A taste of Saigon at NUOC

One of Orchard’s best kept secrets –  I’ve now discovered – has to be the roof garden at Orchard Central. I wish I had known about this little haven on the many occasions I’d wondered why I put myself through the Orchard ordeal, stifling the urge to bash crazed shopping addicts out of the way with my elbows.

But how did I find myself up here, on the 12th floor? Well actually it had nothing to do with shopping and everything with a desire to savour some of those aromatic flavours of Vietnamese cuisine that I have such fond memories of from my travels. And because I had heard good things about NUOC, I was even willing to spend an evening in a restaurant in a mall – shock horror!

Walking in, I wasn’t a mad fan of the interior, I begun to feel a little apprehensive because it seemed like a strange mix of trying be contemporary whilst traditional, and so I forced myself to keep an open mind. In any case I told myself, who cares about the interior when the outside is so wonderful!

Of course we decided that it was compulsory to start out with the Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls ($5.50 per piece). With fresh juicy prawns and sliced pork (N.B. if dietary requirements dictate you can chose to have one or the other), and the mandatory lettuce, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli noodles and distinctive Vietnamese herbs, these were like any rice paper roll should be – fresh, fragrant and served with mouthwatering dipping sauces.

Because we had our eye on three mains, we skipped straight there starting off with a bowl of Pho, Vietnam’s national noodle dish. The Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup ($21), was definitely a comforting bowl of goodness, the beef was lovely and tender but it could have done with just a little more zing.

Despite the customary additional sauces and toppings, it didn’t quite have the fragrant waft that I was hoping for. Afterall, a truly good bowl of Pho should be good enough to slurp up without adding any sauces.

Where things really began to kick off where with the next two dishes. The Vietnamese Chicken Curry ($12 for small, $18 for large) was a beautifully aromatic and hearty stew-like dish.

Juicy chunks of chicken were engulfed in a melting pot of  all the different flavours traditional to the dish including galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chili and coconut. It was rich, creamy, and flavoursome yet subtle and really very satisfying indeed.

When my dining partner wanted to order the Chicken Fried Rice in Claypot ($14 for small or $22 for large) I have to admit I wasn’t that fussed. Sometimes I fine fried rice just so…well…dull.

But not this fried rice. With generous chunks of shredded chicken (not miniscule cubes you would be hard pressed to find), the Chinese mushrooms gave it a really nice twist but what really did it was the fusion of flavours that came across thanks to the lemongrass, ginger and fish sauce.

But do you know what the best bit of this meal was? It was the combination of the chicken curry and chicken fried rice together, and all that flavour coming together, going BOOM! and then releasing in your mouth. I was still going “Mmmmmmmmmmm” until the bill came thinking about this beautiful coupling.

Oh by the way, in case you are wondering what on earth NUOC stands for, it actually doesn’t stand for anything. What it is is that NUOC is actually nuoc which means country and also water in Vietnamese. Glad we cleared that one up there.

Though it was perhaps a bit of a slow start, I was as you can tell by now won over by the Vietnamese chicken curry and fried rice, and also by the fact that the food here is all pretty reasonable (well perhaps apart from the rice paper rolls). But of course what I will be 100% coming back for is that BOOM! combination.


Written by Ms Demeanour

Emily Seow


Managing Editor

Emily heads the editorial team on City Nomads by being a stickler for details, a grammar Nazi, and a really picky eater. Born and bred in Singapore, she loves cats, the written word, exploring new places, and all things Harry Potter. Easily bribed with good cocktails.

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