Update 4 (To-Go):
Our previous trip to Little Saigon during the pandemic reminded us of even more mom & pop places we were hoping to support during this shutdown, so we headed back.
Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster) (Revisit)
Ba Le Sandwiches in Westminster stunned us when we visited them for the first time recently, putting out some of the best Banh Mi Sandwiches we’ve ever had. We wanted to go back and show some support.
On this visit, we noticed the rotating oven (with a see-through glass door) was off, and no customers were inside.
#7 - Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Pork Meatball Sandwich):
Ba Le’s Xiu Mai (Pork Meatballs) are only a touch sweet (thankfully), with a fresh, tender, moist Meatball filling. I think we prefer Banh Mi Cho Cu more for a more balanced savory, barely any sweetness, delectable Xiu Mai, but these are probably our 2nd favorite, as many Banh Mi Xiu Mai we’ve had at other places around town are way too sweet.
Their Housemade Bread on this visit was a bit soft(!), fresh tasting, but lacked any crispness.
#1 - Banh Mi Thit Nguoi (Cold Cuts Sandwich) + Bi (Shredded Pork Skin):
Their #1, the Banh Mi Thit Nguoi (Cold Cuts) Sandwich, add Bi (Shredded Pork Skin), was perfect!
Their Housemade Bread was toasty-crisp, with a light crunch to the exterior, the various Vietnamese Cold Cuts within were all balanced and fresh tasting, a smear of Pate, the Bi (Shredded Pork Skin) added textural contrast and some porkiness, and the fresh, bright crunchiness from the Carrots, Daikon and Jalapeno and Cilantro. Our favorite Banh Mi Cold Cut Sandwich by far!
#6 - Banh Mi Trung (Egg Sandwich):
Strangely, on this #6 Egg Sandwich, their Housemade Baguette was soft again. It tasted fresh, but not crisp like the #1 Cold Cuts Sandwich. I’m not sure if this is Ba Le’s style, or perhaps they ran out of their more crisped Baguettes, but the Banh Mi Trung we’ve had at places like Saigon Bakery, Banh Mi My Tho, etc. have all been using the same bread (slightly crisped exterior). (@Ns1 @attran99 @hppzz and others.)
Still, the Egg within was hot, freshly fried and put in, but we would’ve liked the Yolk more runny / Sunny-Side Up style.
One of the most heartbreaking conversations we had with one of these local mom & pop shops was asking the mom (and solo employee on this visit) how business was. Her face became sullen and sad, and she said, “It’s very hard.” It’s difficult to convey in words the look on her face, but just spending a few minutes chatting with her, it was clear how difficult it must’ve been.
When she apologized to us, asking if it was OK to charge us $1 more because the price of Eggs she was getting was more expensive now, we immediately obliged and said, “No problem.” We left a generous tip.
Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster) is putting out some of the best Banh Mi that we’ve tried in LA and OC, and the owner was selling them at a bargain at $3.68. I can almost hear the cries on our old board now, of people complaining that Banh Mi should be given away Buy 1 Get 1 Free or something like that.
From a previous FTC conversation, as @hppzz @attran99 @Ns1 @JeetKuneBao and others have stated, why should Vietnamese food be deemed “overpriced” if a mom & pop shop dared to charge more than absurdly low prices? The culinary joy we’ve received from a bowl of Ngu Binh’s incredible Bun Bo Hue, or this seemingly simple Banh Mi Sandwich (the #1 + Bi is ridiculous), etc., is so disproportionate to the price charged by these places (e.g., Ngu Binh’s wonderful Spicy Beef Noodle Soup is $8.95, Ba Le’s Sandwiches are $3.68). Will these mom & pop places survive the pandemic with reduced customers at these prices?
I really hope so. We’ll be back to support them as often as we can.
Ba Le Sandwiches
9152 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 891-9424
Mia Juicery (Revisit) - CLOSED
With Cococane being closed during the pandemic (although thanks to the tip from @JeetKuneBao that they are going to re-open late May), we were craving some Sugarcane drinks and decided to stop by another favorite, Mia Juicery.
Sadly they are CLOSED (@JeetKuneBao):
Hopefully they can survive this pandemic and re-open when it’s safer for them.
9084 Edinger Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Tel: (714) 574-0853
Pho Tau Bay L.T.T. (Revisit)
Thankfully Pho Tau Bay LTT is open during the pandemic!
Banh Cuon Dac Biet (Steamed Rice Paper Cake with Meat Inside and Dry Pork Topping):
Pho Tau Bay’s Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Rolls) have remained our favorite Banh Cuon ever since @Ns1 @PorkyBelly extolled the virtues of this incredible dish (I continue to kick myself for never having tried Pho Tau Bay (or Banh Cuon) for so long!
For the pandemic, Pho Tau Bay has converted their front door into a Takeout window(!), interesting. You just call in your order, show up and tell them your name and they will bring out your food (all while wearing a mask & gloves).
Taking a bite, their Banh Cuon is just as thin, delicate, wonderful as before! I love how refined and supple they are (not overly thick like some Banh Cuon we’ve tried on our previous exploration last year). The Ground Pork, Mushrooms and Onions are just flavor bombs, and then the toppings of Shredded Dry Pork and their Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce) brings it all together, not overly sweet, nor overpowering like some restaurants.
So worth the drive!
Pho Tau Bay Ltt
3610 W. 1st Street, #C
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Tel: (714) 531-6634
We can’t wait to revisit Little Saigon soon. During the pandemic, it took us only 35 minutes to get there from the Westside (which is far less time than usual traffic just navigating around and through Santa Monica during normal times).