A Weekend in Little Saigon - Delectable Meatball and Cold Cut Banh Mi Sandwiches (Ba Le Westminster), Refreshing Cococane, Steaming Beef Noodle Soups, Crunchy & Silky Rice Cakes and Vietnamese Ice Coffee (Phin Smith) [Thoughts + Pics]

When you consider the sheer variety and expanse of cuisines that we have here in L.A. / O.C., it is an embarrassment of riches. We are lucky to be able to enjoy some excellent Italian Pastas, Pastrami or Sushi, or partake in some delicious Ethiopian cuisine and food from countless countries.

When it comes to Vietnamese food, there is perhaps no better place to sample a variety of dishes than Little Saigon. Thanks to all of our veteran FTC’ers from our old board (and now here), as well as @JeetKuneBao and many others, we headed off to Little Saigon for the weekend to try a few recommendations. :slight_smile:

Pho 79

Recommended by many as one of the best Pho restaurants in Little Saigon (and thus L.A./O.C.), we had tried a “Pho 79” in the San Gabriel Valley a few years back, so we were curious if this was the original (and the other a copycat, or if they were related).

As we were leaving, the friendly older woman manning the cash register turned out to be the owner. She mentioned that indeed they did open a Pho 79 branch in the San Gabriel Valley, ran by her uncle. They used “the same recipes, same menu.” (@secretasianman)

She lamented that the SGV one closed because her uncle’s children didn’t want to continue the business, and she said it was probably going to be the same at this Pho 79 (her children don’t want to run this business). :frowning:

Pho Dac Biet (Rice Noodle Soup with Rare, Well-Cooked Beef, Tendon & Tripe):

The menu and the soup tasted exactly like the San Gabriel Valley location, even though it’d been years since we went there, it tasted very familiar, like we just had it last week. :slight_smile:

It’s murky, somewhat rich, lightly sweet and beefy, and the Pho Dac Biet arrives with slices of Raw Beef that you mix around in the very hot Soup to let it cook through.

The Raw Beef slices when cooked are a little chewy, but fine. The Tendon could be a bit more tender, but the Tripe was tender and delicious (and I don’t even like Tripe usually). :slight_smile:

Overall, it’s a great value, at $8.25. And service is fine and informal.

Pho 79’s Pho Noodle Soup is tasty and satisfies that itch if you want some authentic Vietnamese Pho. But in terms of light, clear, pure Pho Broth, we were lucky enough to try some of our old board’s favorites / recommended spots years ago, and I still remember them now: Pho Hien, Pho Minh had absolutely stunning clarity, as if you were enjoying Beef Consomme in some ways, cooked for hours, but clarified / clear, beefy, delicate, light, and our Vietnamese friends who went with us all agreed that they were some of the best restaurant spots they had tried.

Pho 79
9941 Hazard Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Tel: (714) 531-2490


Cha Gio Hong Loan

Driving on the way to Pho Dakao, this store caught our eyes, a place specializing in Vietnamese Egg Rolls! We love Vietnamese Egg Rolls so we couldn’t wait to try this place.

Walking in, it seems they sell them more as a to-go / large size / frozen item:

But the person behind the counter said they had “1 flavor” cooked and for sale, so we decided to try it.

Cha Gio Thit Heo + Khoai Mon (Vietnamese Egg Rolls with Pork + Taro):

This sounded amazing! We had never had Vietnamese Egg Rolls with Pork & Taro in it before, and they were cheap: $0.60 each. :slight_smile:

Unfortunately, they were lukewarm / cold. :frowning: I guess they fry up large batches and just sell them throughout the day? The actual flavors seemed fine… the Marinated Ground Pork tasted fresh and savory, and the bits of Taro were fragrant, but eating Vietnamese Egg Rolls lukewarm / cold with no Nuoc Cham or Veggies & Herbs felt… lacking. :frowning:

@Ns1 @attran99 and others, are they more meant to buy and take home and cook them up yourself (and buy your own Nuoc Cham / Herbs to pair)? I would imagine if these were served hot, out of the fryer they would be 10 times better.

