Pour in the entire side of fish sauce

Saigon #17
Choose a restaurant that is crowded with people that don’t look like you. Explore - if it’s one mile away from home or 10,000.

Creating authentic Vietnamese and Chinese dishes, Saigon Restaurant opened in 2007 at 3200 SW 29th St. I’ve always enjoyed their food, but didn’t fully appreciate this complex flavor, built with simple ingredients, until a holiday in Vietnam. Of course we hit a few tourist spots, but the joy of traveling is trekking off the beaten path. Seeing every day life and more importantly, participating. The organized chaos of hundreds of scooters, some carrying five family members, beep beep beeping into the night. New and tantalizing aromas from the grilled street food served by friendly locals. Travel tip (or if you’re in Topeka) Choose a restaurant that is crowded with people that don’t look like you. Explore- if it’s one mile away from home or 10,000.

Vietnam Group
Alison Beebe, Zenab Mebed and Kim Scott in Vietnam

It was thrilling to return to Top City and find Saigon’s dishes comparable to those of Vietnam, sans child-sized plastic furniture. Owners and chefs, Mary and Tommy, source their ingredients locally, which makes me exceptionally happy.

“All of our herbs come from a farm outside Eureka and most of our meats from butchers between Topeka and KC. We want people to know we hold on to family values and treat our customers like family. Sometimes, you’ll see customers run back to the kitchen to say ‘hello.’ We don’t mind. If it wasn’t for our loyal customers and word of mouth, we wouldn’t be where we are now. We want our customers to know we truly appreciate their support.”

Saigon CoffeeTheir most popular Vietnamese dish is Combination Pho. A bowl of pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is more than the sum of its parts. Each bowl is constructed individually with tender rice noodles, bone broth, thinly sliced meats and fresh herbs. Their big seller for Chinese is General Tao’s Chicken – spicy, saucy and tender. They’re also known for their fresh summer rolls, Saigon Rangoons – spicy version of crab rangoon with added herbs and sriracha and Vietnamese coffee. Served hot or iced with condensed milk, it is exceptional and a favorite of mine.

I find it difficult not to order Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong (#17) . Crafted with rice vermicelli, lettuce, cucumber, a cut up Vietnamese roll, bean sprouts, peanuts and cilantro.

Pour in the entire side of fish sauce.
Stir.     Let soak.    Devour.

As the late great Anthony Bourdain said: “When someone cooks for you, they are saying something. They are telling you about themselves: where they come from, who they are, what makes them happy.”

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