The Dish: Com Ga Roti at Sprout

Photographer: Michael C. Upton

After 10 successful years it was time for Vy Banh to let her family-owned eatery grow. Thus, Rice & Noodles has led to Sprout, on the corner of Prince and Orange streets in Lancaster.

The idea to foster the evolution of the Vietnamese restaurant started in 2012; Vy had a vision of a storefront, which she could use to quickly serve her faithful downtown customers the fresh food to which they’ve become accustomed.

A month after Sprout’s opening, I walked in to see what the new restaurant was all about. The splash of brilliant green on the walls was as bright as the smile on Vy’s face as I arrived just before the hot lunch spot opened for the day. Things would soon get busy, as hungry customers arrived and the Sprout staff was buzzing in the back of what used to be Crown Fried Chicken (and before that, a Subway). That dated décor and greasy feeling is long gone.

“We changed it a lot. We gave the space a complete overhaul, opened the windows so we could have interaction with the city,” says Bernard Truong (co-owner with his wife Alys, Vy and her husband Ninh Banh) as I wait for The Dish – Sprout’s Com Ga Roti.

“It is a traditional, French-inspired Vietnamese dish. Much of Vietnamese cooking is inspired by French cuisine,” explains Vy.

Being a beautiful day, I got my meal to go and found a nice spot at a nearby park to enjoy this rice platter with a deep-fried half of a marinated Cornish game hen and vinaigrette salad. To compare this to fried chicken would be a disservice; the hen cooks quickly and the frying process seals in the bird’s natural moisture while not overexposing the spices of the marinade to the oil. With hints of garlic, onion, fivespice and a variety of peppercorns, the fowl is plenty good on its own, but one dip into the accompanying sauce and it’s amazing.

Sprout’s menu describes the sauce as a house honey mustard, but don’t think about that yellowish crap you find in fast food plastic containers. This sauce is bangin’! Vy calls the recipe a “well-kept secret,” but did say it includes “the best honey and the best mustard” available. I detect some kind of citrus, maybe lime and a bit of chili in the sauce. Once I’m done with the meat, I pour the remaining sauce all over my rice. I finish it all down with a signature drink, Tra da chanh, a thirst-quenching sweetened jasmine iced tea with fresh-squeezed lime juice.

If you are already a fan of Rice & Noodles, know that much of the Sprout menu is an offshoot from the parent restaurant; missing are family style meals and time-consuming entrees. This new place is built for speed, convenience and freshness.

And this is one new Sprout that’s growing very well.

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Michael C. Upton works as a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure covering subjects ranging from funk punk to fine wine. He graduated with a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Maine at Farmington and is actively published by trade journals, specialized websites, and regional and national magazines. Upton lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania—in the heart of Amish Country—with his wife and two youngest children.

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