(Cash Only)

Cha Gio Hong Loan
10515 McFadden Ave, Suite 101
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Tel: (714) 775-1330

Tan Hoang Huong Sandwiches

Cafe Sua Da (Vietnamese Ice Coffee):

I thought Ngu Binh’s Ice Coffee was intense, but Tan Hoang Huong’s Vietnamese Ice Coffee was even more concentrated! :open_mouth: This tasted like you were downing 5 shots of Espresso or pure, concentrated, aromatic caffeine in every sip. :sweat_smile: It was delicious, but very intense.

Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich):

Tan’s Pork Meatball Sandwich is pretty tasty, with the Bread being slightly crisp, but perhaps a bit too soft (but still fresh). The Xiu Mai (Meatballs) were a nice balance of sweet & salty, very tender and moist, but they were served cold (probably the usual way at many places?).

Overall a very respectable Banh Mi Xiu Mai and we were glad to have tried it.

Tan Hoang Huong Sandwiches
6926 Westminster Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 891-3344


Ben Ngu

Part of the confusion and hesitancy to originally dive deep into Little Saigon and try Ngu Binh the first time was that there was another restaurant that popped up with a similar sounding name: Ben Ngu. We started getting confused initially, and then thanks to @JeetKuneBao who clarified that this was opened by the ex-wife who originally ran Ngu Binh, it started to make a little more sense.

Walking into Ben Ngu (it almost sounds like Ngu Binh, with the 2 words flipped), the menu is pretty much identical to Ngu Binh!

Bun Bo Hue Dac Biet (Large Bowl of Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup):

We actually tried Ben Ngu back-to-back with Ngu Binh, so we could immediately try and taste the differences between them. From when it first arrived, it already looked different: Notice how you can see through the top layer into the clear Soup beneath? That already signaled that Ben Ngu’s Beef Noodle Soup lacked the intense top layer of Chili Oil to trap the heat in, which made a huge difference:

Ben Ngu’s Bun Bo Hue was served hot, but cooled off pretty quickly.

Additionally the taste was OK at best. Ngu Binh was such a paradigm shift that in terms of understanding the gap and gulf between the restaurants it would be:

  1. Ngu Binh
  2. Ben Ngu
  3. Nha Trang Restaurant

It was that apparent. :sweat_smile:

We brought along a Vietnamese friend (and a couple others) and everyone agreed that Ngu Binh was so vastly superior it wasn’t even close.

Banh It Kep Banh Ram (Steam Mochi Dumplings Stuffed with Pork and Shrimp Topped with Ground Shrimp and Scallion over Fried Mochi Dumplings):

However, Ben Ngu’s Banh It Kep Banh Ram, which @ipsedixit recommended was indeed better than Ngu Binh’s: Here at Ben Ngu this dish has less Rice Cake which is a good thing. At Ngu Binh it was so large and hefty, there was just too much of the Rice Cakes in both the Fried and Steamed sections, so it tasted like you were eating a concentrated bowl of Rice, with very little filling.

Ben Ngu’s version is smaller and as a result, it’s easier to eat, and has a better Filling-to-Rice ratio. :slight_smile: You get to enjoy more of the silky Steamed Rice Cakes and the crunchy Fried Rice Cake on the bottom. I think @beefnoguy would enjoy this more.

For the Steamed & Fried Rice Cakes, we like Ben Ngu’s version more, but for amazing Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue) we’re going back to Ngu Binh for sure.

Ben Ngu
10051 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844
Tel: (714) 590-9569

Quan Hop

This entire journey started originally just to try the new Pho Ga restaurant that @JeetKuneBao recommended, only to then see Ngu Binh out of the corner of my eye (which led to that whole exploration), and then I remembered @ipsedixit talking about Banh It Kep Banh Ram at Ben Ngu and we decided to start a sub-journey exploring that dish! :sweat_smile:

Which led us here to Quan Hop, because we remembered @Porthos recommending Quan Hop for this dish.

