Philly Phat Pho

Nam Phuong, self-proclaimed "best Vietnamese in Philly"

Nam Phuong, self-proclaimed “best Vietnamese in Philly”

Sometimes the headlines write themselves.

Road trippin’ to Philly over the weekend, we returned to the Vietnamese shopping plaza on Washington between 11th and 12th, just off Broad Street, home to Dung Phat Plaza and Hung Vuong Supermarket and, most critically, Nam Phuong, self-proclaimed “best Vietnamese restaurant in Philly” and who am I to argue?  In truth it is the only Vietnamese restaurant in Philly at which I have dined, so I can’t compare it to the others; in some existential sense maybe it is the only Vietnamese restaurant in Philly?  Does it depend on the meaning of “is”?

Anyway.  Dung Phat (*this* close to Hung Phat; I wish I understood the Vietnamese language) may be the whole block or just a piece of the plaza, which overall is kind of Eden Center’s grubby younger sibling.  Several restaurants, a big supermarket, lots of other random stores, awkwardly arranged. We first visited during the blog hiatus, a year or so ago. This Philly neighborhood could be charitably described as “transitional” except I don’t think it is actually transitioning.  Grittier and more feral than Wheaton, let’s say.  It’s almost surprising that Nam Phuong* has a website.

* WordPress suggests “fungi” instead of “Phuong” — I guess WordPress doesn’t speak Vietnames either.

We were instructed by the locals not to order off the “today’s specials” board, since it hasn’t been changed in years; today is every day and the dishes aren’t special.  No problem: the menu boasts over 200 rice, noodle, soup, and other options. Based on two visits (with big groups), soup is the way to go here; the rice and noodle dishes are okay, just standard.  The soups are excellent, both various pho offerings and dozens of nuanced noodle soups.  On the recent visit I tried the (#146) beef noodle soup “Hue Style – Spicy” and it was a big, brilliant bowl of fiery, rich beef broth, abundant thin beef slices, and various vegetables, especially leeks. Deep reddish-brown and yet with some clarity, the broth was an ideal savory-spicy balance.  I sweated some — rub a dub in the pho tub, owwwwww! hot –but not too hot.

Other highlights include the Vietnamese crepe (#109), a crisp omelet stuffed with seafood and sprouts, and the make-your-own-spring rolls (#???), where you get to dunk dried rice paper into water and then roll up your choice of greens, sprouts, and barbecued pork (I think).  Fun for the whole table, if you like that kind of thing.

Hung Vuong Supermarket

Hung Vuong Supermarket

The BBQ pork rolls might also be good, I bet they are, but our order never showed up.  It did show up on the bill, oopsie, but they took it off.  Actually, the service is generally excellent, the pork rolls were the only blip. Portions are outrageously large and prices are low, overall great value here considering the quality is between solid and excellent depending on what you order.  Compared with Wheaton’s Mi La Cay, Nam Phuong is bigger and cheaper (by $1-3 per dish, and grungier, but portion size and average quality are about the same, I would say.

Nam Phuong also offers seemingly infinite permutations of bubble teas — the blue taro flavor is our group favorite, but people seemed to like the cappuccino, and the list went on and on with flavors and styles and I don’t remember any of it because tapioca (the “bubbles”) is on The List of things that, I believe, are a culinary affront to humanity (your mileage, like Mrs. Me’s, may differ).  I should do a post on that sometime.

After lunch we took a spin through Hung Vuong supermarket across the parking lot, bigger and more feral than H Mart, but with a greater variety of sauces and pastes (like, several dozen different shrimp pastes), and a pretty good sweets aisle where Mrs. Me picked up some sugary mango candy to go with a tin of tamarind drops, her new addiction.  They are quite good, I have to admit.  HV had limes but only in bags of four for $2, not a bad price but they all had brown spots.  Wheaton Safeway today had .50 limes and while small they are juicy, so maybe things are looking up, lime-wise. And that’s how you work limes into whatever blog post.

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