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]

BTW, @Ns1 @attran99 where do you recommend getting the bounty of Vietnamese Herbs that they usually serve with Cha Gio in restaurants? Would places like 99 Ranch have it or? Thanks!

Yes, 99 is your easiest choice

/edit

If you want to show us all up, do the frozen egg rolls after a trip to the farmers market.

2 Likes

wow, the menu here is actually quite deep

3 Likes

Hi @Ns1,

Are there English translations of those on the menu? Or if not, please share some highlights! :slight_smile:

I find it amusing that they bothered to translate the first 3 items into English and then stopped.

5 Likes

Update 1:

Pho Tau Bay L.T.T.

viet_001

After our previous wonderful outing to Little Saigon and the great flurry of additional recommendations from @hppzz @attran99 @Ns1 @PorkyBelly and many others, we had to go back. :slight_smile:

Banh Cuon Dac Biet (Steamed Rice Paper Cake with Meat Inside and Dry Pork Topping):

viet_005

viet_006

When I heard @Ns1 @PorkyBelly joyfully discussing the greatness of this Vietnamese dish, I knew I had to try it on my next visit to Little Saigon. :slight_smile:

For those that haven’t had it, Banh Cuon are Steamed Rice Rolls, sort of like a variation of the Charsiu / Beef / Shrimp Rice Rolls at Dim Sum restaurants, but thinner and with different fillings.

Taking a bite of Pho Tau Bay’s Banh Cuon, it is thin, supple, delicate and filled with a delicious mixture of Ground Pork, Mushroom and Onions. The Dac Biet version adds on Shredded Dry Pork topping that adds to the textural contrast. But it’s when you dip a piece in their Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce) that it all turns to magic:

It’s tender, delicate, savory, with a little crunch from the Dried Pork topping, and then you get the pungent, sweet, briny Nuoc Cham coming through.

It is fantastic! :heart:

viet_007

The additional Pork Meatloaf slices that came with the Banh Cuon were OK, tasting like a slightly rubbery “Bologna.”

We devoured our 1 plate and was hoping to get a 2nd one to share, when we realized there were more places to go visit.

(Cash Only)

Pho Tau Bay Ltt
3610 W. 1st Street, #C
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Tel: (714) 531-6634

Quan Vy Da

viet_020

Com Ga Vy Da (Vy Da’s Special Rice with Shredded Chicken):

viet_029

viet_031

This was their version of Hainan Chicken Rice. After the recent Hainan Chicken Rice Journey, we were curious how this one might stack up.

First the Seasoned Rice was a bit dry. It had some of the Chicken Broth flavor infusion, but not as distinct as our favorites on the journey.

viet_032

Unfortunately the Shredded Chicken tasted really old. :cry: Like leftover Poached / Boiled Chicken from a previous day. And their accompanying Dipping Sauce was just their Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce), which wasn’t as compelling as a great Green Onion & Ginger Sauce, or the Seasoned Soy Sauce or Chili Sauce trio that comes with traditional Hainan Chicken Rice dishes.

Sua Dau Nanh (Soybean Milk):

viet_034

Quan Vy Da’s server mentions that they make their own Soybean Milk in-house, and it was apparent from the first sip: Very fresh, earthy, rustic. Tasty. :slight_smile:

Banh Bot Loc La Chuoi (Tapioca Cake with Shrimp and Pork Wrapped in Banana Leaf):

viet_035

viet_036

Thanks to @attran99 for the recommendation, this was a new dish we hadn’t tried before: The Banh Bot Loc are bite sized little morsels of Shrimp and Pork filling within Tapioca Cake and wrapped in Banana Leaf. It’s not as glutinous and sticky as, say, Chinese Sticky Rice, but it’s along those lines. The Pork and Shrimp filling helped make the whole thing a nice blend of savory, briny with a bit of chew. :slight_smile:

Banh Beo Chen Vy Da (Vy Da’s Steamed Rice Cake with Ground Shrimp):

viet_037

viet_038

viet_040

Banh Beo Chen, or Steamed Rice Cakes with Ground Shrimp (in Little Dishes), have always been one of our favorite Vietnamese dishes due to its cute, small, bite-sized nature (that, and the delicious confluence of Steamed Rice Cakes, Shrimp and Nuoc Cham).