Walking into Quan Hop, it’s clean and much more modern and polished compared to most of the places we visited this time in Little Saigon.

Tra Ky Anh (Mint Iced Tea):

Our server mentioned that one of Quan Hop’s specialties was this Mint Iced Tea, that was made with not just Iced Tea but also some Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice and Mint. It was a touch too sweet for our tastes.

Banh It Ram (Potsticker Stuffed with Mushroom, Pork, Shrimp set on Crunchy Rice):

@Porthos was right! :slight_smile: Quan Hop’s Banh It Ram was our favorite version of the dish: It had the least amount of Rice, and plenty more stuffing, which made it the perfect balance for us. It was probably only 50% of the size of Ngu Binh’s, but in this case, less is better: You could actually taste the stuffing, and the stuffing was more varied and tasty:

The Mushroom, Marinated Ground Pork and Shrimp was noteworthy, wonderfully savory and had a nice ratio compared to the Steamed Rice Cake on top and the Fried Rice Cake on the bottom. @ipsedixit you might give this one a try. :wink:

If anyone has other recommendations for Banh It Ram, please let us know.

Quan Hop
15640 Brookhurst Street
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 689-0555

Pho Tuan Canh

And thanks to @hppzz we remembered to stop by and try Pho Tuan Canh as well, to see how their Chicken Pho stacked up against the many that we tried so far on the Chicken Pho Journey (3 different Journeys in 1 so far!). :slight_smile:

Pho Tuan Canh sells Pho Ga (Chicken Pho Noodles) by the bowl, but they will also sell you Half a Chicken or a Whole Chicken and then you order Noodles & Soup on the side. (HP Pho Ga Bac Ninh and a few other places sell Half or Whole Chickens as well.)

Pho Ga with Half Chicken (Chicken Noodle Soup with Half a Chicken):

On a side note, there was MORE Chicken here in this Half Chicken than the “Whole Chicken” at NoMad. :expressionless: :stuck_out_tongue: :angry:

The Chicken itself was tender and fresh, but it tasted a bit mealy. The meat wasn’t as taut and meaty as places like Pho Ga Bac Ninh or HP Pho Ga Bac Ninh, or Pho Quang Trung.

The Ginger Sauce was fine, but maybe a touch too sweet (just a touch).

However, the Chicken Pho Soup itself was delicious! :blush: It had a richer, more intense flavor in every sip, and we liked it more than Pho Ga Hai Van and Pho Dakao’s Broth.

Overall for Pho Ga (Chicken Pho Noodle Soup) we still like HP Pho Ga Bac Ninh the most (it has our favorite combination of great, clear, deep, pure Chicken Soup, meaty, fresh Chicken (white and dark meat) and the least overly sweet Ginger Sauce for the Chicken and fresh Herbs), but we’re glad to come back to Pho Tuan Canh, Pho Quang Trung and Pho Ga Hai Van when we’re in the area. :slight_smile:

Pho Tuan Canh
9735 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844
Tel: (714) 622-8922

Banh Mi Cho Cu

And while we were down here, we finally got a chance to try one of our oldest bookmarks from our old board: A huge thanks to Das Ubergeek for this recommendation. Das Ubergeek had been absolutely raving about the Banh Mi Sandwiches at Banh Mi Cho Cu years ago, and we kept the bookmark, hoping to try it one day, and here we were! :grin:

Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Meatball Sandwich):

We arrived late in the day (whereas Das Ubergeek tried it in the morning), but even late in the day, their Xiu Mai (Pork Meatballs) were still warm.

Taking a bite, there’s a delicate crunch from the Bread (they bake in-house “every few hours” according to our server). It’s pillowy on the inside, and we loved the subtle crunch.

