I have previously described Banh Mi Saigon as one of the few places I’ll write about that does not serve dumplings. But in their new incarnation they have expanded their menu to include wontons, so I can now review them without a qualifier.
Banh Mi Saigon built its reputation selling sandwiches and Pho in a small space in a strip mall in Hadley MA. After a devastating fire that destroyed the mall in October 2013 and wiped out some great businesses, the owners of Banh Mi Saigon regrouped and rebuilt in a bigger space in Northampton MA. They are being helped out by Common Capital, a Holyoke-based nonprofit community development financial group, that is backing several of my favorite Pioneer Valley restaurants, including Oriental Flavor. Banh Mi Saigon is now back and experimenting with some new menu items, making their classics again and re-establishing itself as one of the best restaurants in the Pioneer Valley.
The Dumplings: this is the first Vietnamese restaurant I have seen that sells dumplings, the new menu includes pork wontons, chicken wontons and vegetable wontons. The wontons come in a chicken broth based Pho stock or a veggie Pho broth. I don’t eat chicken so I tried both the pork and vegetable wontons in veggie Pho broth. The wontons turned out not to be the traditional Chinese style but instead were deep fried dumplings. Both styles of wontons had tasty fillings and, even crispy fried, the wrapper dough had absorbed Pho flavor from the broth. Be careful when you bite into these wontons they are juicy and squirt.
The Broth: When it comes to wontons the soup is as important as the dumplings. Banh Mi Saigon’s Pho broth takes the better part of a day to cook up, and while I hear the chicken broth is delicious, I have only tried the veggie broth. The broth is packed with aromatics and flavor and as can been seen in the photos, is served loaded with vegetables. Probably the best touch is the flakes of caramelized onions that float in the broth and provide smokey sweetness.
The Location: the new location for Banh Mi Saigon is in downtown Northampton MA near Moshi Moshi.