Quan Vy Da’s version is delicious, with tender Steamed Rice Cakes, generous topping of Ground Dried Shrimp and Pork Cracklings. :slight_smile: (Thanks again @attran99)

Quan Vy Da
9950 Bolsa Ave., Unit #B
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 531-2905

Thanh Son Tofu

viet_051

A huge thanks to @attran99 for recommending this Little Saigon specialist in all things Soybean, we stopped by on our sprawling Little Saigon bang x bang to try out some of their Housemade Soybean offerings. They still had some of their Housemade Soy Milk for sale:

viet_053

Soy Milk (Cup):

viet_056

It’s only lightly sweetened (they offer it unsweetened as well), deeply flavorful and earthy and tasting so fresh (and a bit rustic), nothing like the mass produced versions.

Soy Pudding (Traditional w/ Ginger):

viet_057

viet_058

They sell Tofu Flower (a.k.a. Soy Pudding), made in-house daily. From the initial bite, you get this silky, delicate, lightly sweet bite with a hint of Ginger. Delicious! :blush: It was on par with V P Tofu, except V P Tofu’s version has a bit more Ginger (which we like), and it’s cheaper (V P is $1.50 for a monster portion(!), and Thanh Son is $2.50 (still a bargain but V P’s price is ridiculous).

Overall a great place to get some fresh Housemade Soy Milk and Tofu Flower Dessert if you’re in the area. We’ll be back. :slight_smile:

Thanh Son Tofu
9688 Westminster Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844
Tel: (714) 534-2100

Banh Cuon Luu Luyen

viet_066

Having fallen in love with Banh Cuon, we decided to do an impromptu Banh Cuon Journey, wanting to try out more Banh Cuon specialists in the area. Next up was Banh Cuon Luu Luyen (thanks to @foodshutterbug for the recommendation!). :slight_smile:

Their Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce) arrives in a massive jar to each table. :open_mouth:

viet_069

Banh Cuon Dac Biet (3 Rice Sheets Combo with Pork, Shrimp, Plain Rice Sheets with Toppings):

viet_070

viet_071

This was a massive plate of Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Sheets) with a bunch of additional toppings. Trying out their Pork filling first, Luu Luyen’s version is a thicker Steamed Rice Sheet (a medium thickness compared to Pho Tau Bay). The Pork Filling is savory and tasty.

viet_071b

Their Banh Cuon with Shrimp has a nice briny edge to it, and was our favorite of the two. :slight_smile:

viet_072

Their extra toppings included a Cha Gio (Egg Roll) which was a little greasy, but still crunchy and tasty.

Banh Cuon Thit Nuong (3 Rolls of BBQ Pork Wrapped with Mixed Veggies):

viet_074

viet_075

viet_077

Our server mentioned that this dish won them a mention in OC Weekly as one of the best dishes in OC, so we were excited to try this variation. This Banh Cuon Thit Nuong is noticeably meatier, with a lot of filling, more like a Spring Roll than the thin Banh Cuon versions we’ve tried up until now.

The BBQ Pork is like a Honey BBQ flavor, which was tasty, but a touch too salty as well.

Banh Cuon Luu Luyen is a friendly, lively Banh Cuon specialist, serving some interesting variations on the Steamed Rice Sheets dish. We like their Shrimp Banh Cuon a touch more than the Pork version, and for those wanting a big meaty variation with a lot of Honey BBQ Pork, try the Banh Cuon Thit Nuong.

(Cash Only)

Banh Cuon Luu Luyen
14351 Euclid Street, #1J
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Tel: (714) 554-0212

Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4

viet_084

I’m not sure the differences between them, but since @Ns1 recommended Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4 as one of the OG Banh Cuon specialists, that was the branch we had to try. :wink:

Walking in, it’s a big restaurant with super high ceilings. It’s also the newest and nicest-looking of the Banh Cuon restaurants we tried on this journey, which is surprising since @Ns1 mentioned this was one of the original restaurants serving this.

Banh Cuon Dac Biet Tay Ho (Combination Flour Sheet with Shrimp Tempura Special):

viet_090

viet_091

viet_092

viet_092b

It was interesting that they called this “Flour Sheet” when it should be Rice, perhaps a translation error on the menu? Regardless, the Banh Cuon looked rather hefty, but while it wasn’t as thin as Pho Tau Bay’s version, they were still rather silky and supple, a bit thinner than Banh Cuon Luu Luyen’s version, which turned out to be the thickest version on this trip.

