I mentioned bánh mì in another thread. Sadly, the cheap place for bánh mì is too far from the office for my lunch break. (I usually don’t have a car when I go into the office.) Fortunately, there are a couple of Vietnamese places nearby.
One of them is so-so. (Actually, none compare to the ones in Orange County, back where I used to work.) The other one is better. In the past two weeks, I’ve had Vietnamese food six times – every day I’ve gone to the office. I’ve had bún thịt nướng chả giò (grilled pork and egg rolls with rice noodles, foliage, and fish sauce) a couple of times. (The ‘so-so place’ has better chả giò – egg rolls.) I tried the bún chả Hà Nội (Hanoi-style dish of grilled pork slices, pork patty, pickled kohlrabi, and green papaya served in mixed herb fish sauce – with the omni-present veg, of course). That was my fave in California. It’s OK up here. The bánh xèo (scallops, prawns, pork slices, shiitake mushroom, bean sprouts, and mung beans in fried rice batter topped with coconut milk served with green vegetable platter) was really good. Friday I had the bún đặc biệt. Bisically, đặc biệt means ‘with everything’. This one had skewered grilled pork and chicken, deep-fried egg rolls, grilled shrimp on sugarcane, and grilled prawns served with mixed herb fish sauce, plus the tear-it-up-yourself foliage.
I wish I could find some cơm tay cầm. This is chicken and rice cooked in a clay pot. The place I got it in OC served it with quail’s eggs. Yum.
Of course there’s nothing for a cold, rainy day like a bowl of phố đặc biệt – noodle soup with everything. I don’t care for the tripe, personally. I prefer the kind of tripe used in menudo. But with or without, it’s great.
I’m so-so about tendon and meatballs, but really like tripe that is thinly sliced so it looks like the noodles except crunchy. The sliced raw beef is good, but the various types of brisket: well done brisket, fatty brisket, well done fatty brisket, fatty flank, etc, are confusing.
A side note, apparently pho with narrow noodles and a large plate of greenery on the side is more southern-style.
Man, I’m impressed by your use of diacriticals! Đặc biệt actually means special, but you’re right, they often use it to mean “everything”, even though that’s usually thập cảm. Also, it’s phở, not phố, which means street. Everything else was perfect.
My favorites, besides what you’ve mentioned already, are:
Bún bò Huế – a spicy beef noodle soup from central VN
Bún riêu – same noodles, but with crab and shrimp paste and tofu
Nêm nướng Ninh Hoà – grilled ground pork, rolled up in rice paper with vegetables and dipped in sweet fish sauce
Actually, there are so many. Maybe we can lure Johnny back down south and do a DopeFest in Little Saigon one of these days.
I can’t really give you the names of any Vietnamese dishes, but I can say we liked the cuisine of Hue, the old imperial capital in central Vietnam and whose food is renowned throughout Vietnam, the best, hands down. I seem to recall that one of the emperors fancied himself quite the connoisseur and created many dishes himself. What we’ve eaten in Hanoi comes in a good second place.
I knew that, based on the menus, and should have said so for accuracy. But in usage, ‘special’ dishes are the ones that contain just about everything.
I don’t know how to make the special characters, so I just copy-and-paste the words. It’s easier that way.
I haven’t been able to find that up here. No, wait – I think I had it once in Bellingham. But it’s not common here anyway, and of course it’s much less spicy.
Don’t count on it! Actually, I may come for a visit sometime. If I ever get my own plane I’ll need somewhere to go. And if there’s another dopefest the size of DopeTobergest 2001 (70+ people, IIRC) that would be fun.
I guess I missed DopeTobergest, but I went to that one at the La Brea Tarpits, then Santa Monica. There must have been 30 or so at that … including you if I remember right. That must have been 2002 or 2003.
If you get your own plane, fly down to San Diego and pick me up, and then we’ll head over to the real Saigon*. (Better bring some extra fuel.)
Right, Ye Old King’s Head. I’d forgotten that. I don’t see that I posted to those threads, so somehow I missed it. I did see that Esprix is still an active member here, which is cool. I’m going to have to look him up.
Back on topic, have you tried mì quảng? It’s a noodle dish from Danang (Đà Nẵng), sort of like a soup but without broth. It’s very tasty if you can find someplace that makes it right.
Hey, I can’t use all those special characters, so bear with me.
My latest favorite Vietnamese food is banh cuon, which are called “rice rolls” on the menu. They steam rice flour batter on a cloth stretched tautly over a boiling pot so that it forms a tender, glutinous sheet. Then they roll or fold it loosely around a filling, and the best filling is seasoned ground pork and shredded cloud ear mushrooms. The rolls have a pleasingly glutinous quality that’s hard to describe. A plateful of these garnished with slices of Vietnamese pate sausage and whole tempura’d shrimp and sweet potato shreds is the breakfast of champions.