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]

LOL #AsiannessKnowsNoBounds


After doing the race to the bathroom trick for many years I’ve started resorting to calling restaurants in advance and giving them my credit card over the phone.


The hand fighting can be so intense sometimes lol

1 Like

You’re maxing out the arms race!

1 Like



Update (To-Go, Part 2):

We wanted to support more of the mom & pop shops during the pandemic, and because it was so hot recently, and we had to celebrate the return of Cococane, so off we went on another Little Saigon adventure. :slight_smile:

Fresh Canes

First, yes, this is not in Little Saigon, but is relevant to the adventure (more on this later). :slight_smile: We had heard about Fresh Canes, a new Sugarcane Juice specialist thanks to FTC and decided to stop by.

Walking in, it’s a tiny family-owned establishment and the folks couldn’t have been nicer! Really nice people who were so friendly and accommodating (and gave us samples).

As advertised, they are a freshly pressed Sugarcane Juice specialist, and you can choose to have it as pure Sugarcane, or with additional, All Natural Flavor Additions (e.g., Watermelon, Kumquat, Ginger, Pineapple, Lemon, Pennywort, etc.).

Signature Original - Half Sugarcane + Half Coconut Juice:

The first sip is a bit of a shock to the system: We haven’t had pure Sugarcane Juice Only in awhile, used to the half & half mixtures in Little Saigon in recent times, so even though this was supposed to be Half Sugarcane + Half Coconut Juice, it tasted primarily of ~80% Sugarcane Juice. It was tasty, but perhaps a touch too sweet (naturally) than what we’re used to, but I’ll let our Sugarcane afficianados (like @J_L @JeetKuneBao decide).

The back of the cup displays Fresh Cane’s list of health benefits for Sugarcane.

Sugarcane Juice + Fresh Ginger + Grass Jelly:

This one tasted more balanced, as the Fresh Ginger was apparent, adding a really electric zing and spiciness to the drink. :slight_smile: The Grass Jelly was fine, but rather hard to drink (even with a larger Boba straw).

Overall, we had hoped Fresh Canes would be a closer alternative to our beloved Cococane, but it fell a bit short. The fresh Sugarcane Juice itself is apparent and tasty, but we prefer something a little less sweet these days. Still, if you’re in the area and wanting something all natural to cool you down, give Fresh Canes a try.

Fresh Canes
9008 E. Garvey Ave., Suite F
Rosemead, CA 91770
Tel: (626) 863-8916

Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster) (Revisit)

We started off with Ba Le Sandwiches again, wanting to support the mom & pop shop making wonderful Banh Mi Sandwiches.

For this visit, on a Sunday lunch hour (a few weeks ago), it was quiet, and we were the only customers ordering. We noticed the oven was off (normally baking another huge batch of Baguette-like Bread for their Sandwiches). We asked how business was, and the matriarch looked at us with sad eyes and said, “It’s slow.” :cry:

#1: Banh Mi Thit Nguoi + Bi (Cold Cuts + Shredded Pork Baguette):

Our favorite Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich) on the menu, on this visit, their Housemade Baguette was barely crisped today, still light and fresh-tasting, but not as shatteringly crisp on the outside as usual, perhaps due to the slow turnover on this Sunday.

The interior layers of various Cold Cuts, lightly porky, combined with the Bi (Shredded Pork & Pork Skin), combined with the Pickled Daikon, Carrots and fresh Cilantro and Jalapeno Chilies was as excellent as before. :slight_smile:

#2: Banh Mi Thit Nguong (BBQ Pork Baguette):

This was served with a nicely marinated, sweet & salty BBQ Pork filling. The BBQ Pork was tender, served hot and another good Banh Mi on their menu. However, their Housemade Bread on this visit was soft for this Sandwich, without any crunch. We’re guessing it’s because of the slow business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We left Ba Le Sandwiches a bit worried, with very slow business a few weeks ago, we were hoping they would survive and be able to continue making some of the best Banh Mi around when they had more customers / better turnover (making their Housemade Baguette more often throughout the day).

