MAMA’S NOODLE HOUSE
Address: 141 McPhillips St
The cover of the menu is in Vietnamese; Chinese fans hang on the walls; and a TV plays a Filipino soap opera. Welcome to Mama’s Noodle House, a fast, astonishingly affordable Asian diner on the edge of one of Winnipeg’s most culturally diverse neighbourhoods.
On each visit, the 60-seat dining room is full, populated with large, boisterous Filipino families and subdued Chinese couples.
“You should see it at lunch time,” a server declares one visit. “People are lined up at the door. But they know it moves quick.”
It’s true. On average, ordering to first bite takes a mere seven minutes.
That feat is amazing given the size of the menu. At Mama’s, there are 350 items on the menu including Chinese, Vietnamese Thai and Japanese dishes.
Start with siopao, doughy pork buns found on most Vietnamese menus. Mama’s deep-fried version is sinfully scrumptious. The softball-sized appetizer is filled with sweet diced pork in a thick paste.
Spring rolls are another stellar starter. Instead of the standard vermicelli and cabbage filling found at most eateries, Mama’s uses potato mixed with shredded pork and carrots. The combination offers a dense and satisfying bite.
Noodle soups, a signature staple, take up a large expanse of real estate on the menu. There are six categories; each with at least six flavours. Crispy chicken rice noodle soup and the satay beef vermicelli soup are both hits. Both bowls are piled high with an incredibly generous serving of silky noodles, transforming each soup into a hearty meal. With a crispy, peanut-flavoured quarter chicken perched on top, Mama’s chicken soup impresses. The beef satay soup is fiery with satisfying slurps and crunch provided by noodles and bean sprouts, respectively.
Mighty and meaty rice dishes, including the curry chicken steamed rice (#85) and beef with lemongrass and hot pepper (#156), are ideal for sharing. Both entrees are served with a rainbow medley of crisp green peppers, onions and carrots. The sunbeam yellow curry delivers subtle sweetness with coconut milk undertones.
It’s a perfect complement to the more spirited beef dish. The intensity of hot peppers in the sauce doesn’t compete with the robustness of the meat. Hints of lemongrass are speckled throughout, mostly clinging to the slivers of beef.