There is More to Vietnamese Food Than Pho

More to Vietnamese Food Than Pho

 7/20/19: Saigon Grill in Raleigh is now closed. To read more updated info about the Triangle Food Scene, check out my Ultimate Guide to the Triangle 

When Saigon Grill & Bar first opened in Raleigh at the end of 2017, I was really excited just by their restaurant name! I expected to continue my pho search. I peeked at their menu and decided I wanted more Vietnamese dishes from them. At the time of their opening, they didn’t have pho and I was really hankering for some pho! So I put off my initial visit. Recently, I looked at their menu again and to my pleasant surprise, they revamped their menu and went beyond what I’ve come to expect from Vietnamese restaurants in the Triangle Area.

The Vietnamese restaurants in the area mainly focus on the three mainstream dishes, pho, grilled meats with vermicelli or rice bowls, and sometimes banh mis (Vietnamese sandwiches). I thought I was going to have to miss the less dominant dishes and satisfy my cravings when I visit Houston.

I’m so happy that Saigon Grill & Bar revamped their menu a few months ago. For the first time since moving here, I found a place that serves traditional dishes that often get ignored in American culture. Dishes like Banh Xeo (turmeric coconut crepes with pork and shrimp as filling), Banh Uot (“wet noodles,” thin rice crepe noodles with a garlicky lime fish sauce), Bun Bo Hue (a popular Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup), and Ca Kho (fish braised in a caramelized fish sauce). And this is all in addition to the pho and grilled meats!

I brought my Vietnamese immigrant parents to Saigon Grill & Bar. We had the pleasure of meeting Owner John Tang, who also immigrated from Vietnam after the Vietnam War. Listening to him converse with my parents really made me further appreciate the work he’s doing by celebrating Vietnamese culture in Raleigh through delicious food.

Okay! I’ll stop rambling now about how special I think Saigon Grill & Bar’s menu is. On to what we’ve tried.

Bun Bo Hue; wide rice noodle
in spicy beef soup, pork, beef
and Vietnamese ham; $11.99

I grew up with Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) and only just learned from watching old episodes of Parts Unknown that it’s named after the city of Hue in Vietnam. It’s similar to pho but it has a more robust and spicier broth than a pho broth.

Banh Xeo; Vietnamese Crepe stuffed with ground pork,
shrimp & bean sprouts, served fish sauce; $10.99

How beautiful is Banh Xeo? Banh Xeo is such a fun dish to eat. What you do is pull apart the crepe and wrap it with lettuce, making a lettuce wrap, and dip it into the sauce. It’s a refreshing summer dish!

Banh Uot Cha Lua
Banh Uot Cha Lua
(Wet Rice Crepe Noodles with Vietnamese Ham); $11.99

The Banh Uot Cha Lua was my favorite from our lunch and I am craving this again as I write this sentence. I think I raved about this dish so much, my mom who is an excellent Vietnamese cook was starting to get jealous. Ha! It’s also such a refreshing dish for warmer weather. You can either dip the noodles or pour the sauce over the noodles.

More to Vietnamese Food Than Pho

Ca Kho To (Pictured at the right bottom oh photo);
Vietnamese style mahi-mahi fish fillet in clay pot; $12.99

Ca Kho To is fish braised in a caramelized fish sauce. I love this sauce so much that I grew up with just eating plain rice doused in this sauce. I’ve never had it with Mahi-Mahi before and think it’s a great leaner twist. Typically, a fattier fish is used, like catfish.

So that concludes my first (and not my last!) meal at Saigon Grill & Bar. If you haven’t had Vietnamese food outside of pho and banh mi sandwiches, I highly recommend you check it out! And you know what makes me laugh? I haven’t even tried their pho yet and I’m still on a pho hunt! I guess I’ll just have to come back soon!

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222 Glenwood Ave
Ste 103
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 307-3477