Pho Vi Hoa

Vietnamese It’s almost certain that outside the big Vietnamese communities any Vietnamese restaurant you see in America has the word pho in it. People must eventually have the impression that Vietnamese eat nothing but rice noodle soup. Of course, Japanese eat nothing but sushi and Americans have only hamburgers. Mudpie found this place earlier in Los Altos, about 10-15 minutes car ride from SLAC. We strayed from the usual pho and ordered a gargantuan set of appetizers and main courses. Starting off was the familiar goi cuon, a salad wrap with some lettuce or garden herbs, some halved shrimps (mainly for decoration), a razor blade thin slice of boiled pork, some fresh bean sprout, and a little bundle of rice vermicelli. I took a bite by itself, and the meat couldn’t quite buff the plain veggie up, so a dip into the peanut sauce nearby was essential. It was a very light appetizer, and no matter how slowly you go you’re gonna finish the roll in at most 3 minutes. I don’t know what kind of sauce they serve with in Vietnam, but the peanut sauce […]

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Microwave is the way to go for banh mi

My roommate is out to Bible study. I have wasted enough time on the internet today, my homework is patiently waiting in the corner, and so is my refrigerated banh mi thit nuong bought at Lee’s sandwiches in Houston Saturday morning. Tightly wrapped and into the microwave it goes (the sandwich, not the homework). Steam coming out of the hot freshly 3.5 minute microwaved banh mi and marinated grilled pork clouds my vision as you can see above. Below is after the lens has recovered. Strangely this banh mi tastes better than all the others I’ve had from Lee’s, and I’ve had a lot of their banh mi thit nuong. Now this is the first time I have it microwaved, also the first time I keep the cilantro. For some reason the meat was more flavorful, a tibbit more charred (3 minutes and 30 seconds was a little long, I think). The bread was crunchy at parts and chewy at others. There is no pâté in Lee’s banh mi thit nuong, no soy sauce, no sauce at all actually. They didn’t even bother replacing the baguette with the Continue reading Microwave is the way to go for banh mi

Old school market

Vietnamese Ten minutes walking from Studio 3, dwindling around blocks of old houses with small flower-filled garden, crossing Yale Street, you reach the Sunday morning Farmers’ Market on California Avenue. (Click on the image above to see more pictures) Tents are set up alongside the carless road. Housewives scrutinize the artichokes, the blueberries, the fresh caught, filleted fish, the vinegar and oil. Little kids keep tugging their parents’ shirts’ lower hem. Teenagers crowd the fruit tent, continuously chewing and filling up their mouth with pieces of plums, pineapples, grapes, peaches, and apples put out for sampling. It’s not the most busy market, but it has cooked food, vegetable, meats, fruits, flowers, handbags, coasters, jewelries, spices, a lot of things to entertain your eyes and remind you of the old days in Saigon, where markets are more common than grocery stores. The only difference here is it’s a little more pricey than a grocery store, and it doesn’t have various kinds of cereal for your morning bowl (in fact I don’t think they have cereal at all at Farmers’ Market, is it not something handmakeable? What did people do […]

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More from little banh mi shop

Vietnamese I’ve been back to Texas heat and rain for a week, but my blog will still be on California for who knows how long. With my snail fast speed *maybe* we’ll finish talking about California when I graduate. Anyway, 3 years after leaving Saigon guess where I had my first Vietnamese banh bao in America… Lee’s Sandwiches in Houston. My first impression? Decent. That’s all I could say about Lee’s banh bao. But that was then. Now I can say something else: Huong’s banh bao is better. (I blogged about Huong’s Sandwiches here and here) Continue reading More from little banh mi shop

See-through banh bot loc

Vietnamese If you have a handful of shrimp, some pork, some cassava roots, and a banana leaf, what would you do? I’d boil the cassava and hope it doesn’t kill me, throw the shrimp and pork in the skillet with some stir fry vegetable, and wouldn’t know why on earth I even have a banana leaf. That’s why I’m not a Vietnamese chef. Banh bot loc. That’s what you can make out of a handful of shrimp, some pork, some cassava roots, and a banana leaf. We were looking at these banana wraps while waiting for our banh mi thit nuong at Huong’s, and the owner, noticing our cuckoo stare, kindly told us what they were. The simplicity of the name gives away the main step of making the banh: loc (filter) the bot (flour), in this case cassava flour, which makes it translucent and a tad chewy. The shrimp-pork stuffing is well seasoned so the banh is good by itself without nuoc mam. I have the feeling the stuffing is cooked separately before coated by the flour to be steamed, but how it is […]

