Loan’s Authentic Vietnamese Bistro

Loan’s Authentic  Vietnamese  Bistro

At first glance, the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market may not seem an ideal milieu for Loan’s Authentic Vietnamese Bistro. However, this 10-year-market-veteran vendor—dishing up specialties from a culture famed for street food—captures the essence of that experience with a small counter that fronts a compact kitchen dispatching fragrant, flavorful, and freshly prepared dishes to take-out and on-site dining patrons. A scattering of small tables offering just 17 seats line the
walls adjacent to the stand, giving shoppers a casual, aisle-side setting where they can relax and refuel during
a market excursion.

When researching possible restaurant locales, owners Loan and Thuoc Vinh recognized the advantages of a setting that’s open only Thursday through Saturday, and small enough for the married couple to operate without additional staff. This cozy venue enables Loan, formerly a 5-star chef in Saigon, to put her culinary imprint on every element of a concise menu. Protein-based dishes incorporate beef, pork, chicken, and shrimp sourced from market purveyors.

Of the several features offered weekly, signature Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is the biggest draw. This hearty and complex rice noodle soup alternates on a 2-to-1-week schedule that changes between a chicken or beef base, reflecting consumers’ preference for poultry. Other examples of rotating specials include Banh Xeo (rice pancake with shrimp and/or pork and vegetables) and Bum Bo Xao (seasoned beef sautéed with lemon grass and served with plenty of tasty accompaniments). The one downside to Loan’s vast repertoire is that it takes months for a particular favorite to cycle to the top of the queue: Golden turmeric-spiced chicken (Rary Ga) and turmeric noodles (Mi Quang), I await patiently for you!

Starters and shareables from the core menu encompass freshly flavorful Goi Cuon (spring rolls packed with shrimp, pork, noodles, lettuce, and herbs), Cha Gio (crisply fried pork and shrimp rolls served with Nuoc Cham, a sweetly tart house-made dipping sauce), and Bahn Bot Loc (shrimp and pork dumplings). Com Chien Duong Chau (fried rice with shrimp, Vietnamese sausage, egg, and vegetables) counts as a popular entrée. For a light and refreshing dessert, try their Vietnamese-style natural yogurt, prepared in house. 

Go Pho It!

When presented with a steaming bowl of pho, lean over and inhale the complex aromatics of a broth that is essentially poetry for your nose, picking up notes of star anise, ginger, coriander, and cardamom from the fragrant elixir. At Loan’s, two dozen ingredients flavor the beautifully balanced beef or chicken bone broth that requires 8 to 10 hours of simmering—so be respectful and do not just give it a squirt of sriracha or spoonful of hoisin sauce before tasting. (Thuoc isn’t shy about underscoring that instruction to on-premise patrons.)

Both a spoon and chopsticks are needed to address the contents of the bowl, where paper-thin slices of your choice of meat quickly simmer to doneness in the piping hot liquid filled with long rice noodles. A plate of fresh garnishes on the side allows you to personalize the dish to taste with crunchy bean sprouts, ultra-thin onion slices, sprigs of Thai basil from which leaves are stripped and ripped into pieces by hand, a few slices of jalapeño to incorporate at your discretion, and a wedge of lime for a bright squirt of acidity.

Working your way to the bottom of the bodacious bowl is nothing less than a culinary adventure, and keep in mind that audible slurping is perfectly acceptable.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce – Nuoc Mam Cham

This popular Vietnamese dipping sauce is a combination of coconut juice, fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, chilies, and garlic. It goes well with most dishes on the Vietnamese menu and adds layers of taste to both the
Cha Gio and grilled chicken wings.

Goi Cuon
(spring rolls)

1 package Vietnamese rice paper wrappers, about 8 3/4-inch round

Filling, for each spring roll:
1 leaf romaine lettuce, cut in small pieces
1 small handful cooked and cooled rice vermicelli
1–2 leaves each Thai basil and mint
3 thin slices cooked pork tenderloin, about 1×2-inches
3 medium cooked shrimp, sliced in half lengthwise
1 package or sleeve garlic chives, cut about 5-inches long
Peanut sauce for dipping

Working one at a time, soak rice paper wrapper in warm water for 5 seconds then lay flat on a plate or clean counter. Place lettuce and noodles along the length of the wrapper’s center, leaving about 1 inch at top and bottom. Arrange herbs, pork, and shrimp over top. Roll like a burrito, folding over the top and bottom edges to enclose filling. When almost finished rolling, tuck several chives into one end, letting them extend partway like a tail. Finish rolling and serve with peanut sauce.

Yield varies as desire


1825 W CHEW ST

(Note: Cash only, no credit cards accepted)

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram