Vancouver ( Vancouver Sun, Mar 1,2018):
During a cold crawl through winter, nothing nurtures like a steaming bowl of Asian noodles. It’s when pho and ramen become my besties.
I found a delicious bowl of pho for lunch at Banh Mi Tres Bon in Richmond, in a brightly lit café. I don’t care if bone broth isn’t quite the cure-all for ailing joints, bones and the immune system as recent claims suggest (science says that’s overblown) — pho boosts my well-being. No doubt about it.
At Banh Mi Tres Bon, the pho broth is made from organic beef bones from Chilliwack and the sliced tenderloin and meatballs in the soup are organic as well. Bones are simmered with ginger, onions, and toasted spices for 12 to 15 hours and the pho comes with a large bone with marrow ($12). Delicious! Owner Lan Do sources as much organic products as she can and uses free-run, hormone free pork and chicken.
This is a Vietnamese café with its historic French influence with offerings of French pastries. If an afternoon tea appeals, you’ll be served TWG, one of the best brands.
But back to the savories. As the name suggests, there’s a love-in with banh mi, the baguette sandwiches the Vietnamese tweaked for their palates. While the French baguette stands up very well to cheeses and cured meats, it’s not the perfect vessel for the lighter fillings the Vietnamese prefer. So they tweaked, making it lighter with a more delicate crumb (rice flour helps) and a crackly but non-resistant crust. (Do you, like me, fear pulling out your teeth while doing battle with the perfect French baguette?)
Do says the bahn mi (bread) is house made.
“It’s now mass produced, and recipes kind of got lost. We make it like it used to be made.”
I ordered the Bahn Mi Trio ($11) where, for a few dollars more than the regular ones, you get three minis with different fillings — meatballs, chicken and “house special” with Vietnamese ham and braised lean pork belly. I liked the small, tidy, house-made buns with more elasticity than most.
A Vietnamese beef stew ($11), Do says, is nothing like the North American version; it’s made with beef shank and Asian spices, has rice noodles, and comes with a bun to sop up all the goodness. We rounded out lunch with a green papaya salad which could have stood some chili action.
For Do, this isn’t just a business. She gave up a corporate career (marketing, high-tech, publishing) to the consternation of friends and family to work with her real love — food.
“They said I was crazy, and why would I take the risk. But I’ve always loved food and travelling, and the timing was perfect,” she says of opening Bahn Mi Tres Bon in 2016. Her kids had grown, so she spent three months in Vietnam, tasting her way from north to south.
Do’s family immigrated to Vancouver in 1979, post war, when she was eight. The family was of Chinese descent and allowed to emigrate, avoiding the perilous escapes of so many from South Vietnam.
“My parents were business people, but they saw the future and we left as a whole family.”
Her café, she says, isn’t just about food. She’s serious about mentoring and team-building and giving back to the community.
“We have regular team meetings and bonding events and donate to causes. “We started with six employees and a year and a half later, we are at 21 team members.”