Food & Drinks

Vietnamese Food, a Rare Find in City

Pho soup with tofu which is vegetarian
Pho soup with tofu which is vegetarian. PHOTO | COURTESY 

If you are a lover of Vietnamese cuisine, you’ve probably tasted Pho soup or a Vietnamese baguette at a pan-Asian restaurant. Nairobi is home to many cuisines and Vietnamese has only recently been introduced.

Nothing Like It Salon and Spa, a modest coffee shop in Nairobi’s Karen, has become an unlikely home of Vietnamese delights.

While the name may be misleading, the restaurant section only opened three months ago. The salon and spa are indoors and the restaurant and its eight tables, are located outside.

“Our food has no dairy, hardly any oil and it has a lot of fresh herbs. That’s the whole essence of Vietnamese food,” says Bindya Devani, the restaurant owner.

He serves a variety of Vietnamese delights from the classic Pho Soup (vegetarian and non-vegetarian options), the delicious, light and translucent Vietnamese spring rolls and the classic Bánh Mì’ sandwich.

The sandwich, Devani tells me, has eight sauces and is available in both vegetarian (with cheese or tofu) and non-vegetarian options.

I ordered a translucent vegetarian, pork and beef spring rolls, with peanut butter and chilli sauces on the side.

Rice paper, I soon found out, makes up the translucent wrapping. I scooped the peanut butter sauce and applied it on the spring roll, making sure to put enough of it so as to taste the combined flavours, just how the chef had explained.

The first crunchy bite revealed a perfect balance of flavour from the mixed herbs and fresh vegetables.

Soon after, one Vietnamese sandwich landed on our table, divided into four equal parts. It was my first time to try out this classic sandwich.

The sandwich, with all its fillings, seemed too big to fit in my mouth. My companion didn’t seem to have a problem grabbing the sandwich with one hand, he took a big bite and then nodded in approval.

Popularly eaten as a breakfast, mid-morning or afternoon snack, the Vietnamese sandwich, also known as Bánh Mì’, is an airy loaf with a crunchy crust containing a copious amount of fillings.

Chicken, pork, beef, carrot slices, chilli, pickles, peppers, cucumber, a few dashes of sauces, mayonnaise—there seems to be no end of things you can stick into a Bánh Mì’.

Cooked for 12 hours

A bite into a well stacked Bánh Mì’ takes you on a spicy, savoury, sweet and sour moment of pleasure, which is what we experienced at this quaint Vietnamese eatery.

Our last meal was the Pho Soup. We tried both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The aromatic soup was packed with fresh herbs such as Thai basil, Thai ginger, pepper, star anise and coriander.

To prepare the soup, the herbs are cooked overnight in a broth, for 12 to 13 hours, making the flavours more enhanced.

A trip to this unassuming eatery in Hardy turned out to be a culinary trip that left us not only stuffed but satisfied.