Exclusive Interview: Little Saigon, Mike Nghia Tran, Vancouver

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I made a surprise visit to Little Saigon in Yaletown today. Nghia Tran, also known as Mike was moving inventory and fresh ingredients into the store. He had a huge smile on his face even though he said he doesn’t like to smile for photos. He is a very humble person and when he was telling me the story behind the logo of the restaurant, it made me want to write about him and talk about the food we ate today. I write honest reviews and not all the food I eat make it to my blog or Instagram, but I really want to talk about him today.

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The art behind him in the first picture was a piece he commissioned of his beautiful wife.

He attended Dragon’s Den auditions with his sister shown above.

The story behind the logo is a very touching one. I was a little emotional when he told me about his mother. “It reminds me of my childhood.” His mother would take the canoe out every morning to the market to sell items and one of the children will be sitting on the opposite end to accompany her. The logo represents family life that keeps moving forward through disparity and perseverance. “I truly believe that in order for you to grow, you must be able to change. If you can’t change you cannot grow.” says Nghia. Just sitting down for a few moments with this man made me think about a lot of things as a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a sister. He is a family man.

Nghia is from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. He was part of the first Vietnamese refugees to come to Canada in the early 80s. His mom worked many jobs to send money back home to Vietnam to feed the family.

He left home at 13. He moved to British Columbia in 1995, got married and worked in IT for the Township of Langley. Nghia’s family left Vietnam for freedom and a better life. Business gave him that freedom.

Nghia was adopted and has no history. He has children of his own now, wants to build history and leave a legacy and of course to make money. And the road for him to do that began in 2006 when Little Saigon was born. They now have expanded to 3 locations, Mission, Abbotsford, and Yaletown. They produce their own sauces Little Saigon Sauces which are available at the supermarkets (http://www.littlesaigon.ca/#!our-products/cjgv) I have tried it today and it’s really delicious!

Nghia will be on Dragon’s Den, Season 11. Keep an eye out for him.

 

Let’s talk about the food we ate! First of all, my daughter drank all my iced tea. I don’t know what the secret ingredient is, but she wouldn’t share. The salad rolls were  made with pork, shrimp, vermicelli, carrots, and lettuce. Very fresh ingredients dipped in their homemade peanut sauce available at various supermarkets around the city. I am craving another one! Crunch in every bite.  I love the presentation of this dish.

 

Look at the presentation of the next dish. It is not thrown onto a plate randomly with oil dripping like at certain Vietnamese restaurants. I did make a surprise visit so this is not just placing it pretty on a plate for me! It really shows the care they put into each of their dishes. What I look for in #springrolls? The type of meat mixed with ingredients like carrots and vermicelli and what they use to wrap it. It is also not burnt. Again, they have exceeded my expectations. Some places I have been to refry the spring roll to heat it up. I don’t go there anymore. I understand that spring rolls are not made on the spot when you order it. Control of inventory and serving it fresh is important and Little Saigon has done that right.

I am saving the best for last. Pho, raw beef noodle soup. The reason why I wanted to go visit Little Saigon. “No msg, just TLC” I had to ask what that meant. Tender loving care. So how do you make the soup taste so good then? Beef soup takes 10 hours and chicken soup takes 8 hours. They use a lot of meat and bones to cook their broth. It was tasty and I wasn’t thirsty afterwards since they don’t use MSG. This is perfect for kids. The beef was thinly sliced so my kid had no trouble chewing it. The noodles were al dente. Can I say that about pho and not pasta?

Details on their menu :

http://www.littlesaigon.ca

 

 

 

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