The Pork and Shrimp fillings were also pretty tasty, not overly salty and providing just the right amount of savory meatiness.

viet_093

viet_094

The toppings on this dish - a Shrimp Tempura (as the menu calls it), and a Vegetarian Meatloaf Cake - were a bit forgettable.

viet_096

Their Nuoc Cham wasn’t as sweet as other versions we tried so that helped as well.

Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4
9822 Bolsa Ave., # H
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 531-5171

Pho Tau Bay LLT (Revisit)

viet_078

We had to revisit Pho Tau Bay one last time to see how it compared after trying the other Banh Cuon specialists.

Banh Cuon Dac Biet (Steamed Rice Paper Cake with Meat Inside and Dry Pork Topping):

viet_079

viet_080

viet_081

Taking a bite and it was immediately obvious how great Pho Tau Bay’s version was: Thin, delicate, lithe Steamed Rice Paper Cake, with the most delicious filling out of all of the Banh Cuon specialists we tried on this journey. It’s the Marinated Pork, Mushrooms and Onions and the seasoning combining it all together. Deeply tasty and savory.

viet_083

Pho Tau Bay’s Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce) was also far less sweet and more balanced than some of the other places we tried. Dipping in the Banh Cuon with their Nuoc Cham and it is just one of the tastiest bites we’ve had recently! :heart: (Thanks again @Ns1 @PorkyBelly!)

Pho Tau Bay while ostensibly a Pho restaurant delivers our favorite Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Paper Cake w/ Filling) in So Cal. The thin, pliable, delicate Steamed Rice Paper feels the most pleasing to my palate, and the filling is the most umami and delicious. And at $7.00 for a Small (pictured), or $8.00 for the Large, this feels like a bargain. :slight_smile:

After that, for a thicker Steamed Rice Paper version with a variety of fillings, give Banh Cuon Luu Luyen a try, and Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4’s was inbetween Luu Luyen and Pho Tau Bay in terms of thickness.

(Cash Only)

Pho Tau Bay Ltt
3610 W. 1st Street, #C
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Tel: (714) 531-6634

Cococane (Revisit)

viet_058b

Time for a quick break, so off we want to our favorite Sugarcane specialist, Cococane.

Original Cococane (Coconut, Sugarcane, Coconut Meat):

viet_064

viet_065

It looks like Cococane has gotten rid of their Styrofoam cups in lieu of recyclable plastic. Taking a sip, it is as refreshing as before: This insanely addictive blend of not-too-sweet freshly extracted Sugarcane that is so fragrant, and then this perfect blend with fresh Coconut Juice and meaty bits of Young Coconut as well. It is SO GOOD! :heart:

I don’t even like Coconut that much normally, but in this drink by Cococane, the Sugarcane Juice and Coconut Juice just meld together to make a beautiful combination that enhances each other and the overall final taste. (Thanks again @JeetKuneBao!)

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

Vua Bun Bo

viet_097

A Vietnamese friend of my co-worker had mentioned a newer Bun Bu Hue specialist that they liked, so we added it to our bookmark list to visit on our Little Saigon excursion. :wink: Called “Vua Bun Bo” apparently “Vua” means “King” in Vietnamese, so this is the “King of Bun Bo Hue”? (@attran99 @hppzz @Ns1 correct me if I mangled that translation!) :sweat_smile:

Sitting down, it’s a cleaner, updated interior compared to Ngu Binh, Ben Ngu and other Bun Bo Hue places we’ve tried in the past.

Vua Bun Bo - Dac Biet (House Special Central Style Spicy Beef Soup with Pork Leg, Pork Loaf, Beef Shank and Pork Blood Cube + Beef Bone):

viet_100

Yes, Vua Bun Bo’s claim to fame seems to be the ability to add on a gigantic, Flintstones-like Beef Bone to gnaw on with your Bun Bo Hue! :open_mouth: But more on this in a bit…

viet_101

viet_102

viet_103

Their Bun Bo Hue (Central Vietnamese-style Beef Noodle Soup) arrives piping hot, but looking closely, you can see that the Soup looks rather light and clear. There’s barely any red Chili Oil, but we were hopeful.

