Vietnamese-style Balut, anyone?
When you think of Vietnamese food, the first thing that comes to mind is a steaming bowl of Pho… pho sure! Pun intended. But beyond this hearty bowl of noodle soup—one filled with tons of meat and greens—exists a whole world of other flavors and dishes.
A restaurant nestled within the streets of Quezon City, Saigon Corner offers all these and more. Formerly owned by Vietnamese owners who migrated back to their home country, the restaurant was acquired by Lai Sy just last year.
“I saw the ad, researched, it had good reviews,” Sy said in an interview with When in Manila. “When we tried the food, we loved it. Especially the Banh Mi, Summer Rolls, and Pho. We thought that this has a lot of potential if more people would try the food and it were to get more attention.”
As a foodie, Sy loves good food and makes it her passion to share it with people. Conversely, she believes that eating good food makes people happy, and that we especially need it in hard times like these. And so, armed with fresh ingredients and a love for Vietnamese cuisine (among a wide range of other cuisines), Sy launched a new and improved Saigon Corner.
Vietnamese, But With A Twist
Inspired by both her passion and her travels, Sy then revamped Saigon Corner’s menu. “Since our takeover, we have revised the menu,” she explained. “We kept the good ones and improved the ingredients and we also made it more vegetarian-friendly. I have friends who are vegetarians and it is hard to find a restaurant that would cater to both meat eaters and vegetarians or vegans that both markets would also enjoy.”
Saigon Corner’s Bestsellers
Summer Rolls (Vegetarian)
Saigon Corner’s specialty dish. This vegetarian roll features a medley of greens wrapped in rice paper and a game-changer nestled in between: fresh herbs. Now this is something you don’t see in most Vietnamese rolls! Overall, the veggies were crisp, while the rice wrapper was stretchy. And although it doesn’t have strong flavors on its own (save for the distinct taste of mint leaves), the homemade peanut sauce just adds a kick of flavor. It’s creamy and nutty—much like peanut butter—and more on the sweet side, but it does complement the refreshing spring rolls.
Bo Ne Banh Mi
Are you BREADy for this? Saigon Corner’s baguettes are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, making it a perfect base for a good ol’ sandwich. Bo Ne Banh Mi is their take on a Vietnamese sandwich—just deconstructed, that is. That way, the bread doesn’t get soggy even during delivery and you get to build your own sandwich however way you want to.
To start, spread pate on the bread. Top with slices of beef, then add pickled veggies on the side. To finish things off, top it with the sunny side egg it comes with, and if you like things hot, you can even drizzle Sriracha on top. The result is a medley of flavors—salty, sweet, sour—along with a soft, crunchy and meaty mouth feel. It’s an adventure in your mouth and a filling one at that.
Aside from the beef Banh Mi, Saigon Corner also offers Traditional Pork Ham, Chicken Tender, and Lemongrass Pork. And if you’re in the mood for some fusion flavors, it even has a Kani and Charsiu Pork version. As for vegetarians? There’s a Vegetarian Mushroom and All-Veggie variant, too.
Special Pho with Bulalo
A bestseller and much-talked about dish, the Special Pho with Bulalo from Saigon Corner features a beef broth that’s slow-cooked to perfection. Cooked for 18 hours in beef bones and baked spices, the resulting broth is flavorful, aromatic, and meaty. In addition, Saigon Corner carefully selects the Pho noodles they use and import them straight from Vietnam.
“We chose the one that has the best texture. Bouncy and lumalaban as I would describe it,” Sy explains. “Our customers would know the difference if we change our noodles. Then we top it with a combination of beef brisket slices (raw and cooked), meatballs and Bulalo to make it extra special!”
Flying Sea Bass
The origins of this dish are serendipitous, to say the least. And what a tasty coincidence it turned out to be! On her last day in Vietnam (prior to the pandemic), she discovered this dish and fell in love with it. A Vietnamese take on the taco, the Flying Sea Bass features a deep-fried fish that’s just positively bursting with lemongrass and umami flavors. To enjoy, get a piece of rice wrapper, and first roll it in ice to soften it. Place lettuce, a piece of fish, and then add the cilantro chili lime sauce. Finish it off with some herbs and slices of green mango, then roll into… a roll! Oh, and don’t forget to dip it in the tangy vinaigrette.
The beauty in this dish is that it’s very interactive. Plus, the combination of colors and flavors is just so unique. Thus, Sy added it to Saigon Corner’s menu, where it remains a bestseller and in-demand dish among patrons.
Balut is a treat for the adventurous, and if you want something quirky on the menu, the Vietnamese-style Balut of Saigon Corner’s just the ticket. Inspired by the street food in Ho Chi Minh, Sy replicated the dish, but added something local in the mix: a fertilized duck egg! Cooked in a zesty cilantro tamarind sauce, this dish is creamy, meaty, and a unique experience in itself. The sour-sweet flavors, paired with the herbs provide a contrast to the Balut’s overall richness, and can be compared to having your usual duck egg in vinegar… only more complex than acidic.
There are many ways to enjoy your coffee and although the popular Vietnamese-style option features condensed milk and a rich black coffee base, we now turn to its underrated (and equally delicious) sibling: the Egg Coffee. This variant was invented in Vietnam due to a milk shortage and using egg as a substitute worked nicely. The result is a caffeine-loaded black base topped with a frothy egg mixture. When mixed, you get the bittersweet taste of coffee paired with a pudding-like taste that is both sweet, rich, and creamy. Although not as sweet as condensed milk, I daresay that this options sits well for those who aren’t big on sweets.
A Work in Process
Sy adds that the menu is constantly as she explores other yummy options to add to the list. And while I am excited for what’s to come next, the bestsellers, particularly the sea bass and egg coffee have now become a staple choice of mine. As for the Banh Mi, the pork choices have definitely caught my attention.
“We wanted to provide more choices for Vietnamese food and we want to create awareness that Vietnamese food is more than just Pho, Spring Rolls and Banh Mi,” Sy concludes. “In addition, we want to break the connotation that Vietnamese food is bland. On the contrary, they have very good savory dishes that go very well with our Filipino taste. Healthy food can be yummy too!”
And I couldn’t agree more.
[Also Read: 11 Vietnamese Restaurants To Visit in Metro Manila]
Contact Number: 09771222944
Address: 40 Sgt. Esguerra cor Eugenio Lopez Drive Diliman QC Quezon City, Philippines
What’s your favorite Vietnamese dish? Share your recommendations with us!
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