After successfully running a food truck and pop-up in a local food hall, chef Thai Phi opened Pink Bellies as a permanent brick and mortar on Charleston, South Carolina’s King Street this spring, serving classic and reimagined Vietnamese comfort food such as banh mi and pulled pork-topped garlic noodles.
Phi also created his take on hoành thánh, spicy pork shrimp wontons served with chili oil, chives, and scallions, a dish Phi based on memories of visiting Vietnam as a child. “We’d walk around District 5 in Ho Chi Min City,” he says of the city’s vibrant Chinatown filled with food stalls and hole-in-the-wall eateries. “There’s one street that serves just this dish.”
Of all the intricate dishes on his new menu, Phi says this is one of the easier ones for a home cook to replicate. “Most of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store, and they’re just so fresh when you make them at home,” he says.
To balance out the subtle sweetness of the wontons, Phi recommends serving it in a spicy soy sauce concoction. “I like a low sodium soy sauce (you can dilute regular soy sauce with a bit of water to taste), a splash of black vinegar, and some chili oil. Sriracha or sambal work great as well,” he says. “And keep in mind that the wrinklier they are, the better.”