It had been nearly a year — nine months to be exact — since my last trip to the Fairgrounds Farmers Market.
I love browsing the aisles of vendors and dine-in restaurants, but I never make it there as often as I would like. The Farmers Market of Wyomissing is just so convenient that a trip to Muhlenberg takes extra planning.
That planning came together, and last Friday when we made an evening drive to Fairgrounds with one stand in mind: Vietnamese Delights.
The Fairgrounds Farmers Market already offered a diverse selection of foods before Vietnamese Delights opened in 2013. Italian, Greek, German and Pennsylvania Dutch were all well-represented, but Vietnamese Delights brought an Asian flair that was missing from the global market.
Located in the southwest corner of the market, Vietnamese Delights offers its own little seating area. This makes it one of the few stands that will actually deliver your meal to your table (you still order at the counter so it’s not quite a full-service restaurant).
First to arrive were our two bubble teas: mango flavored for Julie and honeydew for me. More smoothie than tea, the drinks are creamy with (optional) tapioca balls dropped in the bottom.
As you would guess, the drinks are extremely refreshing. My honeydew had that light sweetness of the melon that makes it so enjoyable. The mango flavor was strong and very sweet to the point of being more like dessert.
Next to arrive at the table were the add-ins for Julie’s pho, the brothy Vietnamese noodle soup. While the noodles and beef were cooked in the broth, a plate of bean shoots, basil, lime and jalapeno pepper were served separately.
The pho followed shortly behind. The large bowl was filled with hearty slices of beef, chopped shallots, onions and a heaping mound of rice noodles.
Rice noodles are an acquired taste for a Dutchman raised on the thicker, heartier egg noodles. The advantage of thin strands is that they absorb flavors well, soaking up the broth in every bite. Julie managed to finish most of her soup, polishing off all of the meat and leaving just a little broth and some loose noodles at the bottom of the bowl.
My meal was the last to arrive being the most involved of the two. I ordered the broken rice platter: a plate of white rice with pork done three ways (steamed, grilled and shredded), a fried egg, a cucumber and lettuce salad, and a dish of garlic fish sauce.
The best part about the plate was the shredded pork. Even though it was served cold, it was easily the most enjoyable of the three. It just melts in your mouth with a sweet flavor that isn’t barbecue, but is close enough to be enjoyable.
The grilled and steamed pork were served atop the bed of white rice. They had a nice peppery flavor that I really enjoyed. The egg felt a little out of place — I’m used to it being fried with the rice, not on top — but once I opened it up and started eating with the rice and pork, it all came together nicely.
As much as I love garlic, I was not a fan of the fish sauce. I much preferred the chili sauce that was sitting on each of the tables.
I was able to finish everything on plate (not counting the fish sauce), but what neither Julie nor I were able to finish were all of the tapioca balls in the bottom of our smoothies. With the consistency of gummies, they just got to be too much work after the bubble tea was gone. In hindsight, we would probably get it without tapioca next time.
All in all though, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. At $30 it was a little more expensive than we had originally planned, but a lot of that came down to the indulgence of our $5 bubble teas.
We were able to squeeze in a little shopping before closing time, but we really didn’t need much else at the market.
Vietnamese Delights was the real reason we went, and it was certainly worth the trip.