Ten Great Beef Meals in OC and Long Beach
This list is designed so that you can have a cow. Steak is, of course, represented. There's also a burger in there, because, well, what better foodstuff has this creature from the subfamily Bovinae given to humanity? Without further ado, here are ten great ways to go on a beef bender in OC and Long Beach.
1. Cambodian Beef Jerky at Sophy's
Sophy's Cambodian beef jerky is one of those dishes that proves appearances can be deceiving. On first glance you'd think the things weren't edible. On touching it, you're sure it's not. These beef logs, twisted and gnarled like a tree branch recovered from a forest fire, looks grotesque and well, kind of gross. No color elements are added on the plate. No cilantro, no parsley, not even a cherry tomato. What you see is what you get: sooty black clubs that might as well be charcoal. But then you bite into it. A rush of flavors smacks you up royal. Your eyes widen. You taste kaffir lime, garlic, sugar, and other spices you'll try to identify but can't. You end up fighting to get at that last piece. And the texture is wonderful, if contradictory. How can it be that it's simulatenously tender, dry, moist, chewy, and crispy fried. You tear of another ragged piece and dunk it in a vinegar-sugar dipping sauce, stuff it in your mouth, and tell yourself, I'll never prejudge a plate of food on how it looks again.
2. Seven Courses of Beef at Thien An
You might think that seven courses of beef (that's bo 7 mon in Vietnamese) is probably six courses too many. And you'd be right if every course weren't so darn tasty and essential to the whole experience. Anyway, the bovine bender is a special occasion blowout that you'd be silly to have everyday (although with a price of around $15 per person, you technically could). It actually starts quite sanely with a salad, which counts as a course. Fine, it's one that includes beef and tripe (that's beef stomach lining), but it's a refreshing and crunchy salad just the same. Second course is DIY. The bo nuong vi are thin slices of beef cooked tableside atop a heated iron dome. Once you finish grilling them, you wrap them around wetted discs of rice paper with veggies for an impromptu burrito. After that, bo nuong mo chai, seasoned-ground-beef spheres encased in caul that self-baste into the juiciest meatballs you'll ever taste. Next, the bo nuong la lop, which are stubby meat stogies rolled inside lalot leaves--something that will remind you of a cross between grape leaf and nori. Then, bo cha dum, a steamed meat cake studded with peas, mushrooms and mercilessly aggressive whole peppercorns. You scoop it up with some shrimp crackers like it were dip. Finally, a gigantic bowl of soup with clear broth, rice, alphabet pasta, a few strands of rice noodles, cilantro and bits of beef closes the meal. There, that wasn't that overwhelmingly rich was it? Bet you can't say the same about the In-N-Out four-by-four.
3. Beef Koobideh at Hen House Grill
As the name suggests Hen House Grill specializes in chicken, roasted, stewed, ground up and grilled. Go there for those, but at least once, order their beef koobideh, a dish not actually listed on their menu marquee but pictured on a little-seen placard on the counter. Wholesome Choice, the giant Persian supermarket and food court located next door does the same exact meal for the same price ($9.99), but Hen House's is the one you want. In its meal, two tubes of spiced ground beef molded over a flat metal rod is grilled and unsheathed onto a voluminous amount of rice.