Archive for the 'Com Tam' Category

Golden Deli – San Gabriel

Golden Deli is considered to be Los Angeles’ best Vietnamese restaurant by many discerning diners. It’s too early in the game for me to chime in on which Vietnamese eatery I think is the city’s best, but Golden Deli is definitely an all-around solid joint.

In comparison to Cơm Tấm Thuận Kiều and arch-nemesis Vietnam House, Golden Deli has a spiffier and warmer interior. Pleasant ambiance isn’t something I seek out in Vietnamese restaurants, but I appreciate it where it’s found. The people who work here are also really fantastic—I had fun conversing with our waiter in my growing-worse-by-the-day Vietnamese.

My friend Carissa and I dined at Golden Deli on a random weekday for lunch. Even though the space was packed to the rafters, we didn’t have to wait long for a table to open up. We started off our midday Vietnamese banquet with an order of Golden Deli’s famous cha gio ($5.75). According to LA Weekly’s Jonathan Gold, “Golden Deli has the best cha gio, fried Vietnamese spring rolls, in the observable universe.”

The cha gio here are hefty and generously stuffed with ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, glass noodles, and carrots. The plate of greens and herbs served with the rolls was plentiful, and the nuoc cham was just right. There’s no doubt that Golden Deli churns out a tasty cha gio, but like a lot of Vietnamese foods found in these here parts, they’re far too large. As a result of their bulk, oil tends to cling to the wrappers, creating a heavier overall package.

Vietnamese food, even of the deep-fried variety, should always be light and fresh. The title of best cha gio in the observable universe goes to my great aunt Ba Sau—her pinky-sized rolls with perfectly blistered wrappers are unrivaled.

Carissa requested that I order her something fabulous, so I chose one of my all-time faves—com tam bi cha thit nuong trung opla ($7.95). The broken rice platter was comprised of three awesomely delicious and awesomely different pork preparations, along with two fried eggs. Carissa’s favorite was the tender pork loaf. She gave me a taste and I was very impressed—the loaf was steamed to perfection and tasted just like grandma’s.

I ordered a bowl of bun thit nuong chao tom ($6.25)—cool vermicelli rice noodles topped with grilled pork, grilled shrimp paste, crushed peanuts, fried shallots, and scallion oil. Beneath the noodles and meat were a heap of bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, and herbs. The bun thit nuong chao tom was highly enjoyable but would’ve been better if the shrimp paste had been served with its traditional sugarcane skewer. In a city brimming with great Vietnamese eats, it’s the little details that give one restaurant an edge over the others. Show me the sugarcane.

Golden Deli
815 W. Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Phone: 626-308-0803

Vietnam House – San Gabriel

When longtime reader and fellow Pasadena resident Danielle discovered that The Astronomer and I were moving into her backyard, she was quick with a dinner invite. We enthusiastically accepted, of course, because there ain’t nothing better than having a local show us the town.

Our dinner destination was Vietnam House, the epicenter of drama in the San Gabriel Valley. Danielle informed us that the brother-in-law who managed the restaurant was somehow pushed out of the family business. In retaliation, he and his wife left Vietnam House and opened up their own Vietnamese eatery a half mile down the street—Vietnam Restaurant. And get this, both restaurants’ menus are exactly the same. Scandalous, right? Even though Danielle favors Vietnam Restaurant over Vietnam House, she wanted to introduce us to the original shop.

We dined on a Saturday night and the place was packed. The majority of the guests were partaking in the house specialty—bo bay mon (seven courses of beef). Since we all agreed that bo la lot was the only reason to order seven courses of beef, we opted to go a la carte.

Danielle highly recommended an order of cha gio ($4.95) to start. The golden cha gio were served with heaps of greenery and individual bowls of nuoc mam. My first cha gio was excellent, tasty meaty filling and crisp wrapper, but the ones after it were bogged down by too much oil.

With thoughts of bo la lot dancing in his head, The Astronomer ordered the banh hoi bo la lot ($6.95)—sheets of thin rice noodles topped with seasoned ground beef wrapped in betel leaves, crushed peanuts and scallion oil, and served with nuoc mam on the side. This dish was decently portioned and full of bold flavors. Thanks to a la carte, putting up with six mostly mediocre meats can now be avoided.

I ordered broken rice with the works for my entree. The com tam (broken rice) included bi (sliced pork skin and pork), cha (pork loaf), thit nuong (grilled meat), truong opla (fried egg), peanuts, cucumber slices, and scallion oil ($6.50).

Unlike The Astronomer’s modestly portioned banh hoi, my broken rice plate could have fed a small village. My favorite components were the bi and cha. The thit nuong was disappointingly chewy and dry. However, it must be noted that everything tastes fantastic doused in lots of fish sauce.

