My neighborhood is only a few blocks away from Memphis' version of Little Vietnam. Cleveland Avenue in Midtown is lined with authentic Vietnamese restaurants and an Asian grocery called the Viet Hoa. Most of those restaurants boast plenty of vegan options, especially the Pho Hoa Binh on Madison (just a few more blocks away) and Saigon Le on Cleveland. Though Pho Hoa Binh is my favorite, Seigon Le holds the esteemed title of my "second favorite Vietnamese restaurant."
On Saturday afternoon, my friend Greg and I were craving fried tofu. We drove to Pho Hoa Binh at 7:30 p.m., only to find the place was closing early for the night. They're really bad about closing whenever they want. So we opted for the second choice, Saigon Le. The no-frills Vietnamese joint offers about 15 to 20 vegan options, including this tasty Hunan Tofu:
This was my first time trying the semi-spicy Hunan Tofu, and I think it might be my new fave dish at Saigon Le. So many Vietamese tofu dishes are heavy on fried tofu and low on veggies, but this dish offered a great balance. The broccoli was an impressive co-star to the chewy tofu, all covered in a savory-sweet 'n' spicy sauce. Of course, I doused it in extra sriracha because I love the burn. It's served with sticky white rice, but the above picture is actually my leftovers. Though I love the white rice, I can't justify eating it at home. So I made brown rice to go with the leftovers.
Other yummy vegan dishes at Saigon Le include curry tofu, barbecue wheat gluten, tofu in black bean sauce, and sauteed green beans and tofu. Watch out for the tofu with vermicelli as it contains eggs. I made the mistake of ordering it once.
The atmosphere is super-casual, and maps of Vietnam grace the glass-covered booths. Though it will never top Pho Hoa Binh (they have a $5 all-you-can-eat tofu lunch buffet!), Saigon Le holds a special place in my Vietnamese cuisine-loving heart.
Saigon Le is located at 52 N. Cleveland. Call 901-276-5326 for more information.