Ba Le Sandwiches
9152 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 891-9424

Banh Cuon Luu Luyen

One of Little Saigon’s Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Sheets) specialists, we wanted to see how they were holding up during the pandemic and support them as well. They were open for business, and had a steady stream of 2 - 5 customers in line during our wait and order pickup.

#6: Nhan Tom (Shrimp Rice Sheets with Toppings):

While we normally enjoy Pork versions of Banh Cuon, Banh Cuon Luu Luyen’s Shrimp version was tastier. On this visit, the To-Go version is nicely packed up, arriving with the Shrimp Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Sheets) at the bottom, topped with an Egg Roll, Steamed Ham, Fried Ham, Tofu, Mung Bean Shrimp Fried Bread, Mixed Veggies & Fried Onions.

Luu Luyen’s Steamed Rice Sheets are a thin-medium thickness, and the Shrimp filling adds a nice light brininess to each bite along with the various toppings and the dab of their Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce. Tasty. :slight_smile:

We just noticed that Luu Luyen has a Bun Rieu (Cajun Crab, Chicken & Shrimp-Based Soup with Vermicelli), has anyone tried it?

Banh Cuon Luu Luyen remains a solid Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Sheets) specialist, with one of the better assortment of toppings to go with the Banh Cuon. At $8.49 for the Shrimp Rice Sheets, and $7.49 for their Pork Rice Sheets, it’s an affordable, tasty meal that holds up pretty well for Takeout.

After this most recent visit, it confirms that we prefer Pho Tau Bay’s Banh Cuon, which are thinner, more delicate and tastier (thanks again @Ns1 @PorkyBelly for the recommendation!). :slight_smile: But either place are great spots to satisfy your Banh Cuon cravings.

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

Thuan Thoi (Cococane) (Revisit)

Thanks to a tip from @JeetKuneBao, we found out Cococane had re-opened during the pandemic after shutting down for over a month+. We couldn’t wait for a revisit! :slight_smile:

As we approached Cococane, there turned out to be at least 25+ people waiting for Cococane drinks(!). :open_mouth:

Original Cococane (Coconut, Sugarcane, Coconut Meat):

I was apprehensive about taking a sip of Cococane: After our experience with Fresh Canes’ Sugarcane Juice (above), I wondered if all the months of staying at home, cooking at home, drinking water mainly might’ve affected my taste buds? Perhaps we’re just used to simpler, lighter fare these days, and I’d no longer be able to enjoy things like Cococane?


The first sip reminded me of why I love this place so much: Lightly sweet, refreshing, aromatic, lightly tropical, the Original Cococane was thirst-quenching and wonderful! :heart:

Far less sweet than Fresh Canes, Cococane is just sippable, balanced, just the right mix of Fresh Sugarcane Juice and Coconut. There’s a reason there were 25+ people waiting for their drinks when we arrived. :blush:

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

We continued our Little Saigon adventures today, and it was packed! There was heavy traffic throughout Little Saigon, and it felt like busy, usual weekends pre-pandemic(!).

Com Tam Kieu Giang

It’s been awhile since we’ve enjoyed Com Tam (Vietnamese Broken Rice), and I realized we haven’t been keeping up with any Com Tam specialists in years (our last go-to was a favorite of Porthos’ but it closed down).

Com Tam Kieu Giang sits a few minutes north of Little Saigon, along a quiet corner of a generic strip mall with a Little Caesar’s Pizza shop.

Tra Da (Iced Tea):

#1: Com Tam Kieu Giang (House Special Charbroiled Pork Chop on Broken Rice, with Shredded Pork, Baked Egg, Bean Curd Skin, Sausage):

The Charbroiled Pork Chop itself had excellent marinade and flavor: Lightly sweet, with a good savoriness permeating every bite to the bone, it also featured some nice charbroiled flavor. :slight_smile:

The Pork Chop was a touch fatty, but moist throughout.

