli, crisp cucumbers and cooling mint, all harmonized with a sweet mild dressing, create an all-encompassing experience that offers a little taste of everything.
Warm, savory Soft Noodle Pan-Fried ($11.50) is a perfect companion to the more refreshing eats. Stir fried, the soft wheat noodles soak up all the juices from shrimp, squid and scallops, including a savory soy sauce-based sauce. If you prefer a crunch, opt for the crispy noodle version.
Speaking of crunch, before you decide on anything else, put in an order for bite-sized Crispy Fried Wonton ($7.95), which Biu stuffs with minced pork and shrimp and pinches closed before deep frying. The frilly brittle ends plus the moist filling make for an appetite whetting, not to mention addicting, appetizer. Be sure to dunk the special little nuggets, surprisingly inspired by Polish pierogi, into the sweet, spicy dipping sauce that they come with.
Pho My Lien
Westridge Shopping Center
98-150 Kaonohi St., Suite B213-B, Aiea
Daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., and 8 p.m. Sundays
Note: Takeout orders are welcome, and customers are encouraged to inquire about catering options and hosting large gatherings (please provide at least four days’ notice for groups up to 40 people), including holiday parties.