For what seems like 8 months out of the year, we Montrealers are the winter veterans of Canada, and this "polar vortex" thing is our bitch. To tame the frigid temperatures and to release the clutch of winter’s testicular pinching grip, our bodies crave hot and hearty foods. To keep me functioning when it's cold enough outside that snot literally freezes in my head, my weapon of choice is noodle soup.
A tiny basement spot in Cote des Neiges called Sen Vang (family owned and operated Vietnamese restaurant) have been satiating my noodle rage recently, a hunger that seems to be an endless void. Serving the traditional tonkinese noodle soup known as "pho," their menu is concise and direct. With but only a handful of dishes on the menu, Sen Vang's hearty soups packed with beefy goodness, slippery noodles, and aromatic accouterments keep my stomach full and fuel my mid-day nap.
The “dac biet” is where it’s at; beef flank, brisket, tendon, tripe and beef balls, this bowl is the all-dressed in the world of tonkinese noodle soups. With a quick squirt of lemon juice and steeping of Thai basil, the deep beefy broth comes alive.
The dac biet is nice, but what you really want to order is the “bun bo hue”. Not listed on the menu, you’ll have to order this noodle by name. Pronounced, “boon-bo-way”, this noodle is a beef bone based soup that sees the inclusion of fragrant lemongrass and chilis. A dish that’s often reserved for weekend menus at a handful of Vietnamese restaurants around town – due to its time consuming preparation – Sen Vang serves this bad boy on the daily.
Generous slices of beef and “cha lua” – Vietnamese steamed pork loaf – float in this spicy soup that will warm you up from the bones out. Bun bo hue comes with its own unique chili paste called “sate”; a combination of chilies, garlic, shrimp paste, unicorn tears and souls of vegans. This condiment brings out the sweetness of the chilies and bright hits of lemongrass, as well as complimenting the profound beefiness of the soup.
Jason is the stomach behind Shut Up and Eat – a Montreal based food blog dedicated to all things delicious. He vows to not leave one hot pot lid unturned, snail shell hollowed, or souvlaki foil emptied until he can safely say that he ate his way across Montreal. It’s a big claim, and it’s one he's making.