The Perfect Vietnamese Drinking Food: Stir-Fried Eel

No bones about it

It’s been a long, hard week at the salt mines. It’s time to wind down with your broskis by drinking some brewskis at Pho 21 in Canoga Park. But now that you’ve got a cold one in your fist, what do you do with your other free hand—you know, the one that was designed to grab grub? Why, you snap its fingers and get the waiter to bring you something tasty that syncs with your suds, and preferably something that’s listed on the “Vietnamese Drinking Food” portion of the menu. (Between you and me, any restaurant that has a “drinking food” section on its menu is “awesome 4 life” in my book.) That something I requested was stir-fried eel with lemongrass.


This Saigon-style eel is served segmented, not filleted and boneless as is the case with Japanese unagi or Chinese eel dishes. The result can be frustrating because of the copious bones with which to contend. However, I find it to be satisfying. More than that, all the picking is conducive to drinking because of the “busy” factor, kind of like opening shelled peanuts at a bar. Nibble around the bones, manipulated the eel in your mouth, gnaw for any missed bits of meat, spit out the bones, and take a swig of Tsingtao. Repeat. This is my idea of fantastic bar food.


Aside from the boniness, the skin and meat are largely sweet with some spiciness and a hint of lemongrass in each bite. The eel is especially good for shoveling steamed rice into your maw. And of course, everything is to be washed down with beer. Cheers or, in this case, Vô!

Pho 21: 21525 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, 818-854-6622