Update 5 (To-Go, Part 2):
I foolishly thought we had explored enough of Little Saigon for awhile, until @JeetKuneBao @Ns1 @attran99 and others decided to post and share yet more interesting restaurants to try. Before we knew it, we found ourselves heading south to Little Saigon again.
Bhan Khot Lady
Opened by a Vietnamese woman who lost her job due to the pandemic, her children encouraged her to start making a family recipe of Banh Khot (Vietnamese Savory Mini-Pancakes made from Rice Flour). According to the son, it’s based on his mom’s family recipe from Central Vietnam. We couldn’t wait to try it!
Banh Khot (28 Pieces) (Savory Mini-Pancakes made from Rice Flour, Turmeric, Pork & Shrimp):
First of all, the Greens were immaculate: Crisp, fresh, bright Romaine Lettuce, perfect Cilantro, Mint, Tia To (Vietnamese Perilla).
This was our first time eating Banh Khot. The son recommended that we eat it like a Lettuce Wrap, a bit of Romaine Lettuce, some of the Herbs and the Banh Khot, then dip it in their “Khot Sauce” (which was like a milder Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce)).
Even eaten at room temperature (they had just finished up our batch “a few minutes earlier”), it was delicious!
Cool, fresh, crisp Romaine Lettuce with Vietnamese Perilla, Cilantro and Mint gave way to a slightly crispy edge from the Banh Khot, and a bit of Shrimp and Marinated Pork and softish, almost creamy center (made from Rice Flour and Turmeric).
They recommended that we could eat them as is, or reheat at home in a conventional oven, 400 degrees for about 5 minutes. We tried that later, and the Banh Khot came out crispy and hot, with a soft center. Even better!
I need to defer to our FTC Vietnamese cuisine experts (@Ns1 @attran99 @JeetKuneBao @hppzz and others) on how Banh Khot Lady’s Banh Khot compares to the best in So Cal, but for our first try of this dish, it was a great culinary experience!
Thanks again for the recommendation @Ns1 @JeetKuneBao!
(Place orders via a link on their Instagram.)
Banh Khot Lady
(Pick up location is in the Fountain Valley area (near Little Saigon).)
We continued our Little Saigon adventures by driving a few minutes North:
Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster) (Revisit)
We probably just missed @attran99 hearing about your visit today as well! Walking in, there were a couple customers before us, and Little Saigon had plenty of traffic going in and out of the area. Looks like businesses are starting to pick up.
#6: Banh Mi Trung (Egg Baguette):
First off, @attran99’s advice worked! We asked the owner if she could make make the #6 Banh Mi Trung (Egg Baguette) but with Sunny Side Up Eggs. She said “OK” this time.
As you can see above, we got slippery, luscious Egg Yolks that were still runny (not overcooked), and that was fantastic with Ba Le Sandwiches’ Housemade Baguette. Lightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, the runny Sunny Side Up Eggs, Pickled Carrots & Radish, some nice heat from the Jalapeno Chilies and fresh Cilantro. Fans of Egg Banh Mi take note! (@Dommy @PorkyBelly and others.)
#1: Banh Mi Thit Nguoi + Bi (Cold Cuts + Shredded Pork Baguette):
But it’s their #1, Banh Mi Thit Nguoi + Bi (Cold Cuts + Shredded Pork Baguette (make sure you ask them to add the Bi (Shredded Pork)), that remains my favorite Banh Mi in all of So Cal right now:
Without the heat from the Eggs, their Housemade Baguette remains crisped and airy, longer, and their Thit Nguoi (Cold Cuts) are outstanding! They are all mild, porky, very fresh and meaty, with no funk that some versions have around town. The Housemade Mayo, Pate, the textural contrast from their Bi (Shredded Pork / Skin), Pickled Carrots and Daikon and Cilantro and a nice spiciness from the Jalapenos makes this simply incredible!
This Banh Mi alone was worth our trip today. That’s how good it was.
Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster) looks like it’s doing better during the pandemic, with more customers in and out (all social distanced). It is probably the best value for our FTC’ers, one of Southern California’s culinary highlights, all for $3.68 (+ tax).
Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster)
9152 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 891-9424
Cho Tam Bien
Literally just 2 blocks East of Ba Le Sandwiches is Cho Tam Bien, less than 1 minute away by car. Thanks to a recommendation from @JeetKuneBao, Cho Tam Bien is a Vietnamese Porridge Specialist, and they have only 4 menu items that were listed on a wall.
There was a line of ~8 - 9 people out the door (socially distanced).
Chao Long (Vietnamese Porridge with Housemade Lemongrass Pork Sausage, Housemade Blood Sausage, Pork Stomach, Pork Heart, Pork Intestine, Pork Tongue and Pork Liver):
Taking a bite Cho Tam Bien’s Chao Long is a bit more soupy than Chinese Porridge. Thinking about Chef Minh Phan’s amazing elevated Porridge at Porridge & Puffs and this traditional Vietnamese Chao Long is nothing like that at all.
I wish our order taker had mentioned that this Chao Long had included Pork Liver (I’m generally not a Liver fan), but otherwise, the rest of the ingredients were tasty with the Porridge and Pork Bone Broth base. I really liked their Housemade Lemongrass Pork Sausage and Pork Stomach.
Cho Tam Bien
9550 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 548-4993
Continuing on our bang x bang x bang x bang x bang, we headed 1 block East (less than 1 minute by car) to another great FTC recommendation:
Thanh Restaurant is a Com Tam (Vietnamese Broken Rice) Specialist, and there were about 12+ people waiting for To-Go orders outside (socially distanced) when we arrived(!).
