A couple of weeks ago, I went on a field trip with some Offenders to check out the various coffee shops in Westminster, CA or Little Saigon. With over 300,000 Vietnamese residing there, it is the largest Vietnamese population outside of the motherland. It was a fun excursion and at our last stop, Cafe Miss Cutie, I left with a parting gift:
Yes, I got a calendar, which you can order online. It hangs next to my other calendar of Yoshitomo Nara. Yeah, it’s kind of incongruent, but hey, I can deal with the dichotomy of mutant big headed babies and tasteful shots of Vietnamese pseudo-models overseeing my workspace.
Little Saigon coffee shops are fun, but to truly experience this wondrous and weird OC enclave, it’s all about the food. Unlike my previous rant on fake Pho places, when you roll in Little Saigon, it’s a bastion of great, rustic food. Here’s two unique examples that represent a very broad, culinary spectrum:
Pho Dakao: On the corner of Ward and McFadden in Garden Grove, this hole-in-the-wall, is by far, one of my favorite pho ga (chicken) restaurants. What’s great is that they serve free-range chicken or in Vietnamese, ga di bo (literal translation: walking chicken). The usual pho ga is great but I especially love it served kho or dry. You just mix it up with noodles, veggies and some delicious sauces and you’re set. Order a side of succulent chicken that is prepared hainan style and you’re good to go. So damn good!
On the other end of the spectrum is where OG Vietnamese eat. Binh Dan Restaurant, on McFadden and Brookhurst in Westminster is another hole-in-the-wall that specializes in do nhau or Vietnamese beer food. This place is most famous for their 7 goat (yes, goat) course and other more adventurous fare like tiet canh:
Yep, you guessed it, blood jelly, or more specific, duck’s blood jelly. It’s amazing how vibrant the red is. It’s almost atomic! But, it’s pretty simple: raw blood with duck innards, cilantro and peanuts and other herbs that is allowed to coagulate and then you eat it with shrimp crackers. Allow it to sit in room temperature, the blood will liquify.
It’s definitely an acquired taste and is ordered with sides of boiled pig organs. But with an ice cold beer, with ice cubes no less, it’s pretty damn good. And hey, it is purported that this raw blood dish is good for sexual stamina. Who cares about Cialis now?
So that’s just one aspect of Little Saigon. We’ll be reporting more about this kooky community called Westminster or in my F.O.B. accent, “Wet-min-tah!!” Y’all come back now, ya hear?