Chicken Pho and Rainbow Side Salad – EAT, Bankside

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The HR department where I work always give out freebies or offer vouchers as long as you make an afford to pay them a visit and collect the freebies in person. Last week I scored 2 free bottles of anti dandruff shampoo (no, I do not have dandruff!) while this week was £1 off when you spend £6 voucher from EAT. Seeing the voucher is from EAT, reckon there must be one nearby so I went on the hunt.

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This is the first time I’m exploring this stretch of Bankside as it is a bit out of the way from my office entrance. Apart from EAT, there is a Zizzi, Pizza Express as well as The Real Greek and the omnipresent Starbucks.

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Feel a tad under the weather today and needed some comforting, I got the Chicken Pho at £4.99 and the Rainbow Side Salad at £2.59 to take the bill over £6 so I can use the discount voucher from HR. Boom is correct, £6 is not a figure plucked out from thin air, you need to at least purchase 2 products to enjoy the discount and I got suckered into it. Total bill after discount came up to £6.58.

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I used to have the noodle pots from EAT all the time and though I do make it a point to try their limited edition noodles when available, the Chicken Pho is my staple as it is light, refreshing and the cheapest of the noodle pots. I always appreciate the high ratio of veg vs noodles, it almost makes you feel healthy eating it. Don’t forget to get the server to add chopped chili to your noodle pot and a hard squeeze from the lime wedge will give your noodles a slight wicked edge.

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Over the years, I have noticed that EAT has been tweaking the recipe for their Chicken Pho. If I recall correctly, egg noodles was used when they first started serving this. Then there was a period when they swap to thin rice noodles or bee hoon for those in the know. It has been awhile since I had the Chicken Pho and I’m glad they now used the correct rice noodles, the broader kind known as kway teow or guo tiao depending on which chinese dialect you speak.

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Continuing with the healthy theme, the Rainbow Side Salad was made up of muki beans, pomegranate seeds, lentils, barley, cranberry, melon seeds, capsicum, shredded carrots and chives. I hope I did not miss anything. The zingy and tart mint dressing compliments the sweet components of the salad very well while the beans and pulses puts your jaws on a workout.

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I know, some people might think EAT is boring and I guess it can be. But when you need some comforting, nothing is better than trial and tested food that you know will not let you down.

EAT
Unit 3 Riverside House
2A Southwark Bridge Road
Bankside
London SE1 9HA
0207 636 8309

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Bun Bo Hue and Banh Mi Dac Biet – Pho, Spitalfields

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Had a team Xmas booze up last night and you can imagine how I feel today. Well, at least I managed to get to the office on time. Did bring my leftover mutton curry for lunch but need some comforting as I’m feeling rather fragile. Weird that seeing I’m such a big soup noodle fan, I only went to Pho at Spitalfields once.

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Instead of ordering my usual pho, I decided to order a bun instead, the Bun bo Hue to be exact . Not bun as in a bread bun silly, it’s Vietnamese and refers to the cylindrical rice noodles used in the dish as compared to the flat rice noodles used in pho. Also ordered a banh mi in case I still feel hungry after the noodles. The bun cost £6.45 while the banh mi was £5.50. Not a cheap lunch but the Junk needed some soothing.

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Like the pho, the Bun bo Hue came deconstructed, almost all components are packed separately to ensure freshness but can be a pain if you are starving. I guess it makes putting together a takeaway order easier as well as I bet the kitchen would have packed some containers beforehand. The bun was a nice change from the usual pho, the broth was spicy but still has a deep beefy taste. The lean beef was thinly sliced which is good and the plethora of herbs added freshness to the dish. Only complain would be that the portion seems to be rather small, much smaller than I recalled.

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There was 2 options for the prepacked banh mi, a chicken and a grilled pork. I went with the grilled pork and was pleasantly surprised that it’s says Banh Mi dac Biet on the receipt. if I’m not wrong, dac Biet means special in Vietnamese. You will be asked whether you want to add some Sriracha sauce (thai chili sauce) to be added while the Maggi seasoning sauce is added by default. The baguette is nice and light, pretty close to the ones I had when I was in Ho Chi Minh with slices of roasted lean pork, a smearing of pate and stuffed with picked mooli, carrots, coriander and spring onions. Perhaps I waited too long to have it, the baguette went a big soggy on me. How I wished I had more banh mi when I was in Vietnam, the £5.50 I paid could have bought me probably 10!

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In all, a good lunch. But food can’t rid hangovers, only time and loads of liquid will 😦

Pho
48 Brushfield Street
London E1 6AG
0207 377 6436

Pho Chin Bo Vien – Pho, Spitalfields

Pho in containers

Clockwise from left: Fried Pork Spring Rolls, Bean Sprouts/Sliced Onions/Spring Onions, Slice Beef Brisket and Beef Balls on top of rice noodles, Soup, Bag of Herbage

So today is part two of the Pho Off! Apologies to everyone who was looking forward to this. The weather was nice and warm recently and not conducive for soupy and hot lunches. But I decided to pull my finger out today.

So Mr CSS and I decided to get lunch together today. It’s nice to have a buddy walk with you and a good opportunity to talk about other stuff apart from work. Appreciate the fact that though he decided to satisfy his addiction for the Chicken Katsu Curry Rice at Japanika, he still walked with me to Pho. Thank you!

