Kim Thanh Restaurant, West End

My only trip to Vietnam was a two-day conference several years ago.  We were treated to several formal banquets but I didn’t get a chance to get out and eat in the streets as I would have liked.

So when one of my twitter ‘friends', Bao La, who is apprentice chef to his mother at her 24-year-old Vietnamese restaurant in Brisbane's West End, Kim Thanh,  issued an invitation for a Saturday night dinner with a few other bloggers, it was irresistible.

The restaurant has a typical busy Asian atmosphere with large tables full of people enjoying the food.

Here’s what Bao rolled out from the kitchen –

Vietnamese fried spring rolls (cha gio) came first (pictured above). Bao says in Vietnam rice paper is used instead of pastry, usually caramelised rice paper. The filling ingredients were pork mince, crab meat, prawn mince, taro, onion, carrots, bean thread vermicelli and fungus.

Vietnamese pancake
Beef wrapped in betel leaves
There also was a Vietnamese pancake (banh xeo), literal translation would be "cake sizzling".
The batter was coconut cream, water, rice flour, turmeric, custard powder and the filling was shrimp, pork belly, bean sprouts and spring onions.

I particularly enjoyed the beef wrapped in betel Leaves (bo la lop) literal translation (bo) beef la lop (betel leaves). Traditionally this is just eaten by itself from the skewers but Bao wanted to show us how some of these dishes are eaten in Vietnam.  He says you would always get a side of herbs that you would wrap up in lettuce leaves.  Each place would send out a mixture of herbs so not all places would be the same.  Bao chose to serve it with mustard leaves, perilla, fish herb, chrysanthemum leaves, sour herb and variety of mints.  With spring rolls and pancakes these would be the only greens you would actually need.

If you were to have something like "nem nuong" pork ball skewers, other things would be added to the wrap like pineapple, green banana, young mango leaves, star fruit.. It would be balanced out with a yellow bean pork liver dipping sauce. That’s for next time.

Mi Quang

The main was  "Mi Quang". This was a pork with dried shrimp broth, flavoured with annato seeds and diced jicama. Although it was named "mi" which means egg noodles, it is actually turmeric coloured rice noodles which gives it that egg noodle look. Served on top was puffed up rice paper.

Mi Quang is actually named after the Quang Nam people from the DaNang Ho An region.

Che Xoi Nuoc

The dessert was Che Xoi Nuoc. There is a bit of disagreement amongst Vietnamese people on what it is actually called. Some say Troi Nuoc, others say Xoi Nuoc. Inside the glutenous rice balls were mung beans. The balls were cooked in a ginger sugar syrup and served with coconut cream and toasted sesame seeds.

Bottom line: These were special dishes that Bao La made for our dinner but if you give him some notice he might do the same for you.  I’d encourage you to give it a try as it was a great dinner and an interesting experience to try dishes that you wouldn’t normally discover.

Kim Thanh Restaurant
93 Hardgrave Rd, West End, Brisbane +61 7 3844 4954

Kim Thanh on Urbanspoon