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Vietnamese Street Food in Soho – Keu London:
I know very little about Vietnamese food. So, being invited to try the famous Banh Mi (vietnamese sandwiches) was an interesting challenge. I have to admit to hesitating. I wasn’t sure whether Keu, Vietnamese Kitchen would be a good place to start my food journey.
It turns out that Banh Mi is a product of French colonisation of Vietnam. For many, it has become an art form. I’d suggest reading through some other food bloggers to get a better insight into what makes a good Banh Mi – The Picky Glutton has a pretty good round-up for the curious here.
When we arrived at Keu I was actually quite suprised. The Soho cafe doesn’t have an online menu so I was happy to find that actually there was plenty to eat beside Bahn Mi. And suprisingly good cocktails.
Though my companion picked the healthier option of an avocado smoothie which was made with a mixture of avocado, milk and condensed milk.
As it happens, we couldn’t have ordered the ‘signature’ Banh Mi Keu because they’d already sold out. But, since my dining companion was the pescatarian Hedonist, we wouldn’t have done so either. Instead we went for ‘smokey Aubergine’ – a vegetarian option. From what I understand that I ‘should be appreciating’ it was spot on – a crisp, fresh baguette with a soft centre. More importantly, I really enjoyed it.
If you asked me to pick though, I’d go for the Goi Cuon, the summer roll, every time. Mostly because I try to avoid eating too much bread. But, also because this was a compelling and delicious mixture of green papaya and very plump sweet prawns in a rice wrapped, with a sweet peanut hoisin sauce on the side that I had to stop myself from eating by the teaspoonful.
I want to go back now and try a meaty Banh Mi though. Just to see.
Of the main courses, I think the Hedonist won, with Com Ca Kno – a Mackerel bowl which came with a slow cooked piece of mackerel caramelised in fish sauce, galangal and chilli. The kind of dish which a true foodie would smack their lips at and mutter under a hushed breath about umami. In other words, delicious.
My Com Ca Ri Ga was lovely, but more of a mainstream choice – chunks of chicken with carrot, potato and I think sweet potato, with a yellow curry sauce laced with cashew nuts and lemon grass.
There’s only one pudding on the menu. Che Ba Mau is a mixture of grean mung beans, white black eyed peas and red azuki beans in a kind of granita with coconut milk. Not my thing, I found it much too icey. But, The Hedonist devoured it eagerly, which all goes to show how much taste is a personal thing.
I want to try more now. I liked this cafe style place, where you can enjoy a cocktail, glass of wine or beer for £5-£7 and where you can order a Banh Mi for £7.59 or a rice bowl for under £10. Next time I’m having a Banh Mi Thit nuong, with barbecued pork in lemongrass and five spice. And, if I’ve got space, a Pho Ca ri Ga – a chicken pho.
Keu Soho Vietnamese Kitchen
9 Poland Street,
Soho, London W1F 8PY