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]

More like 1980s.

Shrimp paste stuffed crab claws (and batter deep fried) is known as 百花釀蟹鉗 in Cantonese cuisine. Ironic how something so prevalent back in the day is now a custom pre-order. Didn’t really care for it back then, but it is quite nostalgic in a way just thinking about it.

As far as the Cantonese lobster salad goes, it was quite fun back in the day. Diced lobster meat mixed in with diced apples, mayonaise and a bunch of other chit I don’t quite remember and reconstructed on the plate. I believe with roast suckling pig they used to do the 9V battery power bulbs behind the canned cherries for the eyes as well, haha.

I have not tried any cha gio in Westminster…barely scratched the surface during one or two visits!

I vaguely recall an establishment in Westminster somewhere, the pho was not interesting but one of their appetizer plates was quite enjoyable…it was almost like a head cheese gelatin that reminds me of some Shanghainese or Beijing style cold app dish. I’ll have to dig around for pictures/notes for that one.

Mam is awesome stuff. Anh Hong SF would have this upon request, but is a touch diluted since I have no issues with fermented shrimp paste in general, though at least it doesn’t overpower. Definitely a must with bo la lot/rice paper/veggies/herb DIY roll! Definitely an awesome alternate “handroll party” (except there’s no sashimi involved). Slam bam thank you mam!

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You got it, @Chowseeker1999! You pull it as soon as it gets golden brown. I actually don’t know what the timing is. @hppzz did an IG post (@ravenouscouple) with some great photos and video of their rice paper wrapped-cha gio…and your memory is exceptional…I was surprised to find that rice paper-wrapped was a thing. I’d grown up on the wheat-based wrappers…but trying rice wrapped has blown my mind…the crispness of the cha gio wrapped in rice paper is phenomenal. Leagues better than what I grew up with…now if I could only convince my Mom to change her recipe to the rice paper wrap.

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I blame the French colonialism… but then again we got banh mi out of it. :joy:

@Chowseeker1999 @attran99 golden brown is the cue to remove from the fryer—with the caveat that the filling is cooked. If you fry at too high a temp it will brown too fast and the inside will be raw. We fry at Low temp say 300 and it’s ok to crowd the fryer/pan little bit to make sure both the filling is cooked and the outside comes to nice color at the same time.

Golden deli makes an excellent, if not the best, rice paper roll wrapper egg roll. It’s truly 100% rice flour paper.

Many other places use rice paper that contains both rice and tapioca flour for the egg rolls (probably because they don’t want to source two types of rice paper). Tapioca flour is added to get that stretchy elasticity and is great for rolling spring rolls. However, this type of rice paper is a PITA to fry. It bubbles up, sticks, and doesn’t brown evenly. There are home remedies to reduce these issues @catholiver can attest (beer, sugar water, coke, coconut milk). When fried right, texture is still crunchy but there is a chewiness to it.

This is Homemade :100: rice flour without any microbubbles. For the longest time we thought golden deli must have some secret, but it turns out you just have to find the right paper and read the ingredients. Rice only, best for frying egg rolls. Rice and tapioca best for fresh spring rolls.

Also See this thread ISO chả giò rế - Los Angeles - Food Talk Central


Here’s the filling.

I was advised by Andrea Nguyen that when the oil bubbles around the tip of a chopstick then it’s ready.


Thanks @attran99 @hppzz.

Ah! Yah we’ve had Golden Deli’s cha gio multiple times. They’re quite tasty and probably our favorite thing there (their Pho, not so much). :slight_smile:

We enjoy the cha gio at Kim Hong egg rolls. To go only, and they don’t sell nuoc cham (sweet & sour only), but that’s easy enough to do at home. They also sell them frozen.


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Can vouch

BTW, @Ns1 @attran99 where do you recommend getting the bounty of Vietnamese Herbs that they usually serve with Cha Gio in restaurants? Would places like 99 Ranch have it or? Thanks!

