Savoring the Tastes of Vietnam

Posted: August 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Peabody, Sugar Cane | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments »

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As huge fans of Asian cuisine, we’d been meaning to get to Sugar Cane, near Peabody Square, for quite a while. We’re now kicking ourselves for having waited so long.

Aside from one dish we didn’t love, everything we put in our mouths on recent visit was superb, starting with the drinks. We tried a sake-tini, a mai tai, and the zombie. All were delicious, and the mai tai stood out as better tasting than others we’ve had at other Asian restaurants.

While sipping, we studied the menu, which includes both Chinese and Vietnamese dishes for each category, side by side. Since Vietnamese is hard to come by north of Boston, we agreed to order from that side, with the exception of the house pan-fried dumplings ($6), which came with ginger soy and were crispy and light—some of the best we’ve had (and we’ve had a lot).

The small bowl of beef pho ($4) was fine but seemed bland. When we added the hoisin and hot sauces it came with, though, the flavor came alive. We also enjoyed the banh xeo crepe ($8), a large, crisp omelet with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and mung bean. It’s a must-have. The nem cuon summer roll with grilled pork ($6) was billed as a Vietnamese specialty, so we gave it a spin but didn’t like the texture of the meat. More likely our American palates than a miss from the kitchen.

All the entrees we ordered were dishes we would have again, starting with the chicken with lemongrass ($10). Wonderful savory flavor with tender meat and crisp-tender vegetables. The kho salmon with baby bok choy ($13) featured two large fillets, perfectly cooked and topped with a delicious spiced caramel sauce.

The mango shrimp were firm and good sized, with plenty of mango, peppers, and onions to accompany them ($13). Our last entrée was angel hair Singapore style with curry sauce, chicken, shrimp, pork, peppers, and onions ($8), which was spicy but not overly so and really hit the spot. Next time, we may try the tempting option of creating our own stir fry with many options for meat, vegetables, and sauces.

The service was extremely attentive and friendly, with our waiter calling over the manager when he couldn’t understand one of our questions about the drink menu. For those of you who’ve been curious about Vietnamese cuisine, Sugar Cane is a sure bet—and you can go with someone not as adventurous thanks to the Chinese dishes on offer.

Sugar Cane
106 Main St, Peabody
(978) 532-7800
www.sugarcanepeabody.com

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8 Comments on “Savoring the Tastes of Vietnam”

  1. #1 Aaron said at 2:44 pm on August 14th, 2009:

    My wife and I have been going to Sugar Cane regularly since it opened. You’ve mentioned some great dishes there. Here are a few more that I recommend trying. Canh Chua Vietnamese hot and sour soup is an intensely and brightly flavored soup containing pineapple, tomato, bean sprouts, mint and either chicken or shrimp. It is spicy, but the intensity comes more from the sour tamarind broth. It’s normally served for two, but you can request a single serving. I think the Canh Chua is their best dish.

    Their Vermicelli Bowl is also excellent. It’s served as a bed of rice (stick) noodles with bean sprouts, lettuce, mint, cucumber, ground peanuts, and seasoned with fish sauce. It has a very light and summery taste. There are several choices of meats and vegetables with which to top them. My favorite is the grilled beef which is marinated and very thinly sliced. I’d recommend against the grilled shrimp for this. They tend to be over-salty in this application.

  2. #2 JR said at 1:54 pm on August 17th, 2009:

    Hi Aaron,

    Thank you so much for all of this great information! I’m thrilled to have your recommendations because I plan to go back to Sugar Cane as soon as possible. The soup sounds wonderful, will definitely give it a try. It’s funny you mention the vermicelli bowl because I almost ordered it (got the Shanghai noodles instead). Have you tried the lemongrass chicken? I thought it was outstanding.

  3. #3 Aaron said at 11:16 am on August 19th, 2009:

    Hi JR.
    I haven’t tried the lemongrass chicken but my wife has. If I remember correctly she enjoyed it but she doesn’t order it regularly. She usually opts for the pho or a stir-fry with chicken, baby bok choy and garlic sauce.

    When you get the vermicelli bowl the ingredients are arranged in sections (like bibimbap or a cobb salad) and it looks lovely. However, for me to really enjoy this dish, this order must be destroyed. The fish sauce, which is the primary flavoring agent, is thin like water, and so even when poured over the whole dish it tends to shed from the ingredients and accumulate at the bottom of the bowl. To allay this, I find that stirring the ingredients after every few bites renews this dish’s flavor. I’m not sure if it’s intended to be eaten that way. For all I know there could be a cultural taboo against it. But that wouldn’t make it any less delicious.

  4. #4 JR said at 3:15 pm on August 20th, 2009:

    Okay–good to know. I promise to destroy order vigorously when eating the vermicelli bowl!

    Jill

  5. #5 galleygirl said at 11:42 am on August 25th, 2009:

    Gottah say, as a hard-core Vietnamese fan, I find Sugarcane pretty mediocre. I’ve had one decent meal; the bun, and I did get the grilled shrimp which I thought were great on it, as well as the grilled vegetable, which aren’t authentic, but lovely.

    The Can Chua is one dimensional, without all the lovely veggies and depth of flavor this usually has. I’d say the same about the pho…If you’re going to stay on the North Shore for Vietnamese, try going to Mittapheap in Lynn, which, although Cambodian, has some good versions of Vietnamese dishes. If not, come into town, and I’ll show you around…

  6. #6 JR said at 3:25 pm on August 25th, 2009:

    Hi Galleygirl! Thanks for stopping by. We freely admit we are no experts when it comes to Vietnamese food. But we are quite willing to learn! I’m wondering if you’d be up for meeting us for a meal at Mittaheap. We’d love to try it, and since it’s North Shore, we could share the experience with our readers. You could advise us on what to order and help us identify the flavors in the dishes. You can reply here and/or e-mail me at jill at northshoredish.com

  7. #7 JR said at 3:28 pm on September 9th, 2009:

    Aaron, I went back to Sugar Cane for lunch on Saturday. Had the pan fried dumplings and the vermicelli bowl with beef. Really, really good. Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. #8 Aaron said at 2:32 pm on October 20th, 2009:

    Glad you liked it!


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