Danielle ordered Hu Tieu My Tho ($4.95) for her main course. Hu Tieu My Tho comes from the Mekong Delta city of Mỹ Tho. The dish is comprised of a clear pork-based broth, translucent tapioca noodles, sliced barbecued and plain pork, and garnished with shrimps and chives.

Thank you, Danielle, for showing two new kids on the block a little drama and a lot of hospitality.

Vietnam House
710 W Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Phone: 626-282-6327

Vietnam House on Urbanspoon

Vietnam House in Los Angeles

Cơm Tấm Thuận Kiều – San Gabriel

For one of our first meals out on the town, The Astronomer and I met up with veteran L.A. blogger Wandering Chopsticks. The evening’s destination was admittedly unoriginal, but I was craving a cool bowl of bun (vermicelli rice noodles), and WC knew a great place in nearby San Gabriel.

The San Gabriel Valley has the largest concentration of Chinese-American communities in the United States and a robust Vietnamese population as well. Driving to the restaurant, we passed by all sorts of awesome looking ethnic eats that I am muy excited to try—exploring this culinary landscape is going to rock!

Prior to arriving at Cơm Tấm Thuận Kiều, WC warned us that the place was a bit dirty, but after surviving the squatters in China, I wasn’t too worried.

Our group of three started with an order of cha gio ($5.50), which came with herbs, greens and a few cucumber spears. Nuoc mam was served on the side for dipping. The rolls were served hot out of the fryer and tasted fantastic—crispy blistered skin with well-seasoned porky innards. Unlike Ba Sau’s pinky-legnth cha gio in Saigon, these were super-sized to satisfy American appetites. After eating my portion of the cha gio, I was quite full and could’ve called it a night. However, I still had an entree coming my way.

WC and I ordered the same dish—bun chao tom nem nuong cha gio. Now, that’s a mouthful! Literally! The bottom of the bowl was covered with fresh bean sprouts, shredded lettuce and herbs. Next, a nest of vermicelli rice noodles. And lastly, the meat—egg rolls (cha gio), meat balls (nem nuong) and shrimp paste wrapped around sugarcane (chao tom). The bowl of bun was garnished with pickled carrots and daikon, scallion oil, peanuts, and fried shallots. The noodles were solid, with the exception of the sugarcane-less chao tom and slightly rubbery nem nuong. WC postulated that the meat balls were reheated rather than grilled to order, hence their unsavory texture. Portion-wise, the bowl was the size of a stadium. If there’s a next time, I’m definitely sharing my noodles with another.

The Astronomer stuck to the broken rice side of the menu and settled on com tam bi suon nuong ($4.99)—broken rice with grilled pork chops and shredded pork. It’s been three months since Vietnam and I still can’t get over how ginormous Vietnamese-American portions are; the slab of grilled pork was the size of my face. It’s a good thing The Astronomer is a powerful eater.

The three of us left Cơm Tấm Thuận Kiều stuffed to the gills.

Com Tam Thuan Kieu
120 E Valley Blvd., Unit E
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Phone: 626-280-5660

Com Tam Thuan Kieu on Urbanspoon

Com Tam Thuan Kieu in Los Angeles

Cơm Tấm Dì Năm – Ho Chi Minh City

May 10, 2008
Cuisine: Vietnamese

253 Khanh Hoi Street
District 4, Ho Chi Minh City

Phone 8264381
Website: none

Canh Khoai Mo

Bo Xao Bong He

Com Tam Bi Cha

I’ve written about the ins and outs of com tam on countless occasions here on gas•tron•o•my, so to keep things fresh, I’ll stick to the new stuff.

Cơm Tấm Dì Năm is an eatery specializing in com tam in District 4. It’s open from 4 AM to 10 PM everyday. The Astronomer and I dropped in a couple of Saturdays ago for lunch because after ten months of saying to myself, “I’ve got to try that place out,” timing was finally on our side. Or something like that…

I went for the com tam bi cha because it’s one of my all-time favorites. This version did not disappoint, well, except for the unavailability of op la (fried sunny-side up egg), but I got over that pretty quickly because everything else was solid.

The Astronomer was in a beefy mood and ordered beef sauteed with chive flowers. The ratio of meat to greens was skewed toward the blossoms, but Astro-man just pushed the extras aside and did what he does best.

And speaking of chives, wanna here a funny story?

Of course you do!

Back in San Diego, chives grow in front of the Nordstrom Rack at Mission Valley mall. Whenever my mom and I go shopping, she always handpicks the chives and brings them home to make hu tieu xao. Ghetto, right? I’m always so embarrassed by her deviant actions, but I have no shame eating the delicious end product.

Okay, back to Cơm Tấm Dì Năm!

After I finished my com tam, I ordered a bowl of canh khoai mo. I’ve encountered khoai mo at the markets, but never in a restaurant. The lavender soup was mild (in a good way) and had little bits of yam. Definitely very soothing and hearty. Must try again.

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