Yes, 99 is your easiest choice


If you want to show us all up, do the frozen egg rolls after a trip to the farmers market.


wow, the menu here is actually quite deep


Hi @Ns1,

Are there English translations of those on the menu? Or if not, please share some highlights! :slight_smile:

I find it amusing that they bothered to translate the first 3 items into English and then stopped.


Update 1:

Pho Tau Bay L.T.T.

After our previous wonderful outing to Little Saigon and the great flurry of additional recommendations from @hppzz @attran99 @Ns1 @PorkyBelly and many others, we had to go back. :slight_smile:

Banh Cuon Dac Biet (Steamed Rice Paper Cake with Meat Inside and Dry Pork Topping):

When I heard @Ns1 @PorkyBelly joyfully discussing the greatness of this Vietnamese dish, I knew I had to try it on my next visit to Little Saigon. :slight_smile:

For those that haven’t had it, Banh Cuon are Steamed Rice Rolls, sort of like a variation of the Charsiu / Beef / Shrimp Rice Rolls at Dim Sum restaurants, but thinner and with different fillings.

Taking a bite of Pho Tau Bay’s Banh Cuon, it is thin, supple, delicate and filled with a delicious mixture of Ground Pork, Mushroom and Onions. The Dac Biet version adds on Shredded Dry Pork topping that adds to the textural contrast. But it’s when you dip a piece in their Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce) that it all turns to magic:

It’s tender, delicate, savory, with a little crunch from the Dried Pork topping, and then you get the pungent, sweet, briny Nuoc Cham coming through.

It is fantastic! :heart:

The additional Pork Meatloaf slices that came with the Banh Cuon were OK, tasting like a slightly rubbery “Bologna.”

We devoured our 1 plate and was hoping to get a 2nd one to share, when we realized there were more places to go visit.

(Cash Only)

Pho Tau Bay Ltt
3610 W. 1st Street, #C
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Tel: (714) 531-6634

Quan Vy Da

Com Ga Vy Da (Vy Da’s Special Rice with Shredded Chicken):

This was their version of Hainan Chicken Rice. After the recent Hainan Chicken Rice Journey, we were curious how this one might stack up.

First the Seasoned Rice was a bit dry. It had some of the Chicken Broth flavor infusion, but not as distinct as our favorites on the journey.

Unfortunately the Shredded Chicken tasted really old. :cry: Like leftover Poached / Boiled Chicken from a previous day. And their accompanying Dipping Sauce was just their Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce), which wasn’t as compelling as a great Green Onion & Ginger Sauce, or the Seasoned Soy Sauce or Chili Sauce trio that comes with traditional Hainan Chicken Rice dishes.

Sua Dau Nanh (Soybean Milk):

Quan Vy Da’s server mentions that they make their own Soybean Milk in-house, and it was apparent from the first sip: Very fresh, earthy, rustic. Tasty. :slight_smile:

Banh Bot Loc La Chuoi (Tapioca Cake with Shrimp and Pork Wrapped in Banana Leaf):

Thanks to @attran99 for the recommendation, this was a new dish we hadn’t tried before: The Banh Bot Loc are bite sized little morsels of Shrimp and Pork filling within Tapioca Cake and wrapped in Banana Leaf. It’s not as glutinous and sticky as, say, Chinese Sticky Rice, but it’s along those lines. The Pork and Shrimp filling helped make the whole thing a nice blend of savory, briny with a bit of chew. :slight_smile:

Banh Beo Chen Vy Da (Vy Da’s Steamed Rice Cake with Ground Shrimp):

Banh Beo Chen, or Steamed Rice Cakes with Ground Shrimp (in Little Dishes), have always been one of our favorite Vietnamese dishes due to its cute, small, bite-sized nature (that, and the delicious confluence of Steamed Rice Cakes, Shrimp and Nuoc Cham).

