My Mini Taste of Phoenix: Seeking Sweets and Asian Comfort Food in the Valley
See also: 10 Favorite Vietnamese Restaurants in Greater Phoenix
Mabel Suen (Clockwise from top left): Pho from Unphogettable, side dishes at Chodang, caramel and vanilla frozen yogurt topped with fruit from Yogurtland, seafood tofu soup and fried dumplings from Chodang, baklava from Haji-Baba.
See also: What the Heck is Bibim Bap?
See also: Point-Counterpoint: Is Pho King or Is It Pho-King Awful?
Hi, I'm Mabel. You might recognize the byline from my series The Baker's Lab. I'm from the Midwest and spent a couple months at New Times getting to know Phoenix this summer -- best time of the year possible, right? That's what every single person I meet locally keeps telling me anyway. Luckily though, I have family out here. We're distant, both geographically and personally, but as soon as I learned they love food as much as I do, I knew we'd get along just fine. Read on to see where and what we ate together.
My Uncle Sonny says he's eaten at more than 300 food establishments in the Valley. For me, living in downtown Phoenix in the dead of summer pretty much just included meals from the mini fridge and indulging in Subway, available within walking distance. So, 300 is a big number to digest.
"Sweet! I appreciate good food, too," he said in response to my suggestion that we get together for lunch. "Let me know what day is good for you so we can plan a mini Taste of Phoenix."
Uncle Sonny and Aunt Winnie, both medical professionals of Chinese descent who spent their formative years in the northern United States and Canada, respectively, greet me with big smiles as they pick me up on a sunny Sunday morning. They've been living in Phoenix for seven years.
As soon as I step foot into the car, he hands me a neatly typed pocket-size list labeled "Places to eat in PHX." It includes about 20 or so recommended favorites, including a couple of worthwhile chains, along with addresses, cost range labeled by dollar sign, and a handy column of "What's so good or special about this place?" Very official! Most impressive.
Mabel Suen Uncle Sonny's special restaurants guide was a pleasant surprise.
The list primarily includes Asian eateries like TeHaru Sushi and Sekong by Night, but it also has a couple of bakeries and outlying items like Persian Room Fine Wine and Kebab, Pizzeria Bianco, Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana and the Asian/Italian Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe.
Their tastes are pretty much spot on with my own -- I love all kinds of food but am easily pleased by Asian comfort food at any given time. We're all also firm believers in the fact that there's always room for dessert.
I grew up eating my mom's cooking, which consists of delicious Vietnamese and Chinese dishes from the countries where she grew up. As a temporary Phoenician transplant, I began to grow homesick for our semi-regular brunches together of Chinese dim sum and, most of all, her home-cooked pho. It's my ultimate comfort meal on par with her wontons and bun thang -- vermicelli soup with chicken, egg and pork. What can I say? I love me some noodle soup. Luckily, her younger brother Sonny has me covered on the Asian food front.