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Enjoy flavors of Vietnam at Pho Lavang

by: STAFF PHOTOS: BARB RANDALL - Pho, often called the soul of the nation, is Vietnams nation dish.

Take fragrant lemon grass, ginger, mint, cilantro, cinnamon, chili, lime, five spice and then add salty fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce and crisp, clean fruits and vegetables, and what do you get? Some of the most delicious and healthful food on the planet.

Those are ingredients commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine, which my friends Chris and Lucy Nguyen have been serving the community from their Lavang Restaurant for the past 10 years.

You might remember 10 years ago Lavang opened in a tiny space next to the Rosewood Market on Pilkington Road in Lake Oswego. It was so small there was room for just two two-person tables inside, and for you to leave with your order, those in line usually had to step outside to give space. But folks didn’t care; the food was definitely worth the wait and inconvenience. Friends brought friends back to the tiny restaurant, and just about a year after opening Lavang expanded into the current space, accommodating many more patrons at a time. Now, 10 years later, Lavang is expanding again. This time the move is to a much larger space on Boones Ferry Road and with the move comes a name change.

This composed salad is a popular dish at Pho Lavang.

Chris and Lucy Nguyen have renovated the building at 16120 SW Boones Ferry Road for Pho Lavang, the new name of their restaurant. The building is large; it was previously used by Blockbuster Video. Chris and Lucy are excited about the new space and what it will allow them to offer the community.

Chris tells me the menu will remain the same, and, in addition to beer, wine and sake, a full bar menu will be added. The move is planned for early March.

Curries are also popular dishes at Pho Lavang.

Haven’t had Vietnamese food before? Let me tell you a little about it. What I like most about the cuisine is its freshness; it relies on fresh herbs, vegetables and select spices to create the flavor profile. Here are some of the traditional Vietnamese dishes served at Pho Lavang.

Often referred to as “the soul of the nation,” pho is Vietnam’s national dish. It is a delicious and nutritious noodle soup that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Making the flavorful broth is time consuming, but it is well worth the wait. To the broth you can add protein (meat, chicken, shrimp or tofu), bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, lime, chili and green onions. It is the best remedy for colds you can imagine. Pho Lavang offers several types of pho.

Bun are bowls of rice noodles topped with lettuce, mint, cilantro, carrot and cucumber topped with crush peanuts, fried onion and fish sauce.

Com are rice dishes; you can choose between Jasmine or brown rice at Pho Lavang. The rice is plated then topped with your choice of protein and plenty of cucumbers, carrots and other accoutrements.

Other menu items Pho Lavang will serve are stir fried dishes, Vietnamese sandwiches, salad rolls, egg rolls, lettuce wraps, chicken and shrimp skewers and a variety of salads, including the Lavang Salad with chicken and shrimp, asparagus and cucumbers, mint and cilantro and more.

Beverages include Vietnamese coffee, mango nectar and Lavang specialty tea, iced tea, soft drinks and smoothies plus beer, wine, sake and a full bar.

We’ve got a short wait before Pho Lavang opens, but in the meantime you can visit the original restaurant at 17770 SW Pilkington Road in Lake Oswego. It will be open seven days a week. The current hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. That closing time may change at the new location.

I love the pho Chris and Lucy make and recognize that, though the method is simple, the list of ingredients is long, and the time needed to make the broth even longer. If you want pho, order it from Pho Lavang. They do it right.

But to give you a sample of authentic Vietnamese cuisine I offer this recipe for Vietnamese Fried Rice. The list of ingredients should be simple to find and the preparation will be simple. Try it before you visit Pho Lavang.

Pho Lavang will open early March in the building Blockbuster used at Boones Ferry Road in Lake Oswego.

Bon Appétit! Make eating an adventure!

Vietnamese Fried Rice

Serves 4 as a main course

Ingredients:

2 bunches scallions

3 large carrots

2 cups fresh bean sprouts

2 large eggs

For seasoning liquid

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

5 cups chilled, cooked Chinese-style white rice

2 1/2 tablespoons corn or safflower oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves

1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts

Preparation

Finely chop enough scallions to measure about 2 cups and coarsely shred enough carrots to measure about 2 cups. Rinse bean sprouts and trim stringy root ends if desired. In a small bowl lightly beat eggs.

Make seasoning liquid:

In a small bowl stir together seasoning liquid ingredients.

Spread rice in a shallow baking pan and separate grains with a fork.

In a deep 12-inch heavy, non-stick skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and stir-fry eggs until scrambled, about 30 seconds. Add scallions, garlic and red pepper flakes and stir-fry about 15 seconds, or until fragrant. Add carrots and bean sprouts and stir-fry until carrots begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through. Stir seasoning liquid and add to fried rice, tossing to coat evenly.

Serve fried rice sprinkled with cilantro or mint and dry-roasted peanuts.

“Gourmet,” April 1998

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached online at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 503-636-1281, ext. 100. Follow her on Twitter at @barbrandallfood



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