December 23, 2007
9082 Bolsa Avenue
Westminster, CA 92683
Banh Tom Co Ngu ($6.50)
Bun Cha Ha Noi ($6.50)
On our drive from LAX to San Diego, my mom and aunt insisted that we stop by Little Saigon for a little shopping and dinner. After five months of living in Vietnam, I wasn’t exactly craving Vietnamese cuisine, but I was excited to compare and contrast food from Saigon to food from Little Saigon.
Since my family is from the south, I was surprised when we pulled into an eatery specializing in northern delicacies. My aunt had heard good things about Ha Noi Restaurant, and so my mom and I left her in charge of the ordering; she stuck to the house specials—banh tom co ngu and bun cha.
The banh tom co ngu achieved the ideal deep-fried state—crispy without a trace of greasy. Wrapped in large Romaine lettuce and dipped in nuoc cham, the familiar flavors of the banh tom co ngu instantly transported me back to Saigon.
I only had a small bite of the bun cha because my appetite was sadly non-existant due to jetlag. I thought that the cha here was far leaner than the ones in Saigon. Another difference was the size of the meat patties. Whereas the cha in Vietnam are about the size of silver dollars, the ones served here were super-sized. Oh, America.
I once read that the Vietnamese food in Vietnam tastes better because of ambient factors like motorbike exhaust, stumpy stools, napkin littered floors, etc., but wasn’t sure if I agreed. After eating in sanitary Little Saigon, I must admit that I badly missed the real thing.