Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Little Trip to Little Saigon for the Little One - Little Saigon, Westminster

In about a month, I will become Uncle ED&BM. My younger sister is going to be giving birth to a baby boy and I’m extremely stoked. It’s hard to imagine that the same sister I had punished, beaten up, teased and tormented as a kid is now a fully grown woman. It’s really amazing knowing that your sibling is moving onto the next stage in life. My dad and I just bought her a crib and stroller and headed down to OC to set everything up for her. It’s been a while since we’ve eaten in OC, so we decided this would be a day to absorb the wonderful food of Little Saigon.

During my years at UCI, my diet revolved around tasteless dorm food, Del Taco, Sriracha hot dogs and pseudo-Asian food. But once in a while, I would make a trip down to Little Saigon for pho. I usually ate this around 3 am at this one 24-hour joint, drunk. Pho is truly the world’s best hangover, well, besides drinking more alcohol to rid the headaches.

One of my favorite places to eat at is Quan Hy, which serves Central Vietnamese food. What’s the difference between Central and say, North/South food? The absence of Pho. If you’re looking for pho here, you won’t find it because it’s not their regional specialty. Instead, you’ll find something called Bun Bo Hue which has way more flavor than pho. It’s a soup noodle dish served with thicker, spaghetti-like vermicelli and pork hocks/beef. The soup has a sweeter, lemongrass taste which can be smelled from the other side of the restaurant. So good. Quan Hy is known for its nice interior and a popular choice for younger people. It’s not unusual to endure a 30+ minute wait here, but I think it’s definitely worth it. When we got here, we were behind 9 other parties. I sat down with my Dad and sister and pointed out a decoration that was a lawsuit waiting to happen. Upon entering, you’ll be walking over a small wooden bridge that leads to the hosts’ booth. The pond is only about a few inches deep but let me tell you, you can film Vietnam’s Funniest Videos here. Everytime I’ve been here, I’ve seen someone step into the pond. The shallow water and rocks are quite deceiving. It sucks, but it’s funny.

Sister: “Can you go get me some bottled water? I can’t drink tap water.”
Me: “Sure. Hey, watch that bridge. I bet you someone is going to eat it.”
Sister: “Really, it’s so shallow.”
Me: “Just watch dude.”

I went to a small bakery and bought my sister some water. On the way back, my sister called me on my cell phone. I picked up and I could hear her laughing. I was right. Someone had taken a quick afternoon swim in the 6” pond. When I walked in, it was so messy. Water everywhere! So future Quan Hy patrons, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Quan Hy is alive and bustling with peoples voices and music. It’s decorated with bamboo and random art and definitely has a warm feeling. The place is heavily staffed with waiters, busboys and people working the drink bar. Here’s what we had:

A. Banh Beo - These steamed rice cakes are what people pile in here for. This beautifully presented dish consists of rice cakes with shredded shrimp and fried shallots and is served with tasty fish sauce. I once ate three of these trays (24 banh beos!) Definitely try these. $4.75

B. Bun Thit Nuong Nem Lui - This dish is served in every pho restaurant, but Quan Hy's is slightly different because of the noodles used. The vermicelli noodles are typically thicker than your standard rice noodles. This isn't the best 'Bun Thit Nuong' I've eaten but still tasty. The grilled pork has a nice lemongrass and mint taste. The shrimp paste is moist and has a nice bite to it. $6.95

C. Bun Bo Hue - This is a Central Vietnamese favorite. This dish originates from the Hue region of Vietnam and comes with one large pork hock and thick slices of beef tendon/shank. Try this! The flavor of the soup is great and you'll see this on everyone's table. Even after my sister finished it, I managed to finish all of her soup. Served with shredded romaine and cabbage, not like the bean sprouts that are provided with Pho. $5.75

D. Bun Bo Dac Biet Cha Tom - Same soup and noodles as C but with pork and shrimp patties. Very good. $6.75

Quan Hy is typically more expensive than your average Vietnamese joint, but this comes with a nicely decorated restaurant that attracts a younger crowd.

Next, we headed to the largest mall in Little Saigon known as the Asian Garden Mall (Phuoc Loc Tho). In here, you'll find a lot of jewelry shops, karaoke stores and clothing shops. If you're not into finding a gold necklace, Saigon's Top 40 and clothes I wouldn't be caught wearing, you can circle around the food court. There are about 10 different places to get food and drinks, but my favorite is Dakao. Dakao serves a light noodle dish called Banh Cuon, which can be rolled into a crepe with ground pork/mushrooms or served as plain rice sheets. For $4.75, you can get these noodles with a few slices of homemade pork meatloaf (gio lua), crispy mung bean bread and fish sauce. I get this everytime I'm here.

A. Dakao - It's on the westside of the food court which is located in the middle of the shopping center.

B. Banh Cuon Dakao - No need to say this tongue twister, just point at the large photo and order!

C. Banh Cuon Noodles - Starting from the top left, you can see the slices of pork meatloaf (so good!), ground pork/mushroom banh noodles, plain banh noodle sheets and sweet porkballs on a skewer. It's a lot of fun looking at the food at Vietnamese places - they seriously put out nice colorful spreads.

