There is a bowl of soup waiting for you in a strip mall in Clayton Park. Its broth is made rich and meaty with pork and beef bones, yet bright with lemongrass. When it arrives at the table, there are large rounds of fatty and soft pink sausage laying on top of long flat rice noodles. There are bean sprouts and herbs laying on a dish next to it, waiting for you to garnish each bite. Thinly shaved beef peeks out from underneath a chile-oil-slicked surface. The name of the soup is bun bo hue, a specialty found in central Vietnam. You'll find it listed, like a small addendum, at the bottom of the menu in a little Vietnamese restaurant named Fong Sing (278 Lacewood Drive).
Food lovers tend to love to share food tips---where to find a dish, source an ingredient, locate a type of cuisine. More often than not they want to share their enthusiasm, ensuring that Halifax continues its upward trajectory on the culinary scale. Besides, if someone finds something and wants to keep it for themselves, it might not be there the next time they go out seeking it due to perceived lack of interest by the purveyor.
For example, if you were to ask Ratinaud French Cuisine's Tom Crilley for a recommendation, his face would light up at the mere mention of his Gottingen Street neighbour, SuperStar (2099 Gottingen Street). "It's a club house karaoke place run by a couple from a Halifax-sized, coastal town in China," says Crilley. "The wife makes everything, dumplings, soup and noodles, by hand on their small menu and it is incredible."
Haligonian food fiends are definitely in love with all things Chinese these days. We are no longer just a town fed by chicken balls and fried rice. Sometimes foodies can get excited even by the condiments served alongside our meals. Kathy Jollimore is a food blogger who writes about restaurants on her site Eat Halifax. She has a love for a saucy little thing found on the tables of 9 + Nine (480 Parkland Drive) in Clayton Park ---a chile paste made with fermented beans, crispy onions and soy oil.
"It is a powerhouse of umami, sweet, and spicy," she says. "I like Sriracha and all, but this puts it to shame. I could drink it." Jollimore is also a fan of the large stuffed bao dumplings served at 9 + Nine, arguing that "four giant steamed buns for 11 bucks is amazing."
Travel back into the core of the city, namely at the corners of North and Agricola, and you might find Morris East's Jennie Dobbs at the MidEast Food Centre (2595 Agricola Street) picking up a few items, like dried black limes. A staple in Persian pantries, they're boiled in brine and then sun-dried, yielding a tart flavour to soups and stews. She also can't get enough of the Aleppo pepper sold in the spice aisle. This coarsely ground chile is known as flake pepper in Turkey, similar to paprika, but with an added dimension of slightly sweet flavour. Dobbs came across it when she found a recipe for an Armenian spiced lamb kebab. "You grate onions and fry them in oil with the Aleppo pepper before adding the mixture to ground lamb meat, mint, coriander and cumin." Dobbs now finds herself often substituting the spice for paprika. "It goes exceptionally well used in spice mixtures for barbecue rubs," she says enthusiastically.
It looks like that the old adage that everyone benefits from sharing is true. Now you know why our mothers told us not to be greedy when it comes to food.