This time I am taking exception and not providing places from a friend but from the New York Times. I could not resist this article since I spent much of my childhood visiting nearby Norman, Oklahoma where many relatives lived. We would often go up the ”City.” I first did my highway driving on this road. In those days (late 50s early 60s) I never heard of a Vietnamese restaurant. The place was more known for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (1700 NE 63rd Street, 405-478-2250). The favorite fare was steaks and BBQ. I was even there when the whole state was dry. Restaurant would serve “set-ups” and the bootlegger would supply the alcohol.
Now I see this article, Good Morning, Vietnam ... er, Oklahoma from the NYT frugal traveler. The writer lived in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, in 1996 and 1997 so he has direct experience here. According to the article, Oklahoma’s capital has newly received a significant Vietnamese population — around 20,000. Hewre are his picks.
Pho Hoa (901 NW 23rd Street, 405-521-8087)- “The first bite was heaven, as if my taste buds had been in suspended animation all these weeks. The noodles were thin but firm, the broth redolent of star anise, topped with thin slices of rare flank steak and well-cooked brisket. I garnished it with bean sprouts, basil and ngo gai, a long, lemony leaf known as sawtooth or culantro, then squeezed in some lime juice and mixed it all together.”
Banh Mi Ba Le (2426 North Classen Boulevard, 405-524-2660), It is “famous as much for its outsize sign as for its warm mini-baguettes stuffed with roast pork, pâté, cha lua (a Vietnamese mortadella), lightly pickled daikon and carrot, cilantro and green chilies. I love them — especially when they cost $1.85.”
Banh Cuon Tay Ho (Little Saigon Shopping Center, 2524 North Military Avenue, 405-528-7700) “The signature dish, banh cuon, is a kind of northern Vietnamese ravioli — warm, thick, soft rice noodles filled with ground pork and mushrooms, and topped with bean sprouts, sliced cucumbers, cha lua and shredded mint. Here it was served with a fried cake of sweet potato and shrimp that was simultaneously salty and sweet, crunchy and creamy. In fact, I think the whole plate contained every known texture and flavor — and for a mere $6.”
Golden Phoenix (2728 North Classen Boulevard, 405-524-3988),
It serves, among other thigns, “a standard southern Vietnamese dinner — the kind of meal I ate every day a decade ago. First, a deep-fried soft-shell crab that dribbled its bubbling green juices into my rice bowl with every bite. Then water spinach stir-fried with garlic, fresh from the wok, the tubular stems crunchy, the leafy bits lush and juicy. A clay pot showed up full of caramelized braised fish, and finally goi ngo sen, a salad of cucumber and young lotus shoots threaded through with rau ram, a diamond-shaped leaf that tastes like cilantro but is spicier and soapier.”
Let me know if tried any of these and what your favorite steak and BBQ places are in Oklahoma City.