By pure coincidence, two of your Bay Area Bites authors will be taking a trip to Vietnam in the next few months. Amy Sherman and I separately planned trips are both packing our bags and getting our palates ready to taste the wonderful food of Vietnam.
In preparation for my upcoming trip, I took a drive through Little Saigon in Southern California this week. Little Saigon crosses parts of Westminster, Santa Ana, and Garden Grove in Orange County, and is considered the oldest, largest, and most prominent Vietnamese community in the United States.
The restaurants and food offerings in this community are remarkable. Everywhere you look, there is an overwhelming number of pho shops, banh mi stores, and restaurants offering food from every part of Vietnam.
Knowing that I only had a limited amount of time to spend in Little Saigon, I consulted several reference sites that cover the area, and made a concrete plan. The area is spread over several square miles, and I was glad I had a set plan in order to hit the best spots.
My first stop was New Trieu Chau Restaurant. It had been described on Chowhound as having the "best noodle soup you can get". The menu is large but descriptions are brief and not very forthcoming. I chose soup with thin egg noodles, and it came with cut pork, pork balls, chicken, liver and shrimp. The broth was satisfying and the noodles were perfect. Thin and firm, I slurped up every bit of noodle that I could. Chowhound posters also mention that the donuts here are good for dunking in soup, but as this was my first stop of several, I skipped the donuts.
Across the street from New Trieu Chau is a chain store called Lee's Sandwiches. Lee's serves banh mi sandwiches, cream cakes, baguettes, and other various items in their clean and well-lit store. I'm not a banh mi expert (yet) so don't really feel I can judge it, but the pickled slaw on my BBQ Pork sandwich was craveable, and the baguette was delicious. Next time I come to Little Saigon, I would like to try the favorite of Elmomonster and other Little Saigon experts: Banh Mi and Che Cali. Elmonster claims that Lee's Sandwiches serves a good sandwich, much like In N' Out serves a good, mass-produced burger, but that Bahn Mi and Che Cali is the real deal.
The restaurant that I was really sorry to miss this trip is called Brodard. It's well known for Nem Nuong Cuon: Spring rolls wrapped in rice paper with a fried egg roll inside. The roll has pork in it, and is supposedly quite delicious. Alas, Brodard was closed and I am going to have to try it another time. It's in the same shopping center as New Trieu Chau, but it's located behind the 99-cent store, in the very back of the shopping center.
The Thanh Son Tofu Factory is an interesting shop that contains all types of tofu products that you can imagine. Here, I bought a tasty tofu pudding which was a large container of piping hot tofu with a container of sugar syrup on top which, when added to the tofu, makes a tasty dessert. This crowded store was full of people buying fried tofu products, soy milk, and fresh tofu to take home.
In addition to the locations above, the ABC Supermarket is worth a trip. The store is chock-full of all sorts of Vietnamese goodies and is a fun place to check out. Additionally, the Asian Garden Mall has many small food stalls that had tempting looking food. The Asian Garden Mall would be a good place to try a wide variety of Vietnamese foods within a small area.
REFERENCE SITES FOR LITTLE SAIGON
RESTAURANTS AND STORES MENTIONED IN THIS POST
8970 Bolsa Ave (at Magnolia), Westminster
Asian Garden Mall
9200 Bolsa Ave (between Magnolia and Brookhurst), Westminster
Banh Mi and Che Cali
8948 Bolsa (at Magnolia), Westminster
9892 Westminster Ave (at Brookhurst), Garden Grove
13991 Brookhurst Street (at Westminster), Garden Grove
New Trieu Chau Restaurant
9902 Westminster Ave (at Brookhurst), Garden Grove
Open 7 Days
Thanh Son Tofu Factory
9688 Wesminster (between Magnolia and Brookhurst), Garden Grove