On my last visit to Vancouver, local food hound, Grayelf introduced me to Vietnamese breakfast at Green Lemongrass. Before this, I didn’t have a clue what kinds of items might be served for a traditional Vietnamese breakfast. Most Vietnamese restaurants I typically frequent don’t open early enough to serve breakfast. The great thing about Green Lemongrass is that they have an extensive menu for breakfast. All of the breakfast items are $5. This gives us an opportunity to try as many dishes as our bellies can handle for a very affordable price.
On this visit, we decided to order a few items to share. Though the breakfast menu consisted of items such as congee and noodles, we focused on items that we normally may not typically find at other Vietnamese restaurants. We ordered the Banh Nam, the Bot Chien, the Banh Bot Loc, and the Banh Beo Chen.
The Banh Nam were little flat dumplings wrapped in banana leave bundles and served with a dish of dipping sauce (nuoc cham). The filling contained minced pork and dried shrimp. I enjoyed the texture of the Banh Nam as it was unique. The texture reminded me a little of the rice crepes (cheong fun) at Chinese dim sum although in this case the filling was embedded in the dumpling instead of being rolled up.
My favourite dish of the lot was the Bot Chien. The rice cakes were fried till they were crispy on the outside and held together with some fried egg. It was like an omelet with fried rice cakes on it and topped with scallions. I really enjoyed the combination of textures and flavours, the slight crispness of the rice cakes on the outside with the slightly chewy texture on the inside against the soft fried egg.
The Banh Beo Chen consisted of little dishes of steamed rice flour topped with dried shrimp. They were served with a dish of the nuoc cham dipping sauce. On its own the steamed rice flour would be very bland, but it really works well together with the crispy shrimp topping and the nuoc cham. The Banh Beo Chen is best eaten while its warm. As it starts cooling, the steamed rice flour turns into more of a rubbery texture.
The Banh Bot Loc were translucent tubular-shaped shrimp and ground pork dumplings wrapped in banana leaves and served with nuoc cham. The texture of the dumpling wrapper reminded me a little of the Chinese dim sum item Teochew fun guo. To me, the texture and flavour of the Banh Bot Loc tasted quite similar to the Banh Nam so on my next visit, I’d probably order either one or the other, but not both at the same time.
Because the owner recognized Grayelf from previous visits, she was kind enough to give us some complimentary Vietnamese dessert to try. The dessert, I believe, is called Chè xôi nước. It consists of balls made from mung bean paste and wrapped in a gelatinous shell of glutinous rice flour. The balls were served in a warm thick sweet soup made from water, sugar, and grated ginger. The dessert was topped with sesame seeds and some coconut milk. I really enjoyed this dessert. I liked the combination of the ginger flavour in the soup against the coconut milk and the chewiness of the glutinous dumpling balls. It reminded me a lot of tangyuan which is the Chinese version of this dessert. I’m not sure if this dessert is part of the normal menu at Green Lemongrass or whether it is a special order.
I really enjoyed breakfast at Green Lemongrass because of the variety. The dumplings are relatively light and non-greasy. They are unique and very different from the dumplings I’m used to a Chinese dim sum. I’d definitely go back to order the Bot Chien again. Also, I hope the dessert we tried is on their regular menu as I’d definitely want to order that again too.