Bao Down to T.P. Bánh Bao #2 in Garden Grove

Photo by Jennifer Fedrizzi

Just about every country in the East has a food that features pillowy steamed bread stuffed with meat. The Chinese begat the original, bao. The Japanese call theirs nikuman, while the Koreans have wang mandoo and the Filipinos siopao. Even Indonesia--which is as far south as you can go and still call it Asia--has a version. The Vietnamese variant, bánh bao, is not unlike the others--fluffy starch, filling meat, a whole meal in a compact hemisphere you can hold in one hand. But as good as they are, bánh baos aren't that easy to find in OC.

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Taco Bell's Parent Company Opens a Bánh Mì Shop...with Communist Star in Logo

Fucking, seriously?

When I first heard that Yum! Brands, the parent company behind Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, was opening a bánh mì shop in Dallas, my reaction was muted. By that point, I wasn't even upset at the cultural appropriation-- I was already wearied from all of the pho sandwiches and pho burgers and pho not-phos. No, I figured if the shop ends up being kind of authentic and maybe turns some people onto Vietnamese food, then why not?

Banh Shop couldn't really be that bad, right?

And then Yum! did literally the worst thing they could realistically do: They stuck a communist star in their logo. Is Yum Brands just begging for busloads of elders from Little Saigon to loudly protest outside their new store for weeks?

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Viet-Mex, New Vietnamese-Mexican Restaurant, Opening in Garden Grove

Gracias, source!
Coming on and gracias!

I've heard of Vietnamese restaurants renaming bún as "fideo" and goi cuon as "taquitos" to get Mexican clienteles inside their doors. I've heard Mexican restaurants rename their fideo as pho and burritos as goi cuon to get Mexicans in. Then you have Dos Chinos, who mashes the two cuisines into glorious luxe lonchera desmadre.

But a restaurant that served Mexican AND Vietnamese food, with no fusion but rather cohabitation? I think there was one in SanTana years ago, but OC consumers tend to like their Mexican and Vietnamese food separately. But that just might change with the opening of Viet-Mex, a restaurant about to open up shop on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Lampson Avenue in Garden Grove.

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71. Pork Bánh Mì at the OC Poultry and Rotisserie Market

Photo by Moss Perricone
Cam on!

Behold the beginning of our annual 100 Favorite Dishes countdown! Every day until the publication of our fantabulous Best Of Issue, we'll list our favorite meals this year in descending order. Enjoy, pass it on, and tune in daily!

The OC Chicken Rotisserie currently occupies a level of obscurity I like to call, "Hey, someone set up tables in my grandmother's pantry"--few pegs beneath hole-in-the-wall. To find it on your GPS, you'll have to input the address of the pho spot next door.

But don't be put off by the lack of pretension, by the supermarket-style shelves stocked with laundry detergents. They offer a bánh mì worthy of Little Saigon

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No. 92, Beef Pho at Pho Crystal Noodle House

Photo by The Mexican

Behold the beginning of our annual 100 Favorite Dishes countdown! Every day until the publication of our fantabulous Best Of Issue, we'll list our favorite meals this year in descending order. Enjoy, pass it on, and tune in daily!
Maybe it's because I love Vietnamese food and I'm Mexican, but I'm obsessed with Vietnamese selling their food to Mexican. Pho Crystal Noodle House in SanTana is one such place, and while it's not full-on Viet-Mex like, say, Pho Cali or Dos Chinos, it still packs in wabs, pochos, and cholos alike, all looking for straightforward pho. I always like chicken better than beef, but the beef here is great.

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Seriously, Hipster Chefs Really Need to Stop Calling Their Non-Pho Dishes "Pho"

Photo by Alpha
THIS is pho, god damn.

I normally refrain from publishing two rants back-to-back, but this next subject has got me so salty I can't wait.

People really need to stop calling their random-ass food creations "pho" whatever. Seriously. In the last few weeks, I've seen a pho sandwich and pho nachos, and I'm sure there's a "pho burrito" or "pho tacos" or "pho chow mein" or something else out there.

Why would you even call non-pho food pho something? You're not opening a Vietnamese restaurant; you're just confusing people.

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Phancy Soda Chanh: Little Saigon In a Can

Categories: Viet Vittles

Dave Lieberman
Soda chanh in a can. No, that doesn't rhyme.
I have a checkered history with bottled ethnic specialties.

First there was bottled tepache, the fermented pineapple drink of central Mexico, which had the hilarious and ambiguous instruction on the bottle, "No consuma si se pone verde." Are we not supposed to drink it if it turns green, or if we do? It rhymes with rascuache (bad quality) for a reason.

Then there was pulque in a can, which may be the worst thing I've ever drunk. Gustavo was kinder to it in his review of it. I've had outstanding pulque, but it was made that morning and served out of a clay jug in Oaxaca; the canned stuff resembled fermented canned milk loogies.

It was with no small amount of trepidation, then, that I picked up a can of Phancy soda chanh at the Whole Foods sandwich counter in Tustin. It's made by Jaime (that's jay-me, not high-may) Phan, an Orange County native with a convincing last name.

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Long Beach Lunch: Binh Duong

Sarah Bennett

Usually when somewhere claims to be the "best in town," it's a euphemism for "just decent." However, when a Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of Long Beach's Cambodia Town splashes it all over their paper marketing, take heed.

Most Vietnamese grub in Long Beach rests on the laurels of banh mis (like My Le) and cheap bowls of pho (like Pho Hong Phat). Unlike in nearby Orange County where literally hundreds of restaurants dish out non-soup-and-sandwich Viet specialties like banh hoi, bun, chao, and com tams, Long Beach only has one: Binh Duong.

As the only all-embracing Vietnamese restaurant in town, Binh Duon's claim to be the best is technically true by default. But it's beef balls, shredded pork bi cuons, and all sorts of carby banh offerings are also good enough to go up against some of Little Siagon's favorites.

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The Explosion of Flavor at Quan Hen

Categories: Viet Vittles

Dave Lieberman
The problem with being a Mỹ trắng and wanting to eat well in Little Saigon is that restaurants tend to dumb down their English names: the English sign will say "Vietnamese Restaurant", but their specialities are nearly always stenciled in Vietnamese on the front window. If you can learn a few words such as (fish), (beef), (chicken) and (goat), the names of the noodles, like phở, bún, and hủ tiếu, and a few words for preparation like nướng (grilled), chiên (fried) and canh (soup) you're halfway there.

Quan Hen, perched at the end of an L-shaped, two-story plaza at Magnolia and Westminster that also contains the very well-known Ngu Binh, says it's a Vietnamese restaurant. It's not a phở shop, though; It is not a bún bò Huế shop. It sells these items, but the dishes listed on the front window are cá nướng da dòn (baked catfish with crispy skin), lẩu mắm (anchovy hot pot), and lẩu dê (goat hot pot).

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Mứt Tết What? A Guide to the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Candy Tray

Categories: Viet Vittles

A little bit of everything!

During the Vietnamese New Year, celebrators place trays full of candies colored red, orange, and white out in their homes. This tray is the mứt tết, and without it, there's basically no new year. But despite its ubiquity, the mứt tết can look a little confusing between the dustry swirls, wrapped Gusher look-alikes, and miniature dried fruits.

Don't want to look confused the next time you're in a Vietnamese house? We've got you covered, from the candied coconut to the sugar-glazed peanuts.

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