Taking a sip, it’s a clean-tasting, light Beef Broth, but there’s no comparison with Ngu Binh, which has so much more depth of flavor and instills a crave-worthy response.

viet_105

The individual ingredients are delicious and work fine with the Bun Bo Hue: The Beef Shank was tender and fresh, the Pig’s Trotter was a bit firm, but tender enough to eat, the Pork Meatloaf was fine as well.

viet_106

They seemed to provide a condensed Vegetable & Herb plate compared to most Bun Bo Hue places, and you don’t get that massive heap of Banana Flowers like Ngu Binh.

viet_106b

The Noodles are the straight, medium-thickness style, cooked down to a very soft consistency (perhaps a touch overcooked).

viet_107

viet_107b

viet_108

But what brings the whole dish around is Vua Bun Bo’s offering of a massive Beef Bone to gnaw (or nibble) on. :slight_smile: The Beef Bone is bigger than the pair of Meat Scissors that accompany the bowl. Most of it is Bone, but there are enough morsels of Lean Beef and Beef Tendon (and some Gristle and Fat) to make it worth the increase in cost ($14 for the Noodles & Bone).

The Lean Beef sections and Beef Tendon were cooked down to a tender consistency, although a few edges of Tendon weren’t cooked down enough (still a bit too firm). You also had to trim away some of the Beef Fat and Gristle (or enjoy that whole, as we saw some other customers doing). :wink: It was pretty tasty, if a bit ridiculous trying to pick up or scrape away edible portions from the giant bone. :smile:

Vua Bun Bo creates a solid bowl of Bun Bo Hue, with a clear (if a little light) Beef Broth at the heart of the bowl, with fresh-tasting ingredients. We were hoping to find @beefnoguy another place to try on his visit, but this isn’t it. Vua Bun Bo isn’t the King of Bun Bo (not even close), but in the grand scheme of Bun Bo Hue places we’ve tried, it’d probably be (a distant) 2nd after Ngu Binh, with a fun Beef Bone side to make it stand out.

Vua Bun Bo
9211 Bolsa Ave. #120
Westminster, CA 92683

Ngu Binh (Revisit)

viet_112

To make sure our taste buds weren’t off, we had to do a comparison with our current favorite Bun Bo Hue specialist, so it was onto Ngu Binh! :slight_smile:

Banh Beo Chen (Steamed Rice Cake Served In 10 Individual Small Dishes):

viet_112b

viet_112c

As wonderful as the previous 5 - 6 visits. :slight_smile: Perfect for sharing, these individual little dishes of Steamed Rice Cake (which are soft, tender and with just the right amount of umami and crunch) continue to be a standout way to start things at Ngu Binh.

Bun Bo Hue Dac Biet (Spicy Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup):

viet_114

viet_115

One look at the bowl and layer of crimson red hell on top and you know you’re in for a treat. :slight_smile: Like Rameniac loving that layer of Oil sealing in the heat in his favorite bowls of Ramen, the layer of Red Chili Oil (which isn’t overly spicy at all) manages to seal in the heat from the piping hot bowl of perfect Beef Broth in this Bun Bo Hue.

Taking a sip:

Seriously. Perfection! :heart:

There’s a true soulfulness and insane depth of flavor in Ngu Binh’s Bun Bo Hue (Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup). I don’t taste the Shrimp Paste, but one of the servers mentioned this to us once as one of the keys to the umami and flavor bomb here. It is the perfect dish for our So Cal Winters. :blush:

viet_113

Be sure to add in the Banana Flowers and other Herbs as you like.

viet_116

Their Housemade Pork Meatball is great: Zesty, savory and flavorful.

viet_117

I like their Beef Shank (and Beef Tendon) in this bowl the most. :slight_smile:

viet_118

And their Stewed Pig’s Trotter is super soft and tender, another nice addition.

Ngu Binh remains our favorite Bun Bo Hue (Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) specialist in So Cal: It starts with that incredible Beef Soup at the heart of the dish. It is more than just Beef Bones, there are layers of flavors and it just continues to bring a smile to your face with every sip, all the way down to the bottom of the bowl. Add in the Beef Shank and Tendon, Pork Trotter, Pork Meatball and Noodles and you have the perfect comfort food for this season.

(Cash Only)

Ngu Binh
14092 Magnolia Street
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 903-6000

Mia Perfect Juice

viet_119

viet_119b

A new Sugarcane and Fresh Fruit Juice specialist that @JeetKuneBao posted about recently, we decided to finish things off and see how their Sugarcane might compare with Cococane’s.

