Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with a city or a country? I did and still have. I've been to Ho Chi Min once for a short work trip and the memories left of the city were serious air pollution that left me nosebleeds, massive traffic with difficult-to-cross roads, purchases that had to be bargained at all times and cab drivers that tried to cheat on every ride we took. That was years ago, it could be different now I guess. Nonetheless, I had very good memories of the food. I love their sweet and thick coffee; 1 shot of super dark coffee dripped from the metal filter and a half cup cold condensed milk stirred into a satisfying, wake-up cuppa. I also love their Pho, especially the beef pho. Steaming hot bowls of a sweet, clear soup, with their signature thin, smooth kway teow and lots of raw beansprouts that added a lovely crunch.
I've not visited Vietnam ever since, and heard that Hanoi is a beautiful place. It would be one of my to-visit places, for Halong Bay and for a taste of their pho again. Meanwhile, to get a fix of pretty authentic and really delicious vietnamese food, I would recommend Long Phung Vietnamese restaurant at Joo Chiat. They serve up a big variety of dishes, with a wide range of rice & noodles dishes, as well as side dishes such as vietnamese rolls, spring rolls, chicken wings, cockles etc. Their cockles seemed really popular, with many of the tables enjoying it with a good dose of chili.
Amongst the noodles which also has flavors such as duck, shrimp, beef, beef brisket, we chose the chicken for me and the beef and pork leg for the hubb. Both bowls arrived in a short while and they are full of flavors and generous in ingredients. The beef and pork leg (bottom left) has a deep, sweet aroma and tasted strongly of a broth that has been broiled for a long time to seal in the flavors. The chicken pho (bottom right) has a soup that also has a sweet undertone but a little lighter by comparison, which means I could drink most of it; it's pretty addictive, whereas the beef and pork soup could be a tad heavier to finish. The crunchy beansprouts lend a good texture to the dish and there was so much chicken that I felt there was more meat than pho, not that I'm complaining. It's a very satisfying bowl!
We also tried the quintessential Vietnamese Rolls. Wow. while Nam Nam is also one of my favourites, I'm afraid it has to stand aside. These Long Phung rolls are fantastic. They are big and fat! You can see the prawns clearly through the thin yet study but still soft and chewy skin; there were slices of pork that added a savory note and the vermicelli was smooth and silky. The mint was also clearly detected and I'm not a fan of mint leaves but this combination somehow blew me off and I woofed down 2 rolls greedily. Oh, not to forget that the accompanying sauce was the icing on top of the cake. It was luxurious, with a good dose of peanuts that added an extra crunch as you chomp into the rolls. Simply lip-smacking good. We almost ordered another plate; lucky the noodles arrived then!
As for the environment, I would say it's more an eatery than a restaurant - clean and simple, with many waitresses taking and serving orders efficiently. The whole experience can be completed in half an hour as you want to get your slurps done and vacate your seats for the poor souls queuing outside. Do go early to avoid long queues. We reached at 6pm and could be seated immediately. When we left at 645pm, there was a snaking queue though it's a working Monday night. Go get your fix!
Long Phung Vietnamese Restaurant
159 Joo Chiat Road