Fried Bean Curd Skin (stuffed with Shrimp) was lightly crunchy on the outside, and fine. We’ve had better versions of this a few years back, at a place a Vietnamese friend of ours took us to.

The Bi (Shredded Pork) was decent. It tasted a touch old (as if it was made a few days earlier and refrigerated).

The Baked Egg was moist and flavorful.

Overall, Com Tam Kieu Giang turned out to be an unexpected surprise: A solid Vietnamese Broken Rice specialist along a quieter portion of Brookhurst to the north.

If folks have other Com Tam specialists to recommend, please let us know. :slight_smile:

Com Tam Kieu Giang
12085 Brookhurst St., Unit #E
Garden Grove, CA 92840
Tel: (714) 537-5550

Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster) (Revisit)

For today’s visit, with Little Saigon seemingly packed with cars at pre-pandemic levels, we stopped by Ba Le Sandwiches to find a fresh batch of Housemade Baguettes just out of the oven, and the owner, an old Vietnamese woman who’s been so nice to us on each of our visits, looking a little less worn. When we asked how business was, she cracked a slight smile and said “Better now.” :slight_smile:

#1: Banh Mi Thit Nguoi + Bi (Cold Cuts + Shredded Pork Baguette):

Their #1, the Banh Mi Thit Nguoi + Bi (Cold Cuts + Shredded Pork Baguette) (the Shredded Pork is an add-on) was back to being incredible on this visit!

With more customers today (higher turnover) and a large batch of freshly baked Housemade Baguettes when we arrived (like they used to make regularly throughout the day, pre-pandemic), taking a bite:

Crispy-crunchy exterior, light airy soft center, and their Thit Nguoi (Cold Cuts) with added Bi (Shredded Pork), so fresh, lightly porky, interesting textures, a smear of Pate and some Mayo, then contrasted by the super fresh, bright Pickled Radish and Carrot, a bit of spicy Jalapenos and aromatic Cilantro was ridiculous! :heart: :blush: :heart:

Ba Le was back!

#6: Banh Mi Trung (Fried Egg Baguette):

This time, we asked the owner if she could make the Egg “less scrambled” and she nodded.

The result was a significant change: More of the Scrambled Eggs were moist and had more of a runny Egg Yolk (a good thing) and with the fantastic, fresh batch of Housemade Baguettes, it exhibited the same crispy-crunchy, toasty exterior giving way to softness within, the runnier Egg Yolks, Pickled Carrots & Radishes and Jalapeno and Cilantro, and some Mayo and you had an outstanding Vietnamese Egg Sandwich! :heart:

It seems with Orange County re-opening has brought in a lot of locals around Little Saigon, which results in more customers for mom & pop shops like Ba Le Sandwiches. This makes for higher turnover, more Banh Mi Sandwiches and more batches of fresh-baked Baguettes from their oven, which is at the heart of Ba Le Sandwiches outstanding Banh Mi.

Consider their #1: Banh Mi Thit Nguoi + Bi (Cold Cuts + Shredded Pork Baguette) as a starting point to understanding the greatness that is Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster). Then branch out from there. At $3.68 for the best Banh Mi Sandwiches in L.A. / O.C., it is a ridiculous bargain and some good eats worth seeking out.

(Note: Ba Le is right across the street from another recommended FTC spot, New Duong Son BBQ for some excellent Roast Pork Belly! :slight_smile: And just a few minutes away from other highlights like Cococane, Ngu Binh (for the outstanding Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Beef Noodle Soup from Central Vietnam)) and other places.)

Ba Le Sandwiches
9152 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 891-9424


I’m glad you finally caught the egg banh mi “less scrambled.” On occasion, I’ll drop by for breakfast and will ask for the egg to just be fried over easy…it easier for them to do when it’s less busy.
I picked up their pickled vegetable mix last time and then recycled the vinegar solution to make my own do chua at home. Optional: throw in some slices of garlic or ginger to amp up the flavor a bit.


