By: Jacklyn Tran – Ethnic Seattle

September 10, 2015

In early September, with the school supplies list checked off, back-to-school shopping completed, and lunches planned for the week, the thought of having to slave away in the kitchen to get dinner on the table is unbearable. There to save the day (or the whole week for that matter), are the local Vietnamese delis that so reliably provide affordable, traditional meals; joyfully taking the burden of this task off our own plate.

In my own childhood, I can vividly remember those evenings when it was time to sit down with my parents and siblings to enjoy dinner together. Whether my mom had so lovingly been hovering over the stove, had hastily brought deli food home after work, or if dinner was hanging on our door handle in the most functional, stainless steel, multi-unit canisters by way of a Vietnamese food delivery service (cơm tháng), it was all the same. We all gathered to share a meal, share stories, and share in one another’s company.

In Vietnamese culture, time around a dinner table means more than just good eats, it’s a time to learn about our culture and partake in proper etiquette, to revel in moments with our lifelong teachers, our family. At the beginning of each meal, children invite their elders to eat first, out of respect. In return, elders often will serve food to others before themselves: both gestures of love and affection for one another.

Lan Tran of Tony’s Bakery and Deli in Rainier Valley furthers, “[in a Vietnamese household] a traditional dinner consists of canh [a clear broth made of vegetables and meat or seafood], a stir fry, salad or steamed vegetables and fried fish or braised fish. In Vietnam, fish was always plentiful and cheaper than other seafood. It was eaten more than meat. […] There are usually three or four items eaten family style with rice and in fancier households there’s even more.”

Naturally, therefore, at Tony’s Bakery the hot foods selection includes at least three different fish options with a couple of canhs that change out daily. One choice often being the staple Vietnamese Sour Soup (canh chua) where pineapples, tomatoes, garlic, bean sprouts, okra, fish or shrimp is cooked in a tamarind based broth and topped with long coriander and other fresh herbs.

IMG_8562 (1)On the outskirts of the International District in Little Saigon, Saigon Deli provides an impressive array of hot dishes. Most popular is their chicken stewed in lemongrass and red chili peppers or their eggplant and tofu stir fry: a fragrant combination with a deliciously mild and sweet sauce, topped with chopped scallions and fresh cilantro.

For those in West Seattle, tucked away in the White Center Chevron is Mai’s Deli. With little signage, it’s easy to miss this humble little corner within the gas station where a sweet couple serves up items like the always popular caramelized, braised pork, or mustard greens and shrimp soup.

Quick, convenient, and healthy, Vietnamese delis take the cake for making life a little easier in times of chaos. Each meal is customized based on your choosing and serving size is decided based on preference, creating an effortless way to feed one or many! The presence of herbs and vegetables in Vietnamese cooking, combined with the healthier cooking techniques used on traditional dishes make it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world and a guilt-free option when it comes to deciding what’s for dinner!

Food Guide:

Tony’s Bakery and Deli
6020 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 722-8800

Saigon Deli
1237 S Jackson Street
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 322-3700

Mai’s Deli
(Inside Chevron Gas Station)
1520 SW 100th Street
Seattle, WA 98146
(206) 605-3226