But then you bite into the Xiu Mai (Meatballs), and it’s wonderful to have them warm and they were so tender and luscious, and nicely marinated with just a touch of sweetness (perfect). Then the crunch of the Pickled Veggies and Cilantro and Peppers and it was excellent! :heart:

Das had the Meatballs hot in the morning when he went, so I can’t even imagine how much better it could be. One of these days I will try it in the morning if I’m visiting! :smile:

Banh Mi Trung Chien (Egg Sandwich):

Their Banh Mi Trung Chien (Banh Mi Sandwich with Eggs) was good, but less successful. The Fried Eggs were a bit overcooked (just a touch), and as a result didn’t reach the heights of the amazing Banh Mi with Eggs at Saigon Bakery (our favorite), or Banh Mi My Tho’s wonderfully runny Eggs.

Still, we’ll be back for more of Banh Mi Cho Cu’s delicious Pork Meatball Sandwich (Banh Mi Xiu Mai), hopefully next time earlier in the day when it’s even hotter. :slight_smile: (And at $3.50 it’s still a bargain.)

Open at 5:00 a.m.(!) - 8:00 p.m., 7 Days A Week :open_mouth:

(Cash Only)

Banh Mi Cho Cu
14520 Magnolia St B, Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 891-3718

Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie

As we were going to our next stop, this store caught our eye, and I thought it was mentioned on our old board(?) (but maybe not), so we decided to stop in and order something.

Walking in, Boulangerie Pierre looks like a cute French-Vietnamese Bakery. There are rows of Pastries and Baked Goods.


This was a bit too sweet for our tastes, but otherwise an OK rendition of a traditional Eclair.


We really liked the layers of Puff Pastry in this Mille-Feuille, but the Pastry Cream itself was lacking: It tasted a bit… synthetic and too sweet.

If anyone has suggestions on what to try here, please let us know. Thanks!

Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie
14352 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Tel: (714) 418-9098

Thuan Thoi (Cococane)

And our final stop on this journey was at Thuan Thoi, a place that specializes in Cococane, which is this family’s concoction of Coconut Juice and Sugarcane (hence “Cococane”). :slight_smile: (A HUGE thanks to @JeetKuneBao for this recommendation!)

When you first walk in you’re greeted by rows of exotic Tropical Fruits.

They have variations on their Cococane, we started with:

Aruna Cococane (Pennywort, Coconut, Sugarcane, Coconut Meat):

Taking a sip, it is wonderfully alluring, with Coconut Juice and Sugarcane forming the backbone with a strong herbal note from the Pennywort. It might be too vegetal for some though.

Original Cococane (Coconut, Sugarcane, Coconut Meat):

But then you sip the Original Cococane:

WOW. :heart:

You get this pure, exotic, tropical taste from the Coconut Juice, and then the unmistakable pure, natural sweetness from Sugarcane, and you eat bits of the Coconut Meat itself. This is the pure Cococane that you must have! :blush: (@J_L, @bulavinaka and others, definitely worth it!)

On our 2nd visit:

Matcha Cococane (Matcha, Coconut, Sugarcane, Coconut Meat):

Their Matcha Cococane fared better than the Aruna: There’s a very aromatic, fragrant, earthy but Spring-like flavor coming from the Matcha Green Tea they mix in with the Coconut Juice and Sugarcane (all fresh-ground up to order). This worked better than the Aruna, and was a nice variation. :slight_smile:

If you’re looking for a refreshing, invigorating way to kick-start your day (or afternoon), consider stopping by Thuan Thoi for their outstanding Cococane. :slight_smile:

Thuan Thoi Cococane
14338 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Tel: (714) 717-8750

Overall it was an outstanding weekend, being able to explore a variety of interesting spots around Little Saigon. Besides the wonderful findings above (especially the Meatball Sandwich from Banh Mi Cho Cu, Cococane drinks from Thuan Thoi), there’s also the nice Chicken Pho at Pho Ga Hai Van (posted here), and definitely the stunning, mouth-watering Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue) at Ngu Binh.

Update 1: The glory that is Banh Cuon at Pho Tau Bay, a Tofu / Soybean Specialist at Thanh Son, Bun Bo Hue at Vua Bun Bo, Quan Vy Da, Banh Cuon Luu Luyen, Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4, Mia Perfect Juice, and a revisit to Ngu Binh (SO GOOD)!

