By Cassandra VanKeuren Special to the Herald
We have all been there: too hot to cook and everything at restaurants sounds too heavy to eat on a hot day.
Well, I have discovered that Vietnamese food offers a perfect solution to summer dining.
At most pho restaurants, there are other menu options for our rare hot days. One of my favorites is cold rice noodles served with a mix of shredded cabbage, carrot, sprouts, cucumber and daikon, or white radish.
Alongside of that dish are skewers of seasoned meat of your choice.
As an accompaniment, crushed toasted peanuts, crisp shallots and a light dressing is also served and meant to be mixed in with the vegetables and noodles.
I always find this meal refreshing and lightly filling.
My favorite place to get this dish is Pho Mai Noodles in Everett and on the menu you see it named Bun Bi Thit Nuong (this place serves it only with barbecued pork).
On my most recent visit to a Vietnamese restaurant, however, I went to a different place with my family. We visited Janbo Cafe, which specializes in Vietnamese and Chinese food.
Of course they serve pho and I had heard from my friends that it was very good. But on this visit I was determined to have Vietnamese salad ($7).
My husband ordered a pork Banh Mi ($3.25), a Vietnamese sandwich.
My son ordered off the kids’ menu and got sweet and sour chicken ($4.95).
For an appetizer, we ordered fresh salad rolls ($3.95).
Our fresh salad rolls came two to an order. Salad rolls are rice noodles, mint, lettuce, barbecued pork, shrimp and shredded carrot all wrapped up in softened rice paper sheets. They are served with a peanut dipping sauce. I could have just eaten these for dinner. The rolls were so light and fresh. Perfect for a hot day.
My son’s sweet and sour chicken arrived first. His meal was pretty typical. Lightly battered fried chicken pieces, pineapple chunks, green bell pepper and carrot, all served in a bright red sauce. My son enjoyed it and I was impressed with how lightly fried the chicken was. Not greasy at all.
My salad arrived next. The salad was served with seasoned and grilled chicken thighs sliced and placed atop a bed of shredded cabbage, cilantro and daikon. As an additional topping, there were toasted peanuts and fried shallots.
I loved the hot savory chicken mixed with cool vegetables. The dressing was tart and spicy. This salad convinced me this was definitely one of my favorite hot weather foods. I felt satisfied but not stuffed.
My husband’s sandwich arrived last, so there seemed to be a bit of a problem getting the food out at the same time. The sandwich roll was soft on the inside and crisp on the outside: your basic French roll. The pork was seasoned and hot on the inside. On top there were shredded cucumber, carrot and daikon. For added flavor there was cilantro and sliced jalapeno. I would say this is a larger sandwich than you would get at other pho restaurants. My husband enjoyed his sandwich immensely.
I also liked that you could call ahead and order a few sandwiches to go and have something tasty and cheap to take on a day trip or for your night shift.
Here’s something to keep in mind if you suffer from peanut allergies: Do not visit a Vietnamese restaurant unless you can effectively communicate with the cook to make sure no peanuts end up in your food.
I think what I enjoy about Vietnamese food is all the fresh vegetables that are prepared in a different way than our typical American diet. The sauces and dressings are so fresh tasting and refreshing. It makes it fun to eat in hot weather.
So next time you can’t stand the idea of turning on the stove, grab the car keys and head to your local pho/Vietnamese restaurant and discover the fresh flavors of Vietnam.
Pho Mai Noodles
5129 Evergreen Way S, Suite A, Everett; 425-303-8866; www.phomainoodles.com
Speciality: Vietnamese pho
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday
6125 Evergreen Way, Everett; 425-347-2688.
Specialty: Chinese and Vietnamese
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Vegetarian options: Vegan friendly.