My introduction to Nam Phuong, one of many Vietnamese restaurants along Washington Avenue, comes thanks to a comment from one of my blog readers, Beth, who suggested I check out Nam Phuong if I wanted a bowl of vegetarian soup. Beth also mentioned that Nam Phuong has an entire vegetarian section on the menu, which is sort of rare amongst the Washington Avenue Vietnamese restaurants.It's true, Nam Phuong does have a vegetarian section on the menu, which includes 17 dishes ranging from spring rolls, summer rolls, rice vermicelli bowls, soup, tofu in curry, and eggplant in garlic sauce. Prices are reasonable ($5.95 to $7.95 for entrees), and the amount of food is substantial (I haven't been able to finish any entree, yet).I was so happy to see vegetarian sweet and sour soup on the menu, since I love it so and have not had it in a restaurant in some time, so I skipped Beth's recommendation to order an off-the-menu vegetarian noodle soup, but will be back to do so soon.
Nam Phuong's steaming hot bowl of sweet and sour broth is chock full of goodies — mung bean sprouts, celery, okra, tofu, tomatoes, pineapple, and these curious half moon slices of malanga stem (I had to ask what the vegetable was because I enjoyed it's porous and spongy texture so much, I wanted to buy some — and I did right after dinner at the neighboring grocery). Garnished with scallions, herbs, and fried garlic, I found the broth perfect, so did not adulterate with the many condiments on the table. The rice vermicelli bowl topped with chopped spring rolls, lettuce, cucumbers and carrots is another behemoth to behold. Pour on the vegetarian nuoc cham, and any of the other condiments on the table (I like to add soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and Sriracha), give it a stir, and start carb loading. The crunchy, fried spring rolls were filled with a tasteless and almost mushy, finely chopped cabbage, so I don't think I'd order this dish again.Instead, I'd order the rice vermicelli bowl with stir fried lemongrass tofu and sprouts topped with crushed peanuts and scallions, which added lots of flavor and depth to the rice noodles, so much so, that I didn't even doctor up my bowl with condiments other than the nuoc cham.
Nam Phuong is a large restaurant, and is often packed during prime eating hours, but if you go on an off time, you can find yourself sitting almost alone in a vast sea of chairs and tables. Nam Phuong also has a bar with reasonable prices. Service is pretty speedy, with multiple servers tending to your table, but if you are ready for the check, be sure to make eye contact with a server or you will be sitting there for a while.
Thank you, Beth, for the solid recommendation.
1100-1120 Washington Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Open 7 days a week, 10 am-10 pm