Address: Shop 19 27 Woolley St Dickson 2602 ACT
Phone: 02 6162 1988
Hours: Daily 11.30am-2.30pm, 5pm-10pm
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed it, but it’s really cold at the moment. Sure, it’s only the beginning of winter, and it’s not like there has been snow or anything, but even still., it’s really, really cold. Like, so cold.
Us Canberrans come up with coping with winter. Some people stack on layers upon layers of jumpers, while others pump their heaters as high as they go. The really smart ones get out of town altogether.
Personally, I don’t have that many jumpers, heaters annoy me, and I just can’t afford to leave the place. So this year, I’m trying to use the visualisation method and convince myself that I’m actually somewhere tropical.
What better way to do this than with the help of phở?
I’m not sure what it is about this classic Vietnamese dish that so excites people, but there are some for who the perfect phở is an endless search. They trawl the tiny restaurant and food stalls for the best flavoured broth and the most tender meat.
I am not fanatical like this. I haven’t been to Vietnam, nor have I eaten the length of Victoria Street in Melbourne. Nevertheless, it is hard to deny the appeal of this basic but intricately balanced dish. The bulk of soft rice noodles are flavoured with a rich, spiced broth and pieces of meat, the cut through with fresh garnishes and sauces to the taste of the eater.
At Tien in Dickson you can get a solid example of phở. The secret to this, or any soup really, is in the base broth, and this one is strong and meaty. Stacks of flavour, with a real sense of umami to hold everything together. Finely sliced rare beef and pieces of cooked beef brisket are both tender and taste properly of beef. It’s up to you to add in the sprouts, herbs, chili and lemon juice to balance everything, of course, but the ingredients are of a high enough quality that it is pretty easy.
I haven’t eaten enough phở to compare this to, so it’s hard to say whether this is a particularly great example. But it is warm, it is packed with flavour, and it will do enough to keep your mind off the icy air outside. And it’s pretty cheap, as all good Vietnamese is.
Tien has a huge menu, but I would assume that most people go towards the soups. Going by the one other dish I tried, this isn’t a bad thing. A pork rice-pancake roll is awfully disappointing, almost entirely filled with shredded iceberg lettuce, and tasted mostly of crunchy cold water. Entirely a waste.
But it’s a cheap and cheerful Vietnamese place, so as long as the phở is good, most of us will be happy. So turn up, tuck in, and imagine the sweaty tropical air. Escape the winter, even for just a moment.
It’s more comfortable than the jumpers.