Chef Connie Tran’s bi-monthly pop-up exploring Vietnamese food traditions brings together classic Vietnamese dishes with a smattering of twists that a Vietnamese grandma probably wouldn’t approve of, in a good way. Filing my second Scouting Report, “BEP Kitchen is for Vietnamese food lovers seeking to go beyond pho,” on the Los Angeles Times‘ Daily Dish. Bon appetit.
Archive for the 'Bo La Lot' Category
The Astronomer and I began our third day in Saigon across the river in District 4, a densely packed island we called home for the better part of a year. In the three years since we’ve been gone, the old neighborhood has undergone quite a makeover. While the river is still as murky as ever, dirt roads have been transformed into sturdy bridges and run-down shacks have given way to shiny highrises. The lay of the land was so unfamiliar that The Astronomer had trouble navigating the streets at several turns. Rapid development can be mighty disorienting.
Fortunately, the vibrant street food scene hasn’t changed one bit. After stopping to pick up some xoi gac from my my favorite sticky rice vendor on Ton That Thuyet Street (pictured above), we searched the district for more good eats.
The smell of grilled seasoned beef wrapped in betel leaves brought our motorbike to a rapid halt. Even though we had just eaten bo la lot a few meals ago, it was too tempting to pass up.
The Astronomer’s bowl of bun bo la lot was piled high with herbs and sprouts tucked underneath a tangle of cool vermicelli noodles, peanuts, pickled carrots and daikon, and a swipe of crushed fresh chilies. Everything was evenly dressed with fish sauce. The best bites included a pinky-sized bo la lot nugget.
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.
The specialty here is Central-stye banh 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.
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.
I recently learned that my friend Evelina‘s family eats Vietnamese-style roasted catfish (cá nướng da dòn) in place of turkey every Thanksgiving and Christmas. As anyone who’s ever experienced this crackly and caramelized preparation can attest, twice a year is simply not enough. When a major craving hits and the holidays aren’t in sight, Evelina grabs a table at Thiên Ân Bò 7 Món in Rosemead. It’s certainly not as good as grandma’s homemade version, but the catfish here is still pure “scrumptiousness.” Evelina’s words, not mine.
When a sudden hankering surfaced a few weeks back, The Astronomer and I were on hand to join the catfish queen for dinner at Thiên Ân. A gaudily framed photo of the famed dish greeted us as we walked through the front door. Flanking it on both sides were glowing write-ups from the Los Angeles Times. It’s no secret that this place is delicious.
Evelina called a few hours before our arrival to order a medium-sized catfish ($39) for our party of six. Our whiskered guest of honor was placed before us soon after we received our drinks. If you forget to call ahead, it can take up to 30 minutes for the fish to be prepared. Trust me, the wait is worth it.