Munchies With Max: Smell the Steamy Scent of Sweet Saigon
By Max Gilbert ’13, Staff Writer
Feeling a serious bout of February doldrums over the relapse of snowy winter weather, I knew exactly what I wanted to eat this week. I needed a gigantic, steamy, explodingly flavorful bowl of Vietnamese soup from Miss Saigon.

I began my meal with an order of the steamed vegetable dumplings, but was unimpressed. The dumplings were average — kind of chewy — but still very edible. It was the homemade dipping sauce that came with them that helped me make quick work of the little wicker basket of appetizers. The next time I’m at Miss Saigon, I’ll have to try a different starter, hoping it lives up to its accompaniment.

For any soup fan that has never enjoyed Vietnamese soup, called Phở, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Miss Saigon offers a broad selection of flavored broths, meats (including vegetarian options) and noodles in their soup dishes, and is sure to have something for everyone. I chose to get a Chicken Satay version that was made of a spicy peanut broth with white meat chicken. All of Miss Saigon’s soups come with a big plate of fresh bean sprouts, lime wedges and both basil and mint leaves.

The complex and wonderful flavor symphony begins with the flecks of chili pepper for an intense heat (I ask for extra spicy). Then the juicy lime and fragrant mint present a soothing, cooling contrast. The final note comes from the sweet basil, which brings out the rich roasted peanut flavor. Add in the textural variations from tender chicken, crunchy bean sprouts and filling noodles, and you’ve got yourself a great big bowl of culinary adventure for only $7.95.

Obviously this little gem of Eastern culture and cuisine is well known by Lord and Lady Jeffs; the quaint restaurant on Route 116 next to CVS was full of fellow Amherst students and faculty when I arrived at about 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday. Vietnamese food combines French, Chinese and Thai influences, while retaining a flair all its own. It is about much more than just soup, but I have never tried their other dishes because when I step out of the cold into Miss Saigon, my nostrils have already decided for me.

Issue 17, Submitted 2011-03-02 01:04:02