Epoch Times, Singapore Edition (Issue 489), June 20 – July 3, 2014
By Li Yen
Epoch Times Staff
Food is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience a culture, and if you want to get a glimpse into Vietnamese street food culture, NamNam Noodle Bar is the ultimate choice.
Well-loved by Singaporeans as well as Vietnamese, NamNam Noodle Bar is a fast-paced, casual bistro that’s easy on the wallet. Brought to Singapore by the Les Amis Group in 2012, NamNam Noodle Bar aims to bring Vietnamese street food to the world stage.
The man at the helm of NamNam is Chef Nam Quoc Nguyen who hails from Vietnam, but grew up and lived in Denmark for most of his life. NamNam is the Danish word for ‘yummy’, and also takes after the name of Chef Nam. NamNam Noodle Bar currently has four outlets islandwide, with two more outlets to be added to the list later this year.
We visited the newly-opened NamNam outlet at Plaza Singapura, which is an open concept eatery lined with wooden tables and stools. The green coloured tiles, giant pillar with old Vietnamese newspaper prints, and the iconic red lanterns are reminiscent of Vietnam with an urban feel.
The seating arrangement in NamNam is geared towards creating the cosiest setting: small tables for groups of four, high tables for groups of five or six, or single tables for the lone diner who is visiting the eatery for a quick bite.
The menu offers a selection of popular Vietnamese street food, with a strong emphasis on quality. Chef Nam meticulously curates his menu to offer street food from all regions of Vietnam, to cater to his various diners’ tastes. NamNam believes that ‘Good food should be enjoyed by everyone’, and seeks to make Vietnamese street food accessible—and affordable. The chain does not use monosodium glutamate (MSG) or preservatives in its cooking, allaying the concerns of diners who get particularly thirsty or bloated with MSG consumption.
New items on the menu include Sauteed Lemongrass Pork and Cream Cheese Banh Mi (S$6.90), Sardines in Tomato Sauce Banh Mi (S$5.90), Dry Sauteed Lemongrass Pork Noodle (S$9.90), Seafood Noodle Soup (S$9.90) and Pho Pork Balls (S$8.90). For vegetarians, NamNam offers Banh Mi stuffed with lemongrass tofu, egg omelette and fresh herbs (S$5.90) and other dishes as well.
Amongst the desserts, the crispy fresh banana with sesame seeds and smoked coconut sauce (warm) (S$3.90) garners the highest reviews from Vietnamese diners who patronise NamNam. But if you prefer a sweet and cooling dessert, the Chilled 3-colour dessert (S$3.90) fits the bill. This toothsome dessert gets its colours from the mixture of jelly, red beans and coconut milk, resembling a Vietnamese version of the local dessert—Chendol!
We also loved the dry sauteed lemongrass pork noodles (S$9.90) that we ordered. A popular dish in Vietnam as well as in NamNam, it came in a big bowl of chewy rice vermicelli topped with crispy spring roll, shrimp paste, bean sprouts, and peanuts in a perfect harmony of savoury goodness.
The flavour was further enhanced by chopped fresh herbs, which were refreshing on the palate. The crunchy bits of peanut added great texture to the smooth and soft vermicelli, and the pork was aromatic and mouth-wateringly tender.
This sweet-and-sour dish was so addictive we wiped the bowl clean, and is definitely a dish to return regularly for.
Pho (rice flour noodle with broth) is one of the most well-known dishes in Vietnamese cuisine. The Pho Chicken (S$7.90) we had was light and delicious, and came with a generous portion of chicken. To cater to local tastebuds, the broth tasted lighter and less intense than the pho we have had in Vietnam.
Vietnamese usually have a cup of lotus tea after eating pho, so we rounded off our meal with a pot of soothing Lotus Tea. The two complemented each other perfectly and made for a healthy and refreshing meal.
If you are not used to pho, you can choose to substitute the rice flour noodles with instant noodles instead.
Not forgetting Banh Mi (toasted baugettes stuffed with meats and vegetables), the most popular choices in NamNam are the Sauteed Lemongrass Pork and Cream Cheese Banh Mi (S$6.90) and the Cold Cuts, Caramelised Five-Spice Pork Belly and Chicken Floss Banh Mi (S$6.90). NamNam worked closely with a local supplier to create this special baguette, which is as close as possible to the real deal in Vietnam.
We tried the flavourful and wholesome Sauteed Lemongrass Pork, Cream Cheese Banh Mi. The freshly baked baguettes were golden-crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside. Beneath the baguette’s crispy exterior was decadent lemongrass pork, fresh herbs, cucumber, cilantro and creamy cheese. This Asian and French-inspired sandwich is both a delicious and healthy choice.
The dry spicy minced meat pork balls noodles (S$9.90) is a dish that has been modified to suit Singaporeans’ tastebuds, and resembles a local favourite—bak chor mee! It was almost exactly like our local fare, except soft boiled eggs and herbs had been added to the dish. This made it more fragrant and savoury—bak chor mee with a Vietnamese twist.
For appetisers, we tried Fresh Southern Rolls with Prawn (S$4.90), which came with fresh herbs and peanut sauce. This pretty and refreshing traditional dish is made with prawns, vermicelli rice noodles, cucumber, fresh herbs and cilantro, wrapped like a flower in rice paper. The thin angel hair vermicelli together with the succulent prawns were light, crisp and refreshing. The peanut sauce is made from scratch, and is also tailored to the local palate. Dipping the roll into the sweet, rich peanut sauce balances out the roll’s lightness. This dish is pleasing to both the eye and the palate, and is a popular appetizer in Vietnam.
Chef Nam, the mastermind behind the Vietnamese restaurant chain, devotes attention to every single detail, from food and decor to the table setting. This fast-paced and casual eatery caters to a wide range of diners, and is an excellent dining choice for busy Singaporeans who yearn for a quick, affordable, and healthy meal.
The queues at NamNam are always long. But the staff move quickly, so you won’t have to wait too long to be served. Without a doubt, NamNam Noodle Bar is a definite culinary hit in Singapore.
From – http://issuu.com/liyen/docs/june20-july3_44_namnam (Pg 1),
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