I am glad you got your Cococane and Ba Le fix!!! Truly some of the best stuff!

Come on down and make the drive to OC my friends!


Hi @attran99,

I would love to have Ba Le’s Banh Mi Trung with over easy or sunny-side-up eggs! I think it’d be incredible. We’ll have to try visiting earlier in the day and try asking for that. :slight_smile:


Thanks again @JeetKuneBao for the recommendations. :slight_smile:

On a side note, do you have a recommendation for great Com Tam (Vietnamese Broken Rice) specialists these days? (and @attran99 @Ns1 and others.) Thanks.

1 Like

I like Thanh Restaurant on Bolsa x Brookhurst. The bean curd wrapped shrimp paste is great my favorite thing on a plate of com tam



Same rec I always have.

Is it the best? probably not by Little Saigon standards. But it’s been in business 20+ years and I consider it a baseline. Think of it as the Santouka of com tam.

Every time I go somewhere else I regret it. I have found better pork chops but I have not found a better all in one combo.


Hi @Ns1,

Thanks! Which combo(s) do you recommend there? :slight_smile:

#2 or #3

1 Like

I went to Ba Le today based on your post and my goodness, this is so much better than the SGV location it isn’t even funny. I am not even sure they are related because of how much of a different experience this was. I grabbed a Dac Biet and it was amazing. The bread is some of the best I’ve had and the mayo they use/make is just awesome.

Does anyone know what mayo they use or if they make it?

I tasted some on my finger and it has a nice garlic flavor, and the color is very yellow.

You were right! I should have gone sooner.


@A5KOBE they make the mayo themselves and sell it in the fridge for folks who want to DIY banh mi at home. It does have garlic and it’s amazing.


Thanks for the great intel @attran99! I am definitely going to pick some up soon.



Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster)! So good, right? :blush: Glad you were able to finally make it.

Totally agree this is so much better than the “Ba Le” in the San Gabriel Valley, there’s no way they are related considering how bad that one is.

The bread, the housemade mayo (thanks for the info @attran99!) and fillings, balance.

Oh! I forgot to mention for those considering stopping by but needing more incentive:

  • Ba Le Sandwiches (Westminster) is across the street from New Duong Son BBQ (@Dommy @PorkyBelly and others). :slight_smile:

And it’s just a few minutes away from the legendary @JeetKuneBao’s Cococane, and you can then bang x bang Ngu Binh for incredible Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue). :wink:


There is Ba Le in a lot of major metro areas. I believe the original is in San Jose. They are all separate but almost all are related (Uncle, Aunt, Cousin, etc) to each other

Everything at Ba Le Little Saigon is made in house. I suggest buying some of their mayo and pate to go!

  1. Banh Mi at Ba Le
  2. Original at Cococane
  3. Vietnamese Coffee at Phin Smith
  4. Bun Bo Hue at Ngu Binh
  5. Hu Tieu Nam Vang at Trieu Chau
  6. Com Tam at Thanh Restaurant
  7. Shaking Beef at Khoi Hung
  8. Pho Bo at Pho Akaushi
  9. Canh Chua at Mai’s Kitchen
  10. Banh Cuon at Pho Tau Bay
  11. Crab Egg Rolls at Hanoi Avenue
  12. Grilled Pork Spring Rolls at Brodard
  13. Chao Long at Cho Tam Bien
  14. Fruit Tart at Le Croissant Dore
  15. Bo Kho at Song Long
  16. Hu Tieu My Tho Dac Biet at Phuongs
  17. Banh Canh Tom Cua at Mai Phung
  18. Fried Catfish at Favori
  19. Chao Ca at Canton Restaurant
  20. Pho Ga at Pho Ga Hai Van
  21. Coconut Snails and Vietnamese Salad at Oc and Lau
  22. Banh Xeo at Van’s
  23. Oxtail Side at Pho 79
  24. Banh Xeo Rolls at Quan Mii

Here is 25 reasons to come down in no particular order