The menu was spiral bound with many choices, and thank goodness for the English translations below each dish. Friend Christina suggested I order from the vegetarian menu, and since I'm a novice in Little Saigon arena, I took her suggestion.
I ordered the soda xi muoi, soda with preserved plum, to drink. The flavor was quite a surprise. I must have had a bad look on my face because Friend Christina said I didn't have to drink it if I didn't want to. I guess the first taste it was a little, "Yuck," but everything deserves a second chance, and the flavors really grew on me. It was bubbly, almost bitter, and not really like a plum at all. It went along well with the food though. Friend Christina ordered the Coconut Juice. It was served with little ribbons of coconut, so that was a nice touch.
Friend Christina couldn't remember the name of the appetizer that she loves. She explained it to the waiter, and he thought it was the banh beo chay. Either way, I'm glad this is the one we got! This appetizer is served on eight tiny plates arranged on a platter. Each plate had a round sticky rice cake topped with chopped mushrooms, vegetarian ham, and tofu. Sometime similar to French Fried Onion Rings were also on top, though the texture was not crispy at all. The center of the plate was a ramekin of jalapeno chili oil. I loved the presentation. Here's how you eat it: Use your spoon to release the rice cake from the plate. Spoon or pour a bit of the jalapeno oil in the center. Fold it over like a taco, and eat. Wow - it was like nothing I've ever had. I'd like to try all different version of this dish!
Before we were finished with the appetizers, our meals arrived. Normally, I would be irritated at the timing, but I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to end the meal with that delicious appetizer. Yes, this meal will come full circle.
I ordered #43, hu tieu chay. This dish comes served in a bowl full of flat rice noodles, a variety of mushrooms, vegetarian ham triangles, a handful of chopped greens and celery, fresh jalapeno slices, and fried tofu. A broth and tangy brown sauce were served along side of my bowl. I poured the broth over first and took a taste. So fresh, seems so healthy, and very, very tasty. I have to admit, I'm surprised at how much I am liking this. I'm not eating very eloquently, however. Chopsticks and noodles in broth make for a messy eating area around someone that doesn't know what she's doing. I feel sure someone was watching me over my shoulder laughing at the American girl trying to figure it out. Yet, I don't care. I'm eating this one way or another, and if that means that I'm slurping noodles, then I'm slurping noodles.
Friend Christina, on the other hand, was slowly eating her meal with grace. She ordered the #42, bun bo chay. Her bowl was very similiar, but included vermicelli noodles, mushrooms, and vegetarian ham. This dish was spicer than mine, but Friend Christina noted that it was not as spicy as past dining experiences here. Nevertheless, I heard her sniffling across the table.
Once I polished off my bowl, I ate once last appetizer "taco." I drank a bit more of my drink as a palette cleanser. I was fat and happy. Once our bill was paid, we walked across the parking lot to the dessert bar. Although that was an experience in itself, I'll save that story for another day. Little Saigon, Xin chào bà. I am anxious to try more of your flavors.
... and those are my Notes from the Napkin!
9727 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683