|Huong’s Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: SW 10th between SW Alder and Washington|
|Hours: weekday lunch||Times Visited: 3|
Another fairly new addition to a vegan’s guide of the downtown lunch cart scene, Huong’s Vietnamese Food is a pleasantly green cart on SW 10th and Alder.
Now three meals in, I’d call myself a fan of the menu listings, staff, and happy cart vibe. This silly vegan finally ordered the pho for her third meal from Huong. After almost enjoying her previous two orders, I knew I had to try the cart’s specialty. As for what is vegan vs. vegetarian, one vegetarian dish clearly involves egg noodles, but the other vegetarian dishes are prepared with a “vegetarian sauce” instead of fish sauce and oyster sauce. It is unclear if this is a packaged sauce or housemade like at the adorably vegan-friendly I Love Thai Food a couple carts down.
There is one small table for immediate cart seating, but I prefer to take my food back to my place of employment or to the defunct food court seating across from the lot below the Western Culinary Institute inside the Galleria. The food is prepared quickly, even for a food cart. All three of my meals were prepared in less than ten minutes and wrapped in the standard plastic bag with napkins,plastic cutlery, and chopsticks with the pho. For the more environmentally conscious and prepared – bring some tupperware and personal cutlery!
My first order, the Vegetarian Curry ($6), was a well-cooked sweet potato centric party in some sweet curried sauce (minus the cilantro). There were about three chunks of dense gluten and a fair share of bean curd sheets, but none of the tofu mentioned on the menu. The most overwhelming aspect of the dish was the rice. As you can see below, there was more rice than actual curry. You could surely stuff yourself with rice or take some home and make another meal with it, like fried rice, but I would have liked to see more sauce in the curry so things could spread out.
The best thing I can say about the Vegetarian Dish ($6) is that it is intriguing. Basically there are strange objects floating in mellow, yet sweet broth and another side of fluffy white rice. Think of it as an exploration. The objects I met included dried plum, more sweet potato, delicate pumpkin chunks, one piece of gluten, and lotus seeds. For all the intrigue, the dish was lacking intriguing taste. I just didn’t get it. I gave my ample leftovers to a friend who agreed with this sad sentiment.
The Vegetarian Pho ($5) is vegan by default and seems to be freshly prepared. I noticed vegetables and noodles cooking while the contents were dished out. As lamented on Portland Food Carts, the large paper cup and plastic packed sides are extraneous and I was inspired to portion of pho into a bowl at work. If I hadn’t done that, I felt like I wouldn’t have been able to properly maneuver the variety the dish offers. As the cheapest main dish vegan option on the menu, the pho packs green vegetables, diced mushrooms, rice noodles, fried tofu cubes, bean curd sheets, and more into a base cup of bland broth. This time, there was none of the gluten mentioned on the menu. You are provided with a prepared plastic bag with a section of lime, fresh basil, two sliced hot green peppers, bean sprouts, a packet of soy sauce, and two tiny plastic containers of chili sauce and what seemed to be a thick dark sauce which I assumed to be a plum/hoisin type. I did not try that sauce out of vegan suspicion, but will ask next time I go.
Maybe the non-vegetarian pho broth is better, I don’t care, but I did rely on the provided soy sauce, lime, and basil as well as some Sriracha I had on hand to kick some life into it. I know these are used to add flavor to the broth, but they were really needed here as the base broth was almost flavorless. It’s sad to think vegans might be missing out on a better broth. Overall there are worse ways and to spend a mere $5 on a lunch downtown, and dissecting this meal I do find myself reflecting enthusiastically about the volume of warm soup contents, chewy bean curd sheets, and abundance of noodles. I hate running out of noodles first when eating pho and had plenty remaining when reheating my leftovers. There are also vegetarian salad rolls available two for $3 and a lemongrass tofu and vegetable dish.
I would like to support this vegan friendly, quick cart, but none of the dishes have yet to have a real hold on me. I know that vegetarian dishes were added to the original menu, and they are appreciated in concept – but it’s so much tastier to get my Pad Kee Mow noodle on at I Love Thai food next door or a veganized Whole Bowl around the corner. If you’re a fan of this cart, please share with us! While my favorite Vietnamese soup is from Van Hanh out on SE 82nd, having another vegan pho option downtown is fun, especially in the wintertime. Admittedly, even Pho PDX‘s namesake is more tempting with more chunks of tofu, indoor seating and a large bowl to eat out of since take away pho loses some of the comfort-food aspect the noodle soup offers.