Archive for the 'Banh Xeo' Category

Bánh Xèo Quán – Rosemead

Banh Xeo Quan | Mr. Rice - Rosemead

Banh Xeo Quan, also known as Mr. Rice, specializes in southern-style Vietnamese crepes*. Owner Phi Tran, who hails from Saigon, opened the restaurant in Rosemead some five years ago to bring this specialty to the San Gabriel Valley. This place came highly recommended to me by my lovely friend Thien. She and her family have been dining here for years, so I knew I was in for a treat.

Banh Xeo Quan | Mr. Rice - Rosemead

A refreshingly succinct menu, neatly laminated and fully photographed, greeted us upon arrival. In addition to its namesake banh xeo, the restaurant also prepared rice dishes, noodle soups, and hot vit lon, fetal duck eggs. Although a banh mi hot dog and soda combo was unbeatably priced at $2.75, no one bit the bullet.

Banh Xeo Quan | Mr. Rice - Rosemead

We passed on boba and beer and settled on freshly pressed nuoc mia (sugarcane juice) and minty green nuoc dau xanh la dua (mung bean milk with pandan). Both were excellent.

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Saigon Classic: Flaming Roadside Bánh Xèo

Banh Xeo - CMT8 & Bac Hai

The Astronomer and I could barely stay awake when nightfall hit due to a combination of jet lag and over-stimulation. However, crawling into bed without a proper supper was completely out of the question, so we toughened up, called our friend Hanh, and made plans for flaming roadside banh xeo.

This no-name restaurant in District 10 was the site of our final feast with friends three years ago, and we’ve been dreaming about it ever since.

Banh Xeo - CMT8 & Bac Hai

The specialty here is Central-stybanh xeo, small yellow pancakes stuffed with shell-on shrimp, fatty bits of pork, and beansprouts. Whereas Southern-style bánh xèo are thin and lacy wok-sized beasts, their Central counterparts are smaller, crunchier, and heftier.

Banh Xeo - CMT8 & Bac Hai

The bánh xèo are made in heavy-duty cast iron molds over open flames. A roadside kitchen means that the smoke and smells carry over onto the streets, beckoning passers by on motorbikes to come hither. I find the pomp and circumstance simply irresistible.

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Veggie Life Restaurant – South El Monte

When my mom swung into town recently for her monthly business trip, she requested that we dine at a Vietnamese restaurant specializing in vegetarian fare. While my mom is normally a happy omnivore, she was abstaining from meat for the first month of the Lunar New Year. A quick search on Yelp yielded Veggie Life Restaurant in South El Monte—an area of town with a heavy concentration of Vietnamese Americans.

From the second we walked into the eatery, we knew we were in for a treat. Like all of the area’s great Vietnamese restaurants, this one had a comfortable and informal vibe that reminded me of Saigon—food prep was taking place on tables unoccupied by diners and the staff greeted us with smiles.

The key to excellent Vietnamese vegetarian fare is a killer mock nuoc cham (fish sauce based vinaigrette). Veggie Life’s nuoc cham really hit the mark, especially when doused atop our starter, the goi ngo sen (lotus stem salad). Our favorite elements of the salad were the generous amounts of fresh herbs and the chewy strands of agar.

For my main course, I chose the chef’s “six delights” rice platter. Count ’em!

The six delights included lemongrass “beef,” “chicken” drumstick, “pork” loaf, tofu skin wrapped “meat,” “fish” loaf, and thinly shredded “pork.” I am an all-around fan of mock meats and thus enjoyed this compilation platter very much, especially the tofu skin roll and the drumstick. The portions at Veggie Life are livin’ large, so The Astronomer had to help me finish it.

My rice platter was served with a hot bowl of nuoc leo—a simple vegetable stock.

My mom indulged in a tasty bowl of bun bo Huea spicy beef noodle soup from the city of Hue. It’s hard to match the robust flavors of meaty bun bo, but this veggie version held it’s own. Fresh lemongrass provided the bulk of the broth’s flavors.

The Astronomer surprised us all by ordering banh xeo—Vietnamese crepe stuffed with mushrooms and bean sprouts. The banh xeo was served with huge lettuce leaves for wrapping, a plethora of herbs for garnishing, and a bowl of nuoc cham for dipping. The Astronomer was very happy with his selection and wrapped, garnished, and dipped his banh xeo like a seasoned veteran. I thought that the banh xeo was really oily, but I must admit that banh xeo wouldn’t quite be banh xeo if it didn’t leave one’s hands and lips glistening with slick grease.

Veggie Life Restaurant
9324 Garvey Ave #B
South El Monte, CA 91733
Phone: 626-443-8687

Veggie Life Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Veggie Life Restaurant in Los Angeles

Phở Quê Hương – Birmingham

The day after my first solo foray into home-cooked Vietnamese food (sorry, I was too busy concentrating on the task at hand to take pictures), my mom and I met my Dad for lunch at Birmingham’s original Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Que Huong. This place has been around since at least the mid-90s, but now that they finally have some competition, I wondered how they were measuring up.

The menu at Pho Que Huong is pretty diverse—the kind of all-over-the-place one-stop shop that you would expect at a location that has long had to satisfy an entire city’s Vietnamese food cravings. My mom and I spent some time exploring our options while we waited for my Dad to arrive. Strangely, our waiter looked Indian rather than Vietnamese, and when I settled on the bun bo Hue, he asked, “Sorry, what number is that? I don’t speak Vietnamese.” Hmmm… I had assumed he was the husband of one of the cooks or cashiers, but I would have thought he’d at least have learned the names of the foods by now.

I suggested that we start the meal with a plate of goi tom thit. The salad was perfect, with just the right amount of tartness and a nice collection of herbs mixed in. And of course, it featured a hefty American helping of juicy shrimp and pork.

My Dad went with the bun thit nuong cha gio. Just like at Pho Hoang, the cha gio were made with inferior Chinese egg roll wrappers, but the meaty innards tasted pretty darn good. Although the nuoc cham wasn’t the best I’ve had, the dish came together quite well.

I was disappointed with my bun bo at first—the flavors just weren’t quite what I was expecting—but it grew on me, and I ended up deciding it was a solid bowl of noodles. I was too full and sweaty to drink the broth at the end of the meal, but we took it home in a Tupperware to eat with some banh pho we had at the house.

After extensive deliberation, my Mom decided to order the banh xeo. Paired with our noodle bowls, it made for a bit of an unconventional meal, but I always like to encourage my parents to try new things. The banh xeo was an interesting hybrid of the southern and central Vietnamese styles: about eight inches in diameter, it was crispy, thick, and overflowing with shrimp and meat. Plenty of greens were provided for wrapping. The overall flavor couldn’t quite match the best of Da Nang-style banh xeo in Vietnam, but I think it actually surpassed the offerings at Saigon’s world-famous Banh Xeo 46A.

The next day I stopped by Pho Que Huong again to pick up a sandwich for lunch. Even at the outrageous price of $4.50, banh mi thit nuong was my obvious choice. I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed when I got home and opened it: there was no sauce to speak of, just strips of grilled pork with pickled vegetables and cilantro. It was actually an excellent sandwich, as far as sandwiches go, but sadly I was expecting more. The portion size was also rather small for the price—nothing like the sweet deals I’ve gotten on banh mi in California (to compare Birmingham with Vietnam wouldn’t even be fair, but for the record, in Saigon, $4.50 = 15 sandwiches).

Pho Que Huong
430 Green Springs Hwy.
Homewood, Alabama
Phone: 205-942-5400

Pho Que Vietnamese on Urbanspoon

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