Cococane (Fresh Sugarcane Juice, Coconut Juice):

viet_124

viet_125

It is interesting that Cococane’s offering has become so popular that this new Juice spot is offering their own take on the Cococane drink.

On first sip, wow. @JeetKuneBao was right: It is really creamy for some reason. We checked with the order taker and she said there was absolutely no dairy in this at all (it tasted like it was whipped with some cream or milk or something). It had a delicious mouthfeel. :slight_smile:

However, we felt that it was a touch too sweet for us. It’s all personal preference, but we liked Cococane’s Cococane drink more than Mia Perfect Juice’s version. Cococane’s was less sweet, and while less creamy, it had (for us) that perfect blend of Fresh Sugarcane with Fresh Coconut Juice and it also gave you more bites of fresh Young Coconut. Mia gave you a few small chunks, but less than Cococane.

In the end, Mia Perfect Juice has an amazing creamy mouthfeel to their Cococane Sugarcane drink, and if you enjoy things sweet, this is definitely worth a stop. :slight_smile:

Mia Perfect Juice
9084 Edinger Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Tel: (714) 720-3778

We had a blast on this follow-up Little Saigon Journey! We discovered a new love with Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Paper Cakes (with Various Fillings)), found a new Housemade Tofu Specialist (with great Tofu Flower and Fresh Soy Milk), and revisited old favorites that still remain as amazing as before (Cococane and Ngu Binh)! :heart:

A huge thanks to @JeetKuneBao @attran99 @Ns1 @hppzz @PorkyBelly @beefnoguy @bulavinaka @A5KOBE @foodshutterbug and many others for the recommendations. :slight_smile:

12 Likes

Just a tiny note of clarification. You mentioned rice paper rolls but they’re actually rice flour rolls. Probably just a typo.

Hi @catholiver,

No, I’m just using what the restaurant lists on their menu, as every restaurant varies in their description. It makes it easier for people to find which dish to order when they see the menu. Thanks.

1 Like

Thanks for the report @Chowseeker1999, so glad you liked the banh cuon, i love the lightness with the fried shallots on top. i could probably down 5 of those plates at pho tau bay.

1 Like

Well, aren’t they silly? The two could hardly be more different. But the food looked so good. We have some Viet places in Reno. I should see if any have bon bo hue. After having it in Hue I’ve not wanted to compete with perfection :slight_smile:
2

And with my rice PAPER I can make cha gio.

1

Always a great adventure to follow along on your journeys, @Chowseeker1999! So glad you enjoyed the banh beo chen and banh bot loc la at Quan Vy…I used to eat banh boc lot la as snacks…my Mom would buy them from random places or have friends make extra for me. The ones on the menu at Ben Ngu are gigantic, but their catering version is much more in line with what you got at Ngu Binh. I much prefer the smaller ones.
Thanh Son brings back a lot of memories. Mom would come home from a Little Saigon shopping trip and have a fresh bottle of fresh soy milk. I loved it even more when it was still warm.
You are right about the translation of Vua…it does mean king/emperor.

1 Like

Andrea Nguyen recently recommended the “fried onion rings” like you use on green bean casserole if you don’t want to mess with shallots. I don’t consider them a problem.

Hi @PorkyBelly,

! Wow, 5 plates of their Banh Cuon? :open_mouth: (Well they are that delicious!) Thanks again for the rec! :slight_smile:

1 Like

Just wanted to say that if you went to the Tay Ho next to Asian garden mall, it’s so new because that’s the 4th or 5th remodel of the place.

Pho Tau Bay is so much better though…

1 Like

Thanks @attran99. Really appreciated all the recommendations you gave us. :slight_smile: Is Thanh Son the only fresh Tofu / Soybean specialist in Little Saigon? Just curious.

No, there are a couple different outlets now, I think, but I’m not familiar with the competitors.

1 Like

Excellent post as always Chowseeker!!!

1 Like

God, I wish I had your dedication to traveling (b/c I’ve got the eating part down… :wink: ).

3 Likes

Nice report @Chowseeker1999!

I’ve been practicing a little Vietnamese cooking, nothing complicated, just the basics and definitely nothing I’m ready to show. :relaxed: Anyway, this thread is an education.

May I ask, what is this in the Bun Bo Hue?

image

1 Like

Thanks @JeetKuneBao. It’s thanks to your great Little Saigon adventures that we’re able to find many of these places. Thank you again! :slight_smile:

1 Like