North York restaurant balances Vietnamese and Thai dishes, from pho to khao soi

Viet Thai Kitchen is located at 1468 Victoria Park Ave. #1 in North York

Viet Thai Kitchen is located at 1468 Victoria Park Ave. #1 in North York

Atjarinporn 'Pam' Waikid and Van Hung Huynh own Viet Thai Kitchen. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Metro Morning's food guide, Suresh Doss, joins us every week to talk about one of the many great GTA eateries he's discovered.

Today, he talked to host Ismaila Alfa about a place in North York where you can find both Vietnamese and Thai versions of a dish that's known in just about every culture.

Ismaila: So we're eating noodle soup this week? 

Suresh: I hear it's one of your dishes. 

During the winter months, I get a lot of noodle soup requests. Mostly, it's just, "Where can I get the best Vietnamese pho?" 

Particularly since the weather has been quite unforgiving the past few weeks, and it's been some time since we talked about noodle soup, I wanted to highlight a personal favourite. 

We're heading up to North York near the golden mile to Victoria Park. Here is Viet Thai Kitchen. 

It's run by a couple. Pam is from Chiang Mai, and Van is from Ho Chi Minh. They met here in Toronto

They both have family members that have run Vietnamese and Thai restaurants here going back 20 years. They opened Viet Thai Kitchen  in 2018. 

Viet Thai Kitchen features dishes from both Thailand and Vietnam. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: So I take it the restaurant has both styles of cuisine on the menu?

Suresh: Viet Thai Kitchen is very much an ode on their part to their love for these two cuisines, how they met and started a life together.

The menu is split half-and-half. I like to think that I have a good radar when it comes to reading menus and filter out what a menu says about the cook. 

So when you see an expansive menu, oftentimes, you're not sure where the focus is. 

But this is the kind of place where every slurp of the noodle, and ever spoonful has been a sensorial experience — just dynamite in the mouth.

Pho is the perfect dish to warm up during the cold winter days, says Metro Morning's food guide Suresh Doss. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: That's high praise. Can you walk me through the menu?

Suresh: The menu is broken up into sections and interwoven with Thai and Viet specials. 

So, in the noodle soup section, you will see both [dishes] from Ho Chi Minh next to Chiang Mai. 

A good litmus test is pho, a sublime bowl of stock cooked for long hours with bone and aromatics, served with thick noodles and your type of protein. 

Van does a fantastic mushroom pho, if you prefer to eat vegetarian. 

My favourite on the menu is the pho special. Here you have a five-hour cooked stock with brisket, tendon and tripe.

Viet Thai Kitchen's pho broth is cooked for five hours. It features brisket, tendon and tripe. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: What does that taste like?

At the heart of it all is the beefiness of pho, which is rounded by the herbs, star anise, cloves. 

The tendon is a revelation here; its fibrous muscle is butchered in-house and the rough chopping of the organ really gives you this pleasant mouth feel. 

The tripe brings that slight spongy, chewy quality and it absorbs the seasonings in the soup.

This is the best bowl of pho you will have, trust me Ismaila.

Ismaila: So that's the Vietnamese side. What about the Thai? 

On the Thai side, Pam's recipe of khao soi is wonderful. This swings the pendulum in the other direction. 

You have a rich, creamy, marriage of a soup between curry paste and coconut milk. 

It's like velvet in your mouth, accented by dual forces of cooked egg noodles and fried egg noodles that crown the bowl.

Now, give me room for one more bowl please, Ismaila. 

Khao soi with chicken, one of Viet Thai Kitchen's specialities. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: Please, give me more.

Suresh: If you are only visiting Viet Thai Kitchen once, you need to get the Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiaw. 

This is a rare dish in Toronto, quite common throughout northern Thailand, parts of Burma and northern China. It's a show stopper of a bowl. 

It is a spicy crimson red bowl of soup made with pork ribs and a myriad of herbs and vegetables. 

Khanom Jeen nam ngiaw is a common dish in northern Thailand, Burma and northern China. It's rarely found in Toronto. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

There's lots of cherry tomatoes, so there's a pleasing amount of sour, spicy balance in this soup.

It is all highlighted by the aromatics of dried flowers from a red cotton tree.

Pam sources the dried flowers from a family farm back in Thailand. And it's reconstituted over two days, where it plumps up and it has this wonderful toothsomeness to it.

Khanom jeen nam ngiaw is made with dry flowers from a cotton tree. Owner Pam sources the dry flowers from a farm in Thailand. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: Does it have a taste?

Suresh: Something in between the feel of sautéed morels and roasted okra, if that makes any sense.

It's the key player, the pièce de résistance. I know we've plunged into the deep end of noodle soups here. There are plenty of other great dishes on the menu but I think this is a great start. 

The green papaya salad is a good break between dishes, Suresh says. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

One last thing, a side dish that I think you shouldn't skip: mango salad.

Every Thai restaurant has a version. I think Vet Thai's is superior because it's more Chiang Mai style. 

[It] introduces coriander into the slaw sauce. So, you have these really delicately thin slices of mango. 

Mixed in the juices, [the salad] almost has a slippery mouthfeel.

It's a great break in between mouthfuls of noodle and soup