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Miss Saigon serves up authentic Vietnamese cuisine

If you’ve ever wondered to yourself ‘where can I get a good pho noodle bowl?’ look no further than Miss Saigon, located in downtown Amherst. The restaurant’s signature dish boasts rice noodles, various beef cuts, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro and lime in a hot, savory broth. In fact, all noodle bowls are delicious and stay true to the traditional style of authentic Vietnamese cooking.

Miss Saigon opened in October 2008, and is owned by Vincent Tran.

“We use a lot of traditional recipes you would find back in Vietnam,” said Tran. “In addition, some of our recipes are passed down through our family and some are chef-inspired.”

On the question of what he would recommend to first-time diners, Tran responded, “The pho noodle bowl. It’s a very popular dish at our restaurant. We use a combination of beef and chicken broth to make our signature dish.”

Some of their beef cuts can be a little unusual for the average American palate, but are the typical taste in Vietnamese cooking. For instance, the various beef cuts in the pho range from run-of-the-mill flank and brisket to the more daring choices of beef balls (balls of meat, not testicles), tripe, a selection of meat from the cow’s stomach, and tendon.

It’s their bold selection that makes Miss Saigon unique, and they prepare their food wonderfully. Their menu selection mirrors similar Vietnamese restaurants in highly populated areas such as Boston and Springfield.

The eatery’s vegetarian selection is fresh and flavorful as well. They offer a variety of delicious vegetarian stir fry options with ingredients such as bok choy, eggplant, crispy bamboo shoots, sweet snow peas, tender mushrooms and zucchini. The combination of green and red peppers and the purple eggplant make this not only a delicious offering, but a visually satisfying one as well.

Their egg noodle chicken soup will kick Campbell’s to the curb when a cold or flu is coming on. Their mix of chicken, noodles, and various Asian veggies is a pick-me-up that would send swine flu running.

Their sugar cane shrimp and vermicelli plates are delightful, and represent some of the better Vietnamese cooking found around big city areas.

The newest offering at Miss Saigon is the Banh Mi sandwich. It consists of a mix of pickled carrots, onions, cilantro, paté and mayonnaise with a choice of BBQ beef or chicken, cold cut pork or veggies on a baguette. It’s the perfect lunch item on-the-go for the low price of $3.50.

Many of the dishes on the menu taste very similar to those found in typical Vietnamese restaurants around Boston. However, there aren’t many Vietnamese eateries in Amherst, which makes Miss Saigon stand out as a unique offering.

They also offer a selection of light desserts that compliment the meal perfectly. Various ice creams are on the menu with flavors ranging from the typical strawberry or chocolate to the more obscure red bean or lychee. The taro custard is soft and delicious, and the mixed fruit with tapioca will have any diner in harmony before leaving the restaurant.

However, the price range may be a little high for a downtown eatery. Vietnamese restaurants found in Boston are typically less expensive than Miss Saigon. Noodle bowls range from $8 to $9, but are delicious and filling; and diners can expect to bring home a doggie bag for a late-night snack. Entrées are priced more appropriately for a dinner menu, with veggie stir frys and chicken dishes running around $11.

Additionally, it can be a mixed bag when it comes to the wait service.

Miss Saigon will leave your stomach full and your spirit at peace. The restaurant is open weekdays from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Brendan Murphy can be reached at brendanm@student.umass.edu.

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