Stan’s back and has been lunching at Vietnamese NOM Deli this week, where he sampled their summer rolls and pork patties.
Vietnam. To me this is a word to define which generation you belong to. Anyone over 55 will immediately think of napalm and agent orange, and anyone younger than that will check out the price of two weeks all-inclusive with Thompsons. I have never been to the Far East so I could not vouch for the authenticity of the street food on sale at NOM, but I am more than willing to believe that it is the real thing. I was going to email a friend in Kentucky who went on one of the original all-inclusive tours. It was a two-year deal and paid for by Uncle Sam, but I doubt that he got to sample much of the local fare. He did bring back a few souvenirs in the form of scars and a Purple Heart. Luckily there is not much military action in Great George Street at this time of day so I dined unscathed.
I had not been to this part of town for a long time and was really surprised to see the large number of eateries on what seems to be the periphery of town. It is opposite the old entrance to the Infirmary and round the corner from the court building, but even so I don’t know where all of the customers come from. When it comes to customers there is a sandwich shop in the area called Brod which seems to have discovered the winning formula, as there was a queue snaking round the inside of the shop and along the street to its side.
NOM was not so crowded so I managed to find a seat easily enough. There is a thriving take away service as well as the dining room. The main item ordered seemed to be the banh mi, a baguette packed with various oriental fillings which looked amazing. The only other ‘Asian street food’ I have sampled has been in Zaap, the Thai place on Vicar Lane. Zaap is more of a restaurant, seeming to replicate a whole range of street food outlets in one place. NOM is like a single stall on the streets of Hanoi. At first I could not get my head around a back street dive selling baguettes, but then I remembered that before the Americans moved in it was a French colony, so it probably does make sense. I was not in the mood for carbs as I am trying to lose some post-holiday pounds so I ordered the cuon (£3.95) and the chef’s special, pork patties on a bed of noodles and vegetables at £6.45.
As it happens, either of these would have been enough for lunch but I am glad that I overindulged as both dishes were excellent. The cuon, translated as summer roll, were served cold and comprised prawns, rice vermicelli and vegetables. I had to ask the Vietnamese lady who runs the shop what the substance wrapped around the filling was. It was rice paper, something which I have had before but this had been soaked and had a very unusual texture, almost elastic and unlike anything I had previously eaten. It did a great job of containing the filling as it didn’t disintegrate when bitten.The special was a generous size salad of crisp vegetables and noodles with several small pork patties and garnished with coriander. The patties were highly flavoured rather than hot and once again the combination worked very well. There is no booze on sale so I had a black Americano coffee to accompany, £1.90.
I am very glad that I found this deli and would highly recommend it for either eating in or taking away. By the way, I know that rice contains carbs but they felt much healthier than a large baguette. That is the case for the defence Your Honour.
Photography by Stan Graham