Update 2: Amazing Hanoi-Style Crab Meat & Crab Roe Egg Rolls at The Avenue, Mai’s Kitchen, Mai Phung, exploring Banh Canh vs. Bun Rieu Crab Noodle Soups and more!

Update 3: Reporting on Little Saigon restaurants that are Open or Closed during the pandemic:

Update 4 (To-Go): The return of Cococane during the pandemic, revisit to the excellent Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster), Banh Cuon Luu Luyen revisit and more.

Update 5 (To-Go): Banh Khot Lady, more amazing Banh Mi at Ba Le Sandwiches, delicious Com Tam (Broken Rice) at Thanh and Com Tam Tran Quy Cap, and legendary Vietnamese Iced Coffee at Phin Smith!


Yes the frozen egg rolls are meant to be a buy a ton and fry up at home, not a go there and buy and report on FTC type item =P

And the cafe sua da at THH doesn’t normally look like that…that almost looks like a cafe da den (coffee iced black) instead of a cafe sua da (coffee condensed milk iced). I mean it is usually on the “danker” side but certainly nothing like that…


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Outstanding recap of your eating adventures!

We go to this place all the time! but at least to our family, they the best and only thing we get there is the pork floss! The to go fry at home egg rolls are pretty average and indeed better when fried at home, we just prefer rice paper wrapped egg rolls over wheat paper.

Sorry to hear that, we’ve only had snappy fresh tasting chicken ever time. Hopefully that’s an anomaly. Agreed the ginger sauce is a tad sweet.

When we can’t make our own, we get the pate here.

this is our fav sugarcane spot too. Glad the second generation is putting a fun twist to the original.

Quan hy and Quan hop, were some of the early pioneers of regional central cuisine…before Ngu Binh. if you’re up for it, maybe do a run down on the banh beo chen that all these places serve…


Great sleuthing as usual!

The baguette is pretty darn good here. Never had a sandwich, always get a couple baguette to go.


Dang, you covered a lot of geound - great post. I can’t let my wife see any of the pics from Cococane, or we’ll probably have to move to Little Saigon. :joy:

Did you get to try any of the roast duck/pork specialists (hint hint)?


As always nice reporting Chowseeker! I’ll make note of some of the places you visit!

Did the oxtail side run out at Pho 79?

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Thanks for the great report @Chowseeker1999.

Instead of banh it ram, which I find pretty filling too, you may like the much lighter and tastier banh cuon. It’s like the northern vietnamese version of cheong fun, but thinner and filled with ground pork, and wood ear mushrooms and topped with cha lua, fried shallots, and fish sauce. I can easily pound back two plates for breakfast. Try it at @Ns1 approved pho tau bay or banh cuon tay ho.


I can easily put away 2 of those banh cuon at pho tau bay. Bang bang with Trieu Chau up the street. Or baked catfish at Favori - I’d love to hear a CS review of Favori, for better or worse.


Hi @Ns1,

Thanks! Yah now that I think about it, they might’ve given me a Cafe Da Den by accident? :sweat_smile: Definitely powerful and potent! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the tip that the Cha Gio place is meant to buy the products frozen and fry it at home. :slight_smile:

Do you or @hppzz have any recommendations on frying technique / time / heat levels? Thanks!

I’m a peasant, I just fry at the usual temperature until the color is where I want it. treat it like fried chicken - you can either fully submerse or use less oil and flip halfway through. You don’t need to defrost.

Combine with some pre made fish sauce + lettuce + herbs = a great < 15 minute meal.


Hi @hppzz,

Thanks again for all your great recommendations! :slight_smile:

For Boulangerie, oh they have Pate there? I missed it. OK, we’ll get that next time. :slight_smile:

For Quan Hop, darn, we were so busy trying not to get too full, we missed the fact they had Banh Beo Chen. I love that dish! :slight_smile:

Hi @bulavinaka, @A5KOBE,

Thanks! :slight_smile:

Roast Duck/Pork! Aaaaah! That’s what we forgot when visiting. :cry: I knew I forgot something! I think it was @PorkyBelly or you or @Ns1 @A5KOBE that talked about some of these specialists before? I just remember drooling at the pics. :stuck_out_tongue:

Which ones should I go to? (I can’t seem to find any bookmarks about them, darn.) Thanks!

