Imagine an airy rectangle of warm, flaky French pastry. Now fill it with juicy, savory meat and a sweet whisper of diced onion. That’s the Vietnamese delight known as patê sô (say PAH-tay-sho). It’s now made daily in not just one but two new establishments in east Charlotte.
Phu Trinh and his wife Tam Tran opened Central Tea House in the Saigon Square shopping plaza on Central Avenue in March of 2019. Their families fled to the U.S. after the Vietnam War, but it was not until Trinh came to Charlotte for a banking job in the 2000s that he met and married Tran.
Tran learned the secrets of patê sô from her new mother-in-law. Pork and chicken are involved, plus a dash of black pepper, I’m pretty sure, but Tran just smiles when I ask for specifics. That filling gets folded into hand-rolled phyllo pastry, then brushed with egg.
The tradition migrated to Vietnam from France back in colonial days. In France, the pastry is known as pâte à choux (pronounced PAH-tay-sho, just as in Vietnam) — which translates as meat paste in light dough.
At Central Tea House, you can order your patê sô with hot tea in several varieties. Or get a bubble tea. It’s a slushy of fruit juice and crushed ice with “pearls” of sweet, candy-like tapioca.
Want something more substantial? Central Tea House offers banh mi, Vietnamese sub sandwiches on crispy baguettes with fillings ranging from grilled pork to lemongrass tofu.
A similar menu — patê sô plus teas and banh mi — can also be found at Lan Bakery. Baker Ken Nguyen opened his spot in Asian Corner Mall on North Tryon Street at Sugar Creek Road this spring.
Central Tea House
Hours: 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Location: 3000 Central Ave. #6.
Info: 704-595-7223; https://central-tea-house.business.site.
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Sunday.
Location: 4520 N. Tryon St. #6.