Nassau County has two Vietnamese restaurants now that Pho Maxia has opened in Westbury (the other is Rolling Spring Roll in Farmingdale). This is Pho Maxia’s second appearance on Long Island; the restaurant is owned by brothers David Yu and Kevin Du who originally opened the restaurant in Bethpage, closing it in 1998. Now they’re back and providing those of us who live in Central Nassau the opportunity to enjoy Vietnamese cuisine nearby.
Vietnamese food is influenced by the three distinctive regions in the country. The north is close to China and generally noodles are preferred to rice. Pho, a noodle soup which is considered the national dish of Vietnam, originated there and can be found wherever Vietnamese food is served. Central Vietnam offers the boldest flavors and in the fertile south, there are lots of vegetables and fruits. Herbs also play an important role in the cuisine. The dishes in the south were also influenced by Southern Chinese immigrants and French colonists.
Whatever the region, there’s a lot of planning that goes into each dish in order to achieve balance (what we have come to know as yin/yang). Each dish is prepared to balance out these five tastes: spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet.Vietnamese food is healthy and light, especially evident in the refreshing summer roll. Cooked shrimp and vermicelli noodles are combined with cucumber and mint leaves and wrapped in translucent rice paper. You can then dunk the plump roll in a delicious condiment of plum sauce with peanuts. Don’t worry about double dipping; each diner can get her own little bowl of sauce. Satay is well known to American diners and Pho Maxia offers skewers of grilled beef or chicken with peanut sauce.
Another refreshing dish is banh hoi tom nuong—angel hair noodles with grilled shrimp. For this dish Vietnamese rice noodles that are thinner and finer than Italian angel hair pasta are woven together and, when cooked, resemble a thick square of cloth. At the table you place a section of the noodles on a lettuce leaf and add grilled shrimp that has been seasoned with lemon grass plus basil leaves and fold the lettuce leaf into a packet. It is served with a dipping sauce made from nuoc mam, a fish sauce that is a staple in numerous Southeast Asian cuisines and was probably invented in Vietnam. “Fish sauce has a very strong aroma and taste,” says Du, “and so we add lime, garlic and carrot to tone it down.”
A nod to the French can be found in banh mi pate cha lua—sliced pork and pate in a baguette served with lettuce, pickled carrot, cilantro and cucumber. The pork chop on rice was well flavored.
The pho can be made as spicy as one desires. Most of the pho offered at Pho Maxima were made with beef with the exception of curry chicken rice noodle soup with coconut and chicken rice noodle soup.
They have a limited dessert menu but the Vietnamese iced coffee is also a great way to end the meal on a sweet note. Coffee is another legacy of the French colonists who introduced the crop in the late 19th century with many plantations in the central highlands. Because milk was sometimes difficult to get, the French and Vietnamese used sweetened condensed milk to add to their dark roast coffee.
Pho Maxia is located at 817 Carman Ave. Find out more at www.phomaxia.com