Pho’s Brooding Cousin – Quang Hy, Westminster, CA (Little Saigon)

There are some things worth going out of your way for, and, for me, authentic Vietnamese food is one of them. Westminster is one of the places where you can find amazing quality, traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

What drew me to Quang Hy were their two specialties: an appetizer called Banh Beo (pronounced BAN – BEOW) and a hot noodle soup called Bun Bo Hue (pronounced BOON – BAW – WAY), that are both native to the central region of Vietnam (the dish is named after the region’s capital city of Hue). These are things you are not going to find at a typical pho restaurant in LA. At least not done to traditional perfection the way they do it at the Q.H.

Even as I type up this review, I have to take intermittent breaks because staring too long at these photos is giving me the worst craving, and I can’t make the hour-long drive right now! The meal was THAT memorable.

As I said, we started with the Banh Beo, which are little mini rice pancakes, served cool, and topped with dried shrimp, crispy onions and scallions. You dip them in fish sauce (which is typically garnished with some very spicy jalapeno peppers). Sometimes these pancakes are served on a large plate, freed from their molds, but sometimes (as it was at the restaurant) they are served in their individual steaming plates. To eat them, you have to scoop them out with a spoon, not dissimilar to the way you would eat oysters on the half shell.

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I was very excited for the Bun Bo Hue, which I hadn’t eaten for years. BBH is kind of like the more intense, brooding, dark cousin of pho. Similar to its more ubiquitous cousin, BBH is a beef noodle soup, but unlike pho, the noodles are thick and round (similar to Japanese Udon, but not quite as thick) and the broth is much more complex in its flavor. The main ingredient is lemongrass, which becomes the dominant flavor of the soup. The broth is also MUCH spicier than pho, and the cuts of beef are slightly different (BBH has oxtail, pork sausage, pig knuckle and traditionally congealed pig’s blood) – needless to say, it might be clear to you why pho became the more popular noodle of the two.

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I’ve been thinking about this meal almost every day since I’ve had it. Since the BBH has some pretty intense flavors, it can be a bit overwhelming if it’s too spicy or any one of the flavors takes over too much. But at Quang Hy, it hit the perfect balance of all the complex flavors – just the right amount of spicy, sweet, savory and sour. With plenty of mint, bean sprouts and crispy onions on the side to act as a refreshing contrast to the bold and spicy broth.

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Of course, I had to wash it all down with a Ca Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese iced coffee), which wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but still great – and was a perfect pairing with this completely authentic (central) Vietnamese culinary adventure! Totally worth the drive out to Westminster.

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Quang Hy

9727 Bolsa Avenue

Westminster, CA 92683 (Little Saigon)

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