D. Crispy Mung Bean Bread - Crisp and crunchy; goes well with the soft texture of the fresh banh noodles.

Since I don't come to Little Saigon much anymore, might as well go to all the places I like to eat at. That brings us to another Central Vietnamese restaurant named Brodard, located on Westminster/Brookhurst behind the 99 Cent Store. Like Quan Hy, it's decorated nicely and serves food you don't typically see in a standard Pho restaurant. Central Vietnamese food has a heavy French influence because of the colonization, and its inherent in the menu. Brodard's specialty is their Nem Nuong Cuons (Pork Spring Rolls). You've all had the shrimp spring roll, but this totally kicks its ass. Savory grilled pork is served inside the rice wrapper with a crispy egg roll skin, romaine and chive. They do not serve this with the hoisin/peanut sauce or fish sauce. Instead, you get this fish sauce, coconut milk, ground pork and Sriricha chili sauce - it's great. I once asked the lady at the counter about its ingredients and she just stared at me with no reply. Pushed the wrong button I guess. I usually come here to order the spring rolls to go. For those that have been here, Brodard also opened up the Brodard Chateau which I have yet to try. Looks really nice from the photos.

A. Brodard - Don't be fooled by the ugly non-descript building. It's a nice dining experience.

B. Grubbing in Session - I usually have to wait a good 15 minutes here for a table.

C. Spring Roll Technician - I was being eyed by the people in the kitchen as I took the photos. I like that they have a side window for the curious. I made these same exact rolls for a catering event and they were devoured. I simply used fish sauce because I couldn't figure out their sauce.

D. Rolls to Die For - These are seriously addicting. I was drunk once and ate about 7 of these. I couldn't move. 3 for $3.75.

We ate so much food today. I ate 2 more egg rolls and 1 pork spring roll while driving. By the time we got to my sister's place, my Dad and I were tired. We eventually got everything setup and said goodbye to the expectant mother. She was very happy with the food we ate today, and I'm sure baby Taylor was too. My nephew won't be eating mac n' cheese and lunchables, he's gonna be well-fed as long as I'm his babysitter. Thanks for reading.

Quan Hy
9727 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 775-7179
*Also a location in Garden Grove

Asian Garden Mall (Phuoc Loc Tho)
9200 Bolsa Avenue
Westminster, CA
(714) 842-8018

Brodard Nem Nuong Restaurant
9892 Westminster Ave, Suite R (Behind 99 Cent Store)
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 530-1744
*Also try Brodard Chateau


Jeni said...

MMMM...I loooooove banh beo and banh cuon!!!

Haha...Phuoc Loc Tho is cool now. But it wasn't when I was 19 and getting picked up by 30 year old Vietnamese men. "Pssssstt...hey Q-D!"

Tokyoastrogirl said...

Congrats on your future as an uncle!

All of the food looks amazing but I think I'll have to drive out just to get those rolls. Yum.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

J, Phuoc Loc Tho is still the place to be. I almost got you Lynda Trang Dai's Greatest Hits cd. Supermarket love affair!!!

TAG, thank you. The rolls are definitely worth driving out for. Brodard also has a location in Alhambra on Valley Blvd. but I don't recommend that place, it sucks. I don't remember them serving those rolls. I am making similar pork rolls tonight, so I can provide you with things you'll need to make your own. The sauce, i'll have to work on but I have a pretty good idea of what it consists of.

BoLA said...

Ooo... those rolls look so GOOD! I gotta try me some! Hmm...Mr. Eat, Drink&Be Merry's gonna be an uncle? Whoa! Watch out! heheh...I know the little one's gonna be spoiled with such good eats growing up with Uncle Dylan! =)

Christine D. said...

Hey! Those are some great places for food. Have you ever been to Bun Bo Hue So 1? OMG it has probably the best bun bo hue i've ever eaten (I'd have to say that I like bun bo hue more than pho because of that place).

We get banh cuon at Dakao when we're at Phuoc Loc Tho too, and sometimes we get the fried bananas at one of the stalls to the right of it. I think at far the end? Not outstanding, but it usually hits that sweet spot.

Congrats too!

elmomonster said...

Oh man...I've been so wanting to try Quan Hy...but I seem to always forget about it...out of sight, out of mind. Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Hey EDBM - Congrats to you, and your family! Never been to Quan Hy, but will have to make sure to try next time I'm in the area, as I really enjoy a good bowl of Bun Bo Hue - tell me, what do you think of the blood in Bun Bo Hue?

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Bola, rolls are great. I thought I told you before that I was going to be an uncle.

Christine D., I've never been to Bun Bo Hue So 1. But with a name like that, I'm sure they know what they're doing. Is it in Westminster? Pho is good sometimes... but I'm liking the flavor of BBH more these days. As for Dakao, I've been going there since the early 90s. I've seen the fried bananas next door... i think they're like 4 for $1 or something.

Elmo, it'd be fun if we met up for Quan Hy. I've been wanting to take Oishii Eats there for a while. Shouldn't be too far of a drive for you right? I'm gonna eat with Passionate Eater tomorrow in SF.

Anon, thank you. Are you talking about the blood cubes? If so, Quan Hy doesn't put them in there. I've been to places that pack them into a bowl. Although Quan Hy serves great food, I would think you can get better BBH elsewhere. Banh Beo rice cakes are their specialty.

Kirk said...

Hey EDBM - My fingers done screwed up again....that Anon wuz me....

Christine D. said...

yep! It's in westminster. Right across the street from that saigon city marketplace grocery store...i think! And in the same complex of a pho place.

Bun Bo Hue So 1

(714) 531-4475

15450 Brookhurst St
Westminster, CA 92683

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