Quan Vy Da’s version is delicious, with tender Steamed Rice Cakes, generous topping of Ground Dried Shrimp and Pork Cracklings. :slight_smile: (Thanks again @attran99)

Quan Vy Da
9950 Bolsa Ave., Unit #B
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 531-2905

Thanh Son Tofu

A huge thanks to @attran99 for recommending this Little Saigon specialist in all things Soybean, we stopped by on our sprawling Little Saigon bang x bang to try out some of their Housemade Soybean offerings. They still had some of their Housemade Soy Milk for sale:

Soy Milk (Cup):

It’s only lightly sweetened (they offer it unsweetened as well), deeply flavorful and earthy and tasting so fresh (and a bit rustic), nothing like the mass produced versions.

Soy Pudding (Traditional w/ Ginger):

They sell Tofu Flower (a.k.a. Soy Pudding), made in-house daily. From the initial bite, you get this silky, delicate, lightly sweet bite with a hint of Ginger. Delicious! :blush: It was on par with V P Tofu, except V P Tofu’s version has a bit more Ginger (which we like), and it’s cheaper (V P is $1.50 for a monster portion(!), and Thanh Son is $2.50 (still a bargain but V P’s price is ridiculous).

Overall a great place to get some fresh Housemade Soy Milk and Tofu Flower Dessert if you’re in the area. We’ll be back. :slight_smile:

Thanh Son Tofu
9688 Westminster Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844
Tel: (714) 534-2100

Banh Cuon Luu Luyen

Having fallen in love with Banh Cuon, we decided to do an impromptu Banh Cuon Journey, wanting to try out more Banh Cuon specialists in the area. Next up was Banh Cuon Luu Luyen (thanks to @foodshutterbug for the recommendation!). :slight_smile:

Their Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce) arrives in a massive jar to each table. :open_mouth:

Banh Cuon Dac Biet (3 Rice Sheets Combo with Pork, Shrimp, Plain Rice Sheets with Toppings):

This was a massive plate of Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Sheets) with a bunch of additional toppings. Trying out their Pork filling first, Luu Luyen’s version is a thicker Steamed Rice Sheet (a medium thickness compared to Pho Tau Bay). The Pork Filling is savory and tasty.

Their Banh Cuon with Shrimp has a nice briny edge to it, and was our favorite of the two. :slight_smile:

Their extra toppings included a Cha Gio (Egg Roll) which was a little greasy, but still crunchy and tasty.

Banh Cuon Thit Nuong (3 Rolls of BBQ Pork Wrapped with Mixed Veggies):

Our server mentioned that this dish won them a mention in OC Weekly as one of the best dishes in OC, so we were excited to try this variation. This Banh Cuon Thit Nuong is noticeably meatier, with a lot of filling, more like a Spring Roll than the thin Banh Cuon versions we’ve tried up until now.

The BBQ Pork is like a Honey BBQ flavor, which was tasty, but a touch too salty as well.

Banh Cuon Luu Luyen is a friendly, lively Banh Cuon specialist, serving some interesting variations on the Steamed Rice Sheets dish. We like their Shrimp Banh Cuon a touch more than the Pork version, and for those wanting a big meaty variation with a lot of Honey BBQ Pork, try the Banh Cuon Thit Nuong.

(Cash Only)

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

Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4

I’m not sure the differences between them, but since @Ns1 recommended Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4 as one of the OG Banh Cuon specialists, that was the branch we had to try. :wink:

Walking in, it’s a big restaurant with super high ceilings. It’s also the newest and nicest-looking of the Banh Cuon restaurants we tried on this journey, which is surprising since @Ns1 mentioned this was one of the original restaurants serving this.