I dunno if you’re going to find the little Saigon roast meat experts all that exciting…after discovering “real” Peking duck I felt very lied to my entire childhoood.

Having said that, two of the longest running stores in little Saigon can be found next to each other - Lien Hoa Deli and Kang Lac Bakery. Refer to Yelp for pics. This is more of an “essential little Saigon” recommendation vs “best of little Saigon”.

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and next to them… new duong son


Interesting. I’ll have to check this out next time I’m back in little Saigon. Pick up a cafe sua da from BAMBU while I’m at it.


Oh this is the place below the old dragon Phoenix.

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Hi @JeetKuneBao,

Thanks again for all your invaluable reporting! :slight_smile:

Oh! I didn’t realize ordering Oxtail was the thing to do at Pho 79; I’ll make note of it for next time, thanks.

Hi @PorkyBelly,

Thank you. And Googling Banh Cuon…


That looks amazing! :grin: Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?! (j/k! LOL)

Are Banh Cuon usually only 1 type of filling? Or are there multiple flavors like the Dim Sum Steamed Rice Rolls (Cheong Fun)?

I’m so going to these places next time. Thanks @PorkyBelly @Ns1!

(Update: Oh, which Banh Cuon Tay Ho do you recommend? I see there are 4 of them!) Thanks.

The “pho Tau bay” branch. LOL.

You may as well go to the one next to Asian garden mall so you can bang^4 new duong son, lien hoa, and Kang lac.

Re: banh cuon there are several types but the two most common ones are the filled ones that porky belly mentioned and plain ones with Vietnamese meat loaf on top. It’s all drenched in fish sauce + bean sprout/herb mix.


@Chowseeker1999 You are a true OG.
I concur with @Ns1 with the cha gio. Rice paper wrap and bring it home to fry yourself. It’s great to have some saved up in your freezer for a rainy day…I brush off any ice crystals and vacu-seal to keep off excess frost/water…it helps reduce oil splatters. You should only order them from the store itself if they’re bringing you out a fresh batch…or if your visit occurs at the same time as a fresh batch is being released. Would you believe that I’ve only had the rice paper wrap a few times in my life…rice paper wrapper is a game changer.
Boulangerie makes some of the best baguettes in the OC. My cousin’s Dad used to own a bakery in France and prefers Boulangerie’s because he’s retired from the baking game now. @hppzz is right about the pâté. It’s quite good.
Can I make a weird suggestion? A DIY sandwich…bread and pâté from Boulangerie, mayo/aioli, Maggie, banh mi veg, and pork floss from Cha Gio Han Long…it’s a banh mi my Mom made for us when we were little for a snack or a lazy breakfast. It’s a little unorthodox, but it’s comforting to me. The pork floss also is great in chao (rice porridge) and com tam (broken rice).
I’ve never had Xiu Mai cold or lukewarm before…likely because I am a persnickety and only eat my Mom’s version…and that’s always served warm. I would think that other folks would serve it warm, too. Looks like I may be wrong in that perception.
My Mom gets her BBQ pork for her fried rice (she’s now too healthy to put in lep cheong) from New Duong Son. Our family has been ordering roast ducks and pigs for family parties there for quite some time now.
I usually get the plain Banh Cuon or the one with minced meat and wood ear mushroom mix. Add some lettuce, herbs, sliced cucumbers, slices of cha lua, nuoc mam, and some pickled vegetables and you have a complete meal.
Damn…now I want Vietnamese food, but I’m stuck home and quarantined with a cold. I need to get out next weekend.


Hi @Ns1,

Bookmarked Favori, thanks! :slight_smile: What do you recommend there?

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