Presenting the Queen of Little Saigon, Sophie Bao Tran

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Photo by John Gilhooley
Always ready for Little Saigon's closeup

In Orange County's Little Saigon community, there's a real worry that Vietnamese language and culture are getting lost in the American melting pot. Younger generation Vietnamese Americans use English in their daily lives, often because it's the only language they know. The situation, not surprisingly, alarms some parents who've decided to speak only Vietnamese to their toddlers.

Sophie Bao Tran, who was born in the U.S. to war-refugee parents and attended the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, shares those concerns. "My Vietnamese isn't perfect," Tran says. "When I speak it around my mom and dad, they correct my mistakes. They are very loving and encouraging, and I want to pass that on."


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There's a Restaurant in Kentucky that Sells a $38 Bowl of Pho

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Photo by Das Ubergeek
Not the $38 pho bowl in question, but rather a bowl from Pho 86

Last week, the chica and I were in Kentucky for...something. We spent most of our time in Louisville, a charming-as-hell city with a vibrant, rising dining scene. It's also the home to two iconic hotels, the Seelbach (where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a bunch of The Great Gatsby), and the Brown Hotel, home to that edible pillow known as the Hot Brown Sandwich.

Both hotels have fabulous, iconic bars (and the Seelbach is the birthplace of its namesake bourbon-and-champagne cocktail), although we found ourselves more at the Brown due to its superior bourbon selection. And in one of my drunken stupors, I made my way to its English Grill, its high-dining restaurant. I was expecting to find refined takes on Bluegrass State classic meals like burgoo or Benedictine; instead I found a bowl of pho. For $38.

OH, DEAR...


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

Categories: Viet Vittles

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A little bit of everything!

Originally published Jan. 30, 2014.

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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Eat This Now: $4.99 Pho at Pho Bac Ky

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Edwin Goei
Take me to Slurpy Town!

Pho Bac Ky's $4.99 bowl of pho is probably not the cheapest meal you could have in Tustin, but it sure seems like it. The stenciled sign on the window that says "$4.99 + tax for Pho (Rare Steak or Brisket) or Rice with BBQ Chicken" has been there forever. A few years ago, the going rate was actually a dollar less. But even at $4.99, it's such a bargain that you'd have to troll the back alleys of Little Saigon to find a better one. And it's not some sort of Happy Hour deal, either. The price is offered for dinner on weekdays (3 p.m.-9 p.m.) and all day on the weekends, which is when you want to eat it anyway.

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Love Pho? Enter This Year's UVSA Tet Festival Pho Eating Contest

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UVSA
Enter!

How much do all of you love pho? It's a lot, isn't it? Do you think you love it more than anyone else?

Well, if you do, I have the perfect competition for you. Starting Feb. 20 to Feb. 22, the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California will be hosting a series of speed pho-eat competitions during their annual Tet Festival. Check after the jump for additional details.

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

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Photo by Jennifer Fedrizzi
Yum!

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

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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

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Gracias, source!
Coming soon...cam 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

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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

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Photo by The Mexican
Pho-licious!

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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