Banh Cuon Dac Biet Tay Ho (Combination Flour Sheet with Shrimp Tempura Special):

It was interesting that they called this “Flour Sheet” when it should be Rice, perhaps a translation error on the menu? Regardless, the Banh Cuon looked rather hefty, but while it wasn’t as thin as Pho Tau Bay’s version, they were still rather silky and supple, a bit thinner than Banh Cuon Luu Luyen’s version, which turned out to be the thickest version on this trip.

The Pork and Shrimp fillings were also pretty tasty, not overly salty and providing just the right amount of savory meatiness.

The toppings on this dish - a Shrimp Tempura (as the menu calls it), and a Vegetarian Meatloaf Cake - were a bit forgettable.

Their Nuoc Cham wasn’t as sweet as other versions we tried so that helped as well.

Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4
9822 Bolsa Ave., # H
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 531-5171

Pho Tau Bay LLT (Revisit)

We had to revisit Pho Tau Bay one last time to see how it compared after trying the other Banh Cuon specialists.

Banh Cuon Dac Biet (Steamed Rice Paper Cake with Meat Inside and Dry Pork Topping):

Taking a bite and it was immediately obvious how great Pho Tau Bay’s version was: Thin, delicate, lithe Steamed Rice Paper Cake, with the most delicious filling out of all of the Banh Cuon specialists we tried on this journey. It’s the Marinated Pork, Mushrooms and Onions and the seasoning combining it all together. Deeply tasty and savory.

Pho Tau Bay’s Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce) was also far less sweet and more balanced than some of the other places we tried. Dipping in the Banh Cuon with their Nuoc Cham and it is just one of the tastiest bites we’ve had recently! :heart: (Thanks again @Ns1 @PorkyBelly!)

Pho Tau Bay while ostensibly a Pho restaurant delivers our favorite Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Paper Cake w/ Filling) in So Cal. The thin, pliable, delicate Steamed Rice Paper feels the most pleasing to my palate, and the filling is the most umami and delicious. And at $7.00 for a Small (pictured), or $8.00 for the Large, this feels like a bargain. :slight_smile:

After that, for a thicker Steamed Rice Paper version with a variety of fillings, give Banh Cuon Luu Luyen a try, and Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4’s was inbetween Luu Luyen and Pho Tau Bay in terms of thickness.

(Cash Only)

Pho Tau Bay Ltt
3610 W. 1st Street, #C
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Tel: (714) 531-6634

Cococane (Revisit)

Time for a quick break, so off we want to our favorite Sugarcane specialist, Cococane.

Original Cococane (Coconut, Sugarcane, Coconut Meat):

It looks like Cococane has gotten rid of their Styrofoam cups in lieu of recyclable plastic. Taking a sip, it is as refreshing as before: This insanely addictive blend of not-too-sweet freshly extracted Sugarcane that is so fragrant, and then this perfect blend with fresh Coconut Juice and meaty bits of Young Coconut as well. It is SO GOOD! :heart:

I don’t even like Coconut that much normally, but in this drink by Cococane, the Sugarcane Juice and Coconut Juice just meld together to make a beautiful combination that enhances each other and the overall final taste. (Thanks again @JeetKuneBao!)

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

Vua Bun Bo

A Vietnamese friend of my co-worker had mentioned a newer Bun Bu Hue specialist that they liked, so we added it to our bookmark list to visit on our Little Saigon excursion. :wink: Called “Vua Bun Bo” apparently “Vua” means “King” in Vietnamese, so this is the “King of Bun Bo Hue”? (@attran99 @hppzz @Ns1 correct me if I mangled that translation!) :sweat_smile:

Sitting down, it’s a cleaner, updated interior compared to Ngu Binh, Ben Ngu and other Bun Bo Hue places we’ve tried in the past.

Vua Bun Bo - Dac Biet (House Special Central Style Spicy Beef Soup with Pork Leg, Pork Loaf, Beef Shank and Pork Blood Cube + Beef Bone):

Yes, Vua Bun Bo’s claim to fame seems to be the ability to add on a gigantic, Flintstones-like Beef Bone to gnaw on with your Bun Bo Hue! :open_mouth: But more on this in a bit…

Their Bun Bo Hue (Central Vietnamese-style Beef Noodle Soup) arrives piping hot, but looking closely, you can see that the Soup looks rather light and clear. There’s barely any red Chili Oil, but we were hopeful.