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Cafe Renaissance

Vietnamese On a Saturday evening what would you want for dinner? Sure, I could stay in, fry an egg, heat up a can of corn and call it a meal, or order pizza, or go to a hamburger place in town just to say I go out every now and then, but would that really worth a Saturday evening? As usual, we use Citysearch to find new places. Chinese, Indian, Mexican, American, and Thai never make it to my list. Nothing against them, they’re just a bit too… usual. I’ll admit I can hardly distinguish enchilada from quesadilla (without looking them up on Wikipedia), because I don’t even remember when was the last time I ate something Mexican. I also can’t think of any Indian dishes other than curry and naan, because I’ve hardly had anything else remotely Indian. So those food definitely aren’t usual to me, but they are the usual options you get when someone takes you out to eat. Next in line boarding boredom plane is Italian. Tomato sauce, cheese, pasta, that’s about it, right? 5pm. We opt for Persian tonight. Greeting us is an […]

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Banh mi Huong

Vietnamese Except for the little houses with little gardens, and with cars replacing motorcycles, San Jose resembles Binh Thanh District in Saigon. I don’t know the demography of the city, or even of the state of California, but I saw Vietnamese everywhere when I was there. Palo Alto doesn’t breathe exclusively Vietnamese, but it has Asian everywhere. Gas stations, restaurants, office employees at Stanford, ladies walking by your dorm in the morning, the mall… But Palo Alto doesn’t have banh mi. San Jose does. And it has good banh mi. Mudpie found Thanh Huong’s Sandwich from Google (the sign on the building says Huong). Two out of three times we went to San Jose when I was in Palo Alto, we went to Thanh Huong’s. The other time we went to another banh mi place which didn’t have it as nicely as Thanh Huong’s does. Here’s my hypothesis of how banh mi came about: the French colonized Vietnam and brought with them some baguette for breakfast, the Vietnamese looked at the French baguette, thought “what’s the point for being so long?”, made it shorter and lighter, kept the pâté and to […]

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Educational Corn Flakes

I had my usual corn flakes for breakfast this morning. I was about to open a new box. Nothing too exciting… But behold! It’s not just any cereal box… To my surprise I found this on the back: Book trivia. Now that is neat. Not just some ad or recipe for crispy chocolate cake. Dunno about you, but I read it and tried to answer. 4 Correct I got. 🙁 The corn flakes go well with a mix of rice milk and soy milk though. On a side note I would say anything goes well with rice milk and soy milk, but Ben Kim couldn’t disagree with me more.

Bánh cuốn Tây Hồ

Vietnamese It’s always interesting to read reviews online. A good place always has some reviews that smash them down mercilessly as if all those reviewers were served was a piece of wood with splinters and a side of mud. One thing people should keep in mind when they go to Vietnamese restaurants: order the house specialties. It’s in their name. It’s something they started out with and have earned a living from. It’s what they know best. It’s the difference between an authentic Vietnamese restaurant and a mass-production Chinese buffet. Try something else on the menu only if the specialty satisfies you, and if you want to be adventurous, well, keep your complaints to yourself. Adventures rarely bring satisfaction. If you ate at Banh Cuon Tay Ho in Bellaire, Houston before, Banh Cuon Tay Ho in San Jose will satisfy your craving, but will not give you the oomph and aaahhhh. Small tables under a small roof, equipped with the usual tray of bottles of rooster chili sauce, soy sauce, some other kind of chili sauce I’m not sure if my tongue would allow me to try, and a […]

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Mom’s cooking

Pork meat ball with tomato sauce (seasoned with sugar, salt, garlic, and onion), thin omelet (just egg and green onion), and marinated cha lua, on French bread. Pork chop, marinated with salt, sugar, onion, and garlic. Very simple. To the left is xoi dau xanh (mung bean xoi), and canned green beans (OK, I added the green beans). Continue reading Mom’s cooking