If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, than the folks at Newport Tan Cang Seafood must be absolutely tickled about the opening of Boston Lobster.
While the restaurant’s name might lead one to expect lobster rolls served on split top buns and towers of gloriously fresh oysters, the focus here is seafood prepared with a Vietnamese-Chinese bent. From what I hear through the grapevine, a former cook from Newport opened the restaurant, hence the similar bill of fare.
The Astronomer and I, along with the Astronomer’s fabulous sister Rosalind, dropped in for dinner on a recent Friday night. While the wait at nearby Newport would’ve been painfully long, we were seated straightaway at the peak of dinner hour. Score one for Boston Lobster.
To compare apples to apples, we selected a slew of dishes that we would normally order at Newport. The clams with Thai basil ($11.95) were just as good as their Newport counterparts, brilliantly briny and fragrant from plenty of fresh herbs and garlic.
Continue reading ‘Boston Lobster – San Gabriel’
For the third year running, Chef Diep Tran spearheaded a bánh chưng making get-together in preparation for the Lunar New Year. What began as a cultural and culinary experiment of sorts, has become a beloved tradition that I eagerly anticipate each year.
Since our initial foray into bánh chưng making, Diep has continued to refine our ingredients and techniques. One element that has remained unchanged over time is the size and shape of the bánh chưng. The smaller parcels make for shorter cook times (and unparalleled adorableness).
This year, Diep made two types of pork filling—smoked belly using Red Boat fish sauce and cured bacon using Red Boat fish sauce salt.
Continue reading ‘Tết 2015: Not Your Grandma’s Bánh Chưng (Sous Vide Edition)’
While pregnant with Baby June, I spent many afternoons listening to my grandmother recall various myths and traditions regarding motherhood and babies within Vietnamese culture. Ba Ngoai has personally experienced nine pregnancies in her lifetime, so she knows a thing or two about the subject. While some Vietnamese postpartum rituals are rarely practiced in the U.S., others remain quite common.
For me, the custom of staying indoors and “roasting” by a fire (nam lua) for an entire month after giving birth seemed impractical (and a bit nuts), but baby’s one month anniversary (ngay day thang) seemed an important milestone to recognize.
From what I gather from my family (and from scouring the Internet), the purpose of ngay day thang is to prepare a feast for the mười hai bà mụ (twelve midwives). According to Vietnamese mythology and folk religion, these twelve “fairies” teach babies various prosperous traits and skills such as sucking and smiling.
My grandparents, along with my mother and great aunt, traveled from San Diego to assist with day thang preparations.
Continue reading ‘Ngày Đầy Tháng: June’s One Month Celebration’
Even with an endless parade of new restaurant openings in Los Angeles, my current obsession is an unassuming eight-year-old Vietnamese spot in El Monte. My friend Thien introduced me to Kim Hoa Hue Restaurant a few weeks ago, and I’ve already been back three times since. This place is really something dac biet.
Whereas most Vietnamese restaurants in town serve a menu of the country’s greatest hits, like pho, bun, and the like, Kim Hoa Hue specializes in Central Vietnamese fare, specifically the cuisine from Hue. As Vietnam’s former imperial capital, Hue is renowned for its sophisticated cuisine, developed by the cooks of the royal court.
On each of my visits here, my dining companions and I feasted like kings. Never missing from our spread was the Hue Combo ($6.25), a sample platter of delicate delights: banh beo (steamed rice cakes topped with shrimp and cracklins), banh nam (rice cakes embedded with shrimp and steamed in banana leaves), banh bot loc (shrimp and pork dumplings), cha (steamed pork forcemeat), and banh uot tom chay (rice sheets stuffed with minced shrimp).
While my mother and grandmother were particularly fond of the banh beo during our lunch, it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite—winners all around, I say.
Continue reading ‘Kim Hoa Hue Restaurant – El Monte’