Pho Shop Front

I have eaten at other branches of Pho before, the Oxford Circus and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush branches so I know the quality of the food. This branch at Spitalfield is brand spanking new. At most a month old? It has a cut down takeway menu and the takeaway counter is upstairs up a flight of wooden stairs. According to the takeaway menu, you can call and order in advance and just turn up to collect. I did not know about that so ordered on site. It did not take that long which was great! Apart from pho, they have other interesting choices so definitely worth a revisit in future. Since this is part of the Pho Off! installment, I had to order a pho. I went with the Pho Chin Bo Vien and a side of Fried Pork Spring Rolls. Chin = Beef Brisket, Bo Vien = Beef Balls. Total bill came to £10.90. Yikes! Perhaps I can do without the Fried Pork Spring Rolls….

Pho Herbage

The small budge on the top right hand side contains sliced red bird eye chilies

I know that when you eat in, you will get a tray of herbage for you to customise your pho the way you want it. I was not expecting this with a takeaway so was pleasantly surprised. The small bag contains sprigs of mint, basil, coriander and a lime wedge. Yes! Lime wedge, not lemon. They even bothered to separate the evil sliced red bird eye chilies! That’s the way to go!

Pho with torn herbage

If you refer to the first pic, I really appreciate that almost all the components of the pho is packed separately. This prevents the bean sprouts and rice noodles from getting soggy if they were soaked in the soup. But it does take some effort to assemble all the components and tear up the herbage.

Pho stirred but not shaken

This is what I expect a pho to taste like. Though not as good as what I have tasted in Vietnam, I think it’s not a bad attempt, for a chain store at that! The broth could do with a stronger star anise taste but has a deep but not coying beefiness. The herbage and squeeze of lime juice really helps to life the flavour. The beef brisket was slice evenly and of the right thickness and the beef ball taste as they should. All in all, I was satiated.

I really did not need the Fried Pork Spring Rolls. I was stuffed after I finished the pho (well, I drank all the broth).They were filled with minced pork, granted carrot, rice vermicelli and wood ear mushroom. It was nice and crispy when hot and is served with a side of nuoc chiam. Maybe a tad oily. I only had 1 roll and kept the rest as a snack for later.

I don’t think it takes a genius to know which of the 2 pho I prefer. But I will still bored you folks with a PROPER summary post in the next couple of days.

Pho
48 Brushfield Street
London E1 6AG
0207 377 6436
Mon-Wed 1130 – 2200
Thus – Sat 1130 – 2300
Sun 1130 – 2200

p/s: Mr CSS and I got caught up in a celebrity filming session on the way… guess who?

It's Robbie!

Who is the gentleman in pink? It’s Robbie Williams!

Pho – Hop-Namo, Shoreditch Boxpark

Pho off! No, I have no issues using the f word in my blog but if you think that is what I mean but is too bashful to spell it properly, you need to give your brains a good soaping! What I meant is the next 2 blogs will be about Pho, the Vietnamese noodle dish. Then I will follow up with a blog comparing the two based on a set of made up criteria to see which fare better. I’m going to try out the lesser known new kid in town (or so I think they are) and the high street chain which you will read about tommorrow.

2 container exterior

Hop-Namo, the Vietnamese eatery is the spinoff of Namo at Victoria Park Road which itself is the sister restaurant of Huong Viet. Don’t know about you, but it is beginning to feel lika an episode of Who Do You Think You Are! Both Namo and Hop-Namo style themselves as traditional vietnamese with a modern twist so I will mentally prepare myself for it to not be the real thing. Hop-Namo is located in Shoreditch Boxpark and there seems to be loads of bad vibe about this place. Yes, I know it’s meant to showcase individual, edgy outlets but instead it’s filled with pretty well-known brand names. C’mon, anything is better than wasteland no?

Wood panel interior

The decor of Hop-Namo is quite rustic and manages to disguise the fact that you are in a container. There are several recycled wooded crates on caster wheels under the wall seats. Not too sure what’s in them, extra cutlery perhaps? The menu is a good representation of basic Vietnamese street food and ranges from Banh Mi, Goi (Salad), Pho (choice of meat or tofu) and a few curries. A daily specials board is also available and the 2 dishes that caught my eye today was a Special Beef Curry and Grilled Pork Balls with Lemongrass.

Pho and summer rolls

Yikes! Bright yellow lemon wedge!

Seeing this review is about Pho, I ordered the Pho with rump steak (Pho Bo) and 2 summer rolls, 1 with shreadded five spice duck the other with prawns. The Pho is £6.50 while the summer rolls are £1.50 each. At a total of £9.50, not breaking the bank but not cheap either.

Close upThe summer rolls are what they are so I will not write much about them except they are a tad small for £1.50. I do like the small container they come in though, cute. So how is the Pho? I hate to say this but I don’t like it. Seeing a thick wedge of lemon in the broth when I first open the container is a bad omen, it should be lime, never lemon! The most important thing about Pho is the broth. It should be a nice balance of anisey and beefiness yet have a fresh and clean after taste. The version at Hop-Namo is too overpowering with a strong aftertaste of black pepper and definitely way too salty. Coming from me aka Ms Salty Queen, that’s bad. I’m quite surprised that the thicker version of rice noodles is used. They are not bad, just not typical in Pho. I was only expecting sliced beef rump but was surprised to also find 2 minced beef balls with grilled marks. The beef rump was sliced unevenly, most of them too thick making them rather chewy. They also have a strange lemongrass taste. I think they have been marinated. The beef balls are a disappointment. Once again, too much pepper!. Other condiments include bean sprouts, coriander, julienne carrots and daikon.

Will I go back to Hop-Namo again, perhaps to try the other dishes, but definitely not the Pho. Too much of a modern twist for me.

Hôp Namô
Units 48 & 49
Boxpark
Bethnal Green Road
London E1 6GY
0207 729 9723