#34: Com Tam Tau Hu Ky Cha Thit Nuong Bi (Broken Rice with 1 Choice of BBQ Meat (BBQ Pork), Shrimp Mousseline in Tofu Paper, Steamed Pork Cake & Julienne Pork) (Swapped the Sausage for Bi (Julienne Pork)):
Steamed Pork (& Egg) Cake:
The Steamed Egg & Pork Cake was moist, fluffy and bright, but it was a touch too salty (just a touch). Very good otherwise.
Tau Hu Ky (Shrimp Mousseline in Tofu Paper):
Their Tau Hu Ky (Shrimp Mousseline in Tofu Paper) was lightly crisped, not oily, and surprisingly meaty (being just Shrimp). This was well-done and one of the better versions we’ve had.
Thit Nuong (BBQ Pork):
The Thit Nuong (BBQ Pork) was excellent! A light sweet & savory marinade, the pieces of BBQ Pork were tender, moist and delicious!
Bi (Julienne Pork):
But the surprise was their Bi (Julienne Pork), which turned out to be fantastic! One of the best versions of Bi we’ve ever had: It was very fresh (didn’t taste like refrigerated large batch versions with some funk from being made a few days earlier that other places have). It was lightly porky, nice texture, tender meatiness with a little bit of chew (in a good way). Loved this.
We can’t wait to come back and try more items. We noticed they also serve Chao (Vietnamese Porridge). Has anyone tried it here before? (@JeetKuneBao @attran99 @Ns1 and others?)
Thanh Restaurant was a nice surprise. A very good Com Tam (Vietnamese Broken Rice) Specialist literally just a couple minutes from Ba Le Sandwiches, and New Duong Son BBQ. A huge thanks to @JeetKuneBao for the recommendation!
9870 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 531-3888
We continued to head East, to try the next FTC recommendation:
Com Tam Tran Quy Cap
I remember hearing about this restaurant from our old board, but forgot about it until @Ns1 reminded us of the recommendation. Thanks!
Com Tam Tran Quy Cap is also a Vietnamese Broken Rice Specialist having been a mainstay of Little Saigon for years now. They are currently doing Takeout Only, and when we arrived there were about 3 customers waiting for orders.
#50. Combo #3 - Com Tam Tau Hu Ky, Tom, Suon Nuong, Bi Cha (Broken Rice Platter with Fried Shrimp Cake, Shrimp, Pork Chop, Shredded Pork Skin, Egg Cake):
Cha Trung (Egg Cake):
Their Cha Trung (Egg Cake) was moist, tasting freshly made that day, and less salty than Thanh Restaurant’s version.
Their Shrimp Skewer was fine. Not bad, good marinade, lightly sweet-salty.
Bi (Shredded Pork Skin):
Their Bi (Shredded Pork Skin) was fine, a bit more chew and tug than the other versions of Bi we had today, but still fresh.
Suon Nuong (BBQ Pork Chop):
The BBQ Pork Chop was juicy and nicely grilled. Really good flavor, it reminded us of the BBQ Pork at Thanh’s but perhaps a touch more zesty.
Tau Hu Ky (Shrimp Cake):
But it’s their Tau Hu Ky (Shrimp Cake) that was the highlight of this Broken Rice platter: An incredibly crispy exterior (Fried Tofu Skin), the stuffed Ground Shrimp was meaty but more tender than Thanh’s version (which was good), but this version was even better!
A big thanks to @Ns1 for the recommendation.
Com Tam Tran Quy Cap
16175 Harbor Blvd.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Tel: (714) 418-1333
As we walked up to Phin Smith, we were wondering if we went to the wrong spot: This was a gentrified part of town, and the first few menu items - Charcoal Latte, Lavender Latte, Rose Latte - along with some hamsters, made us think we were back on the Westside in Venice at a hamster coffee shop. After the first sip…
Oh how wrong we were.
Ca Phe Sua Da - “Phin Style” (Vietnamese Iced Coffee - with Hazelnut Cream, Sea Salt Cream):
Phin Smith’s website offers some nice info about their Coffee: The District 1 Roast is “named after Quan Nhat in Saigon, our District 1 Roast uses Robusta beans grown in the central highlands of Vietnam.”
Taking a sip:
A wave of euphoria washes over me. Incredible aroma, balanced flavor, smooth, nutty, and then you get a little bit of this Hazelnut creaminess and a little bit of Sea Salt (from their Sea Salt Cream).
This is probably the best Ca Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese Iced Coffee) I’ve ever had!
Darn it @Ns1 @JeetKuneBao why are you holding out on us?! (I kid, I kid!) It was thanks to @Ns1 and @JeetKuneBao’s strong reports back that we knew we had to make a stop to Phin Smith soon! Thank you again!
Coconut Coffee (Ice Blend):
Their Coconut Coffee was a “must order” according to our server. She was right:
This Ice Blended Coffee Drink was crazy good!
At the heart of it is a Frozen Coconut “Ice Cream” that tastes lighter, cleaner than regular Ice Cream (we forgot to ask if this was Non-Dairy or not). Regardless, it was light, chilled, and had a beautiful Coconut flavor without overwhelming (and I’m not a Coconut fan normally).
Then they add their incredible Phin Smith Coffee and blend the two together.
The flavor combination is ridiculous! It was perfect for this hot day!
Phin Smith was an eye opener and yet another treasure worth a stop when you visit Little Saigon. From the clean, modern interior and presentation, to the some of the best Vietnamese Iced Coffee around, with Robusta Beans they source from the Central Highlands of Vietnam (make sure you try it “Phin Style” once), to a beautiful Coconut Coffee Ice Blend, Phin Smith is a highlight! (@attran99 @J_L @PorkyBelly @A5KOBE @beefnoguy @hanhgry and others.)
12921 Main St.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
This was another wonderful culinary trip, with many new experiences thanks to FTC! We capped off our trip today with a stop at Oliboli Donuts.