Taking a sip, it’s a clean-tasting, light Beef Broth, but there’s no comparison with Ngu Binh, which has so much more depth of flavor and instills a crave-worthy response.

The individual ingredients are delicious and work fine with the Bun Bo Hue: The Beef Shank was tender and fresh, the Pig’s Trotter was a bit firm, but tender enough to eat, the Pork Meatloaf was fine as well.

They seemed to provide a condensed Vegetable & Herb plate compared to most Bun Bo Hue places, and you don’t get that massive heap of Banana Flowers like Ngu Binh.

The Noodles are the straight, medium-thickness style, cooked down to a very soft consistency (perhaps a touch overcooked).

But what brings the whole dish around is Vua Bun Bo’s offering of a massive Beef Bone to gnaw (or nibble) on. :slight_smile: The Beef Bone is bigger than the pair of Meat Scissors that accompany the bowl. Most of it is Bone, but there are enough morsels of Lean Beef and Beef Tendon (and some Gristle and Fat) to make it worth the increase in cost ($14 for the Noodles & Bone).

The Lean Beef sections and Beef Tendon were cooked down to a tender consistency, although a few edges of Tendon weren’t cooked down enough (still a bit too firm). You also had to trim away some of the Beef Fat and Gristle (or enjoy that whole, as we saw some other customers doing). :wink: It was pretty tasty, if a bit ridiculous trying to pick up or scrape away edible portions from the giant bone. :smile:

Vua Bun Bo creates a solid bowl of Bun Bo Hue, with a clear (if a little light) Beef Broth at the heart of the bowl, with fresh-tasting ingredients. We were hoping to find @beefnoguy another place to try on his visit, but this isn’t it. Vua Bun Bo isn’t the King of Bun Bo (not even close), but in the grand scheme of Bun Bo Hue places we’ve tried, it’d probably be (a distant) 2nd after Ngu Binh, with a fun Beef Bone side to make it stand out.

Vua Bun Bo
9211 Bolsa Ave. #120
Westminster, CA 92683

Ngu Binh (Revisit)

To make sure our taste buds weren’t off, we had to do a comparison with our current favorite Bun Bo Hue specialist, so it was onto Ngu Binh! :slight_smile:

Banh Beo Chen (Steamed Rice Cake Served In 10 Individual Small Dishes):

As wonderful as the previous 5 - 6 visits. :slight_smile: Perfect for sharing, these individual little dishes of Steamed Rice Cake (which are soft, tender and with just the right amount of umami and crunch) continue to be a standout way to start things at Ngu Binh.

Bun Bo Hue Dac Biet (Spicy Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup):

One look at the bowl and layer of crimson red hell on top and you know you’re in for a treat. :slight_smile: Like Rameniac loving that layer of Oil sealing in the heat in his favorite bowls of Ramen, the layer of Red Chili Oil (which isn’t overly spicy at all) manages to seal in the heat from the piping hot bowl of perfect Beef Broth in this Bun Bo Hue.

Taking a sip:

Seriously. Perfection! :heart:

There’s a true soulfulness and insane depth of flavor in Ngu Binh’s Bun Bo Hue (Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup). I don’t taste the Shrimp Paste, but one of the servers mentioned this to us once as one of the keys to the umami and flavor bomb here. It is the perfect dish for our So Cal Winters. :blush:

Be sure to add in the Banana Flowers and other Herbs as you like.

Their Housemade Pork Meatball is great: Zesty, savory and flavorful.

I like their Beef Shank (and Beef Tendon) in this bowl the most. :slight_smile:

And their Stewed Pig’s Trotter is super soft and tender, another nice addition.

