Soft-Food Diet, Week 10 of 12: Mai Vietnamese Fusion
Here's something to try when you're on a Christmas shopping trip at WEM
By Steven Sandor | November 16, 2023
Let’s face it. Many of us are going to spend at least a day or two in the coming month at West Edmonton Mall. We have Christmas shopping to get done. Crowds to navigate. Parking spots to hunt down.
And, chances are, at some point, you’re going to need a break. You need time to think about what to get that aunt you only ever see on Christmas Day. You need to ponder if your kid’s grade-school teacher is worthy of more than a gift card. Of course, with me nearing the end of my post-oral-surgery convalescence, I have the added complexity of needing to find a place that serves something that isn’t… crunchy.
This past weekend, I found myself on BRBN ST. And, sure, the many chain-restaurant options that line the darkened indoor avenue are all well and good. Judging by the number of people I saw waiting on benches for their names to be announced, it’s clear that the chain spots are all doing OK. But, when it comes to independent spots, you have to search a little more vigorously, and I was intrigued by Mai Vietnamese Fusion.
And, this is a place where “fusion” isn’t a throwaway term. In the soups section, I found pho (of course) but also variations on Tom Yum soup, which is a personal favourite. Tamarind, tomato, peppers, lemongrass — they all make for that glorious combination of sweetness and spice. But Tom Yum is something we associate with Thai cuisine. In fact, before today, I’ve never had one in a Vietnamese restaurant before. Now, that’s not to say that it’s not out there somewhere — but I was intrigued that this option was available, and I ordered it.
It came with basil leaves and bean sprouts, like you’d get with a bowl of pho. And, this rather large bowl of broth came loaded with rice noodles, which is something you don’t find when it’s ordered at Thai spots. So, there definitely was a fusion happening here.
I got the seafood variety, which came with crab meat, shrimp and fish balls. Now, the fish balls are rather, well, fishy, and they tend to be an acquired taste. The flavour is very strong, and I really liked them. There were healthy portions of crab and shrimp in the broth, and it was a little more sweet than some other Tom Yum varieties I’ve had. But, when you’re dealing with fish flavours, that extra sweetness came in handy.