By Jo Cooksey
We have travelled to the Far East a couple of times but to date we haven’t been to Vietnam. Though it is on our list of countries to visit. However, there are now quite a few Vietnamese restaurants in Manchester and two of the best are near us in Ancoats. Nam on Cutting Room Square, who do a brilliant lunch offering and Viet Shack on Great Ancoats Street for when you want the works.
We started visiting Viet Shack at its stall in the Arndale Market. The food was always spot on and so tasty. Anyone who hasn’t experienced their Quack Fries is just not living their best life. We were cock-a-hoop to hear they were opening a ‘proper’ sit down restaurant and we there as soon as they opened last year. This isn’t a chain restaurant, owned by a faceless London corporation, this is the real deal. Both sets of the owners’ parents were born in Vietnam, so the food is as authentic as it gets.
We have been several times over the last year and every time we come away singing their praises. There is no booking system, you have to turn up and queue. Although I have to say I usually go straight after work, so I have never waited more than 10 minutes. The rough-hewn wood, paper lanterns, clatter in the kitchen, fast moving staff and graffiti gives a genuine atmosphere of a Far Eastern food market.
The menu is mouthwatering, from a large selection of small plates to lots of classic larger bowls like Pho. Even Asian inspired burgers and fries. It always takes us ages to choose because basically, we want everything. The last time I went, one of my friends treated me for my birthday and we did do our best to work our way through the menu.
When it comes to the small plates, we always choose some Goi Cuon (Summer Rolls). The freshness of the herbs and juiciness of the King Prawns is perfect. As is the Spicy Peanut Butter sauce that comes with them. This time we also picked the Bong Cai Xanh or Charred Asian broccoli with burnt kimchi ketchup. I really love broccoli and cauliflower when then have been cooked over charcoal. It adds a whole different dimension and texture to the flavour.
Next! For mains we went with Com Thit Nuong rice dishes. These comprise freshly steamed sticky rice topped with charcoaled BBQ meat or cauliflower. Layered with fresh greens, pickled veg, Asian herbs, crushed peanuts and chilli lime sauce. All the excellent flavours of the Far East. In the end we both went with a meat choice. Me with the aromatic lamb chops, marinated in kaffir lime leaves and orange peel and my pal with the crispy, spicy duck fillets with homemade sriracha jam. Absolute food heaven. My mouth is actually watering while I write this and I’m wondering if I can fit in a sneaky visit on my way home tonight.
After all that we still had a little cake sized bit of room in our tums and so finished off our feast with a slice of Pandan sponge cake with lemongrass and ginger crumb, topped with homemade coconut ice cream.
Oh and for all you puppy parents out there, Viet Shack welcome well behaved pooches.
Will We Return?
Do we even need to answer that question?
We paid for our meal at Viet Shack and enjoyed it so much we wanted to spread the word.