Ngu Binh remains our favorite Bun Bo Hue (Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) specialist in So Cal: It starts with that incredible Beef Soup at the heart of the dish. It is more than just Beef Bones, there are layers of flavors and it just continues to bring a smile to your face with every sip, all the way down to the bottom of the bowl. Add in the Beef Shank and Tendon, Pork Trotter, Pork Meatball and Noodles and you have the perfect comfort food for this season.

(Cash Only)

Ngu Binh
14092 Magnolia Street
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 903-6000

Mia Perfect Juice

A new Sugarcane and Fresh Fruit Juice specialist that @JeetKuneBao posted about recently, we decided to finish things off and see how their Sugarcane might compare with Cococane’s.

Cococane (Fresh Sugarcane Juice, Coconut Juice):

It is interesting that Cococane’s offering has become so popular that this new Juice spot is offering their own take on the Cococane drink.

On first sip, wow. @JeetKuneBao was right: It is really creamy for some reason. We checked with the order taker and she said there was absolutely no dairy in this at all (it tasted like it was whipped with some cream or milk or something). It had a delicious mouthfeel. :slight_smile:

However, we felt that it was a touch too sweet for us. It’s all personal preference, but we liked Cococane’s Cococane drink more than Mia Perfect Juice’s version. Cococane’s was less sweet, and while less creamy, it had (for us) that perfect blend of Fresh Sugarcane with Fresh Coconut Juice and it also gave you more bites of fresh Young Coconut. Mia gave you a few small chunks, but less than Cococane.

In the end, Mia Perfect Juice has an amazing creamy mouthfeel to their Cococane Sugarcane drink, and if you enjoy things sweet, this is definitely worth a stop. :slight_smile:

Mia Perfect Juice
9084 Edinger Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Tel: (714) 720-3778

We had a blast on this follow-up Little Saigon Journey! We discovered a new love with Banh Cuon (Steamed Rice Paper Cakes (with Various Fillings)), found a new Housemade Tofu Specialist (with great Tofu Flower and Fresh Soy Milk), and revisited old favorites that still remain as amazing as before (Cococane and Ngu Binh)! :heart:

A huge thanks to @JeetKuneBao @attran99 @Ns1 @hppzz @PorkyBelly @beefnoguy @bulavinaka @A5KOBE @foodshutterbug and many others for the recommendations. :slight_smile:


Just a tiny note of clarification. You mentioned rice paper rolls but they’re actually rice flour rolls. Probably just a typo.

Hi @catholiver,

No, I’m just using what the restaurant lists on their menu, as every restaurant varies in their description. It makes it easier for people to find which dish to order when they see the menu. Thanks.

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Thanks for the report @Chowseeker1999, so glad you liked the banh cuon, i love the lightness with the fried shallots on top. i could probably down 5 of those plates at pho tau bay.

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Well, aren’t they silly? The two could hardly be more different. But the food looked so good. We have some Viet places in Reno. I should see if any have bon bo hue. After having it in Hue I’ve not wanted to compete with perfection :slight_smile:

And with my rice PAPER I can make cha gio.

Always a great adventure to follow along on your journeys, @Chowseeker1999! So glad you enjoyed the banh beo chen and banh bot loc la at Quan Vy…I used to eat banh boc lot la as snacks…my Mom would buy them from random places or have friends make extra for me. The ones on the menu at Ben Ngu are gigantic, but their catering version is much more in line with what you got at Ngu Binh. I much prefer the smaller ones.
Thanh Son brings back a lot of memories. Mom would come home from a Little Saigon shopping trip and have a fresh bottle of fresh soy milk. I loved it even more when it was still warm.
You are right about the translation of Vua…it does mean king/emperor.

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Andrea Nguyen recently recommended the “fried onion rings” like you use on green bean casserole if you don’t want to mess with shallots. I don’t consider them a problem.