When I think of New Orleans cuisine many Louisiana creole dishes spring to mind; Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya, Gumbo and Beignets to name a few. Pho Tau Bay does not serve any of these dishes, in fact Pho Tau Bay, as you may have guessed from the name, serves traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come to such surprise that Vietnamese cuisine is so popular in New Orleans given that both styles of cooking draw influence from France from various times of occupation and colonisation in the early 17th and 18th Century.
This family run eatery has been the grande dame of Vietnamese food in New Orleans since opening its doors in 1981. Located on the west bank of New Orleans’ Algiers district, Pho Tau Bay is an unassuming building, its dinning room decked out with no frills tables and chairs reminiscent to any authentic Vietnamese sit down. Although the real beauty of Pho Tau Bay is of course the Pho, of which there are many combinations to choose from. Pho is traditionally a street dish, eaten in Vietnam at any time of the day. The dish consists of rice noodles swimming in a bowl of either chicken or beef broth with meat corresponding to the type of broth, and garnished with fresh herbs, sliced chili, bean sprouts and wedges of limes. On this occasion my bowl of Pho Tai came with generous amounts of hand-made rice noodles, beef broth with slithers of blushing beef. As customary with pho the dish was served with a basket of garnishes including fresh mint, coriander and Thai basil. Combining these fresh herbs with the broth completely elevates the bowl of steaming pho to majestic heights. The broth was both fresh tasting and leaves the palate clean, despite its rich beef flavour spiked with chili and sourness of fresh lime juice. Pho is a well-balanced meal, and a healthy one at that. Any Londoners that want to sample an authentic bowl I point you in the direction of Mien Tay, who has locations in Battersea and Shoreditch.
On this visit to Pho Tau Bay we also dined on Goi Chon; fresh spring rolls containing shrimp, pork, fresh herds and vermicelli noodles wrapped in rice paper served with a hoisin peanut sauce. The rolls were again super fresh but the real star of this dish was the silky, rich hoisin peanut sauce. I could have taken a gallon home and ladled it on anything. Lastly we tried the Bánh Mì Pate Thit; freshly baked French bread is packed house made rolled ham and chicken liver sausage, and dressed with mayonnaise, hot peppers, coriander, julieene carrots, pickled cucumber and sliced white onion. Bánh Mì is again a popular street food in Vietnam and showcase the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine with the use of a French style baguette to house the various fillings on offer. Bánh Mì has become ever popular on the streets of London and a good place to start for those not familiar is Bahn Mi 11, who have a permanent site in Great Eastern Street, as well as a weekday lunch location at Berwick Street Market in Soho.
Pho Tau Bay – 113 Westbank Expressway, Gretna, New Orleans, Louisiana.