Archive for the 'Banh Beo' Category

Ngự Bình Restaurant – Westminster

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster

The Astronomer and I dined at Ngự Bình Restaurant earlier this summer while in Little Saigon for a very special wedding. With three hours to fill in between the ceremony and reception, we decided to stuff ourselves silly with Vietnamese food.

Little Saigon is slightly too far for us to explore on the regular, so we had to seize this opportunity to dine on the best Vietnamese food this side of the Pacific.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster

In the midst of all the wedding chaos, the bride and groom were kind enough to point us to Ngự Bình for Central Vietnamese cuisine. Here, chef and owner Mai Tran prepares family recipes that she learned in her hometown of Thua Thien. The delicate steamed dumplings and complex noodle soups that hail from this region never fail to make me swoon.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster

The first dish to land on our table was the mit xuc banh trang ($6.25). The young jackfruit salad was served warm with a smattering of Vietnamese coriander (rau ram), slivers of pork, and crushed peanuts. We scooped up the salad using the crisp sesame crackers and delivered the goods swiftly to our mouths. A bit of fish sauce was all that was needed to set the flavors properly ablaze.

Continue reading ‘Ngự Bình Restaurant – Westminster’

Hoài Huế Vietnamese Restaurant – San Diego

Hoai Hue - San Diego

The Astronomer and I dined at Hoài Huế three years ago on a double date with my grandparents. Back then, the restaurant occupied a sad space that was dark, dingy, and cramped. The food and service were both good, but the ambiance was pretty pathetic, even for a Vietnamese joint.

Recently, Hoài Huế moved into infinitely superior digs a few blocks west on El Cajon Boulevard. On our lastest trip to San Diego, The Astronomer and I lunched in the new space along with my grandparents, mom, and cousin Jimmy.

Hoai Hue - San Diego

Even though it had only been open a short while, Hoài Huế was totally packed—good news spreads rapidly in this food-loving community. The new restaurant is brightly lit, clean, spacious, and humming with happy noodle slurpers. We immediately scored a table for four, but had to wait for the one next to it to clear out. By the time the rest of our party arrived, the table was ready to go.

Hoai Hue - San Diego

What I really, really liked about Hoài Huế was its concise menu. With fewer than twenty dishes on offer, most of which were from Central Vietnam, it was clear what the restaurant excelled at. Twenty dishes is extensive compared to the one-dish shacks in Vietnam, but a vast improvement from the tomes I’m presented with at most Vietnamese-American restaurants.

Continue reading ‘Hoài Huế Vietnamese Restaurant – San Diego’

Vietnam Restaurant – San Gabriel

Vietnam Restaurant - San Gabriel

When I go out for Vietnamese food these days, it’s almost always at the suggestion of  another (usually The Astronomer). The Vietnamese restaurants in Los Angeles are generally very good, but I’m often daunted by their hundred-item menus and super-sized portions. Rather than risk disappointment, I’ve decided to save my appetite for visits to grandma’s house and return visits to the motherland. The opportunities to indulge in my favorite cuisine may be infrequent, but at least it’s just the way I fancy it when I do.

Even though I don’t seek out Vietnamese restaurants, I find myself sitting at one about once a quarter. My most recent outing was initiated by my friend Craig. He was itching to try seven courses of beef (bò 7 món) and I was game to show him the ropes. Our party of three arrived at Vietnam Restaurant sometime past 8 PM on a Friday night. The stand-alone shack was packed with diners, and after a twenty minute wait, we scored a table by the window.

Vietnam Restaurant - San Gabriel

I started dinner off with nuoc xi muoi, a salted plum drink served over ice. It was an impulsive choice that turned out to be an absolutely delightful punch of salty, sour, and sweet. I ordered another soon after I polished off the first glass.

Vietnam Restaurant - San Gabriel

Before the onslaught of red meat began, I chose two light bites to start. The first to arrive was bánh bèo. The steamed rice cakes were topped with mung bean paste, scallion oil, and fluorescent orange shrimp dust. Not to worry, the shrimp’s hue was the result of natural coloring.

Continue reading ‘Vietnam Restaurant – San Gabriel’

Summer Rolls – Rosemead

After sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for a solid half hour, it was clear that my dreams of kicking it with carnies and eating deep-fried White Castle burgers at the L.A. County Fair had to be reassessed. Of course I was looking forward to the smelly petting zoos and dizzying Tilt-a-Whirls, but wasting a beautiful summer afternoon idling on the freeway wasn’t in the cards, so I did what I had to do. “There will always be next year,” consoled The Astronomer.

With Plan A kicked to the curb, we moved on to Plan B—cruising for grub in the San Gabriel Valley. Twice in the past week, I’ve received recommendations for a Central Vietnamese restaurant in Rosemead named Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa. “It’s one of the best,” said Hong, one half of the Ravenous Couple. “It’s in my top three and I’ve been going here for years,” said Wesley, one half of the Two Hungry Pandas. After confirming the address with yet another Panda, we made our way to Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa in time for lunch.

The restaurant was operating at full capacity when we arrived. After placing our names on the waiting list and moseying around for fifteen minutes, we were seated at a table for four.

In between placing our orders and the food arriving, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Are you The Gastronomer?” asked a friendly looking gentleman. “And you’re The Astronomer!” he said while pointing at Vernon. I can’t remember whether or not we actually confirmed our pseudonyms, but we did invite him and his friend to join us. Surely, it was the least we could do for the first readers to spot us out in public!

We started off with an order of banh beo ($5.49), a dish from the city of Hue. The twelve steamed rice cakes arrived in shallow porcelain dishes piled atop one another. Each cake was sprinkled with dried minced shrimp, smeared with scallion oil, and finished with a crisp “crouton” of rendered pork fat.

To eat, we spooned a bit of sweet fish sauce atop the warm banh beo and dug in with spoons. Once while visiting Hoi An, The Astronomer and I ate banh beo using flat wooden sticks! The steamed rice cakes were doughier and less pliable than the ones we enjoyed in Vietnam, which surprisingly bothered The Astronomer much more than me. I love how my boy’s become a Vietnamese food snob.

Continue reading ‘Summer Rolls – Rosemead’

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...