's location shifted north a few blocks from its former spot on Fifth Street and Washington Avenue about a year ago, but the element that gave the Vietnamese restaurant its character has remained. That's the owner, Hali Nguien. The garrulous and diplomatic lady of the house can still be found making the rounds between the kitchen (which guests can peep through a quirky little rectangular window next to the bar) and the dining room. All the while, she brags about the bistro's food ("It doesn't leave the kitchen unless it's perfect
!") or asks guests about their experience, while they take in her eccentric pop art inspired outfits and strong personality.
Like most Vietnamese restaurants, a good number of the dishes here contain some sort of animal product: beef stock, fish sauce, chicken and shrimp are common ingredients, for example. But Miss Saigon also offers vegetable, tofu, and even seitan dishes and gives diners the option to request vegetarian broth for their pho. I've dined there a few times and have always left the table totally stuffed (with yummy vegetables) and happy. Here's a look at my favorite veg-friendly dish on the menu: Miss Saigon's vegan pho, which Ms. Nguien herself continually assures me is "only vegetables, just for you."
|Vegan-style pho (tofu and vegetables in vegetarian broth) at Miss Saigon on Miami Beach|
Vegan or not, Vietnamese pho (pronounced "fuh") is really a pretty simple dish. Its key ingredients are broth (traditionally beef or chicken) and rice noodles. Chefs then usually add meat and/or vegetables to the broth. Spices like cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, anise and cloves are also common elements of the soup. Strangely enough, in Vietnam, pho is commonly eaten for breakfast.
As a new twist on the old serving style at Miss Saigon, customers are now given laminated menus and dry erase markers so they can circle their choices. It may not scream class, but hell, it does the trick. If you're going for the vegan-style pho, don't forget to circle the "vegetarian broth" option or you'll end up with a bunch of vegetables in a bowl of beef stew.
148 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables, FL