Two months ago my next stop chowhounding my way through this Vietnamese shopping center was to be Bun Mam Ha Tien (link to kairo’s report below), but it turned out to be closed on Tuesdays. Instead I had lunch next door at Hue Restaurant.
Glancing at other tables, scatterings of white saucers left behind the telltale evidence of multiple banh beo orders and they’re probably the thing to try. Likewise, the steaming bowls of red bun bo Hue were another tip off to what regular customers deem good here. Yet, a quick study of the menu offered up a few Huế specialties (and notably no banh xeo or banh khot served) that seemed more intriguing to me that I had to try instead.
Bánh ram ít, $3.25 – These double-decker garnished rice flour (mochi) dumplings are my latest nomination for the gallery of cute food. The flat disk that makes the base is deep-fried creating a toasty flavored, golden brown crispy crust surrounding a softer, chewy glutinous rice flour middle. A flubbery, gooey, steamed rice flour orb filled with bits of pork and shrimp rests on this fried base and is crowned with shavings of dried shrimp, crumbled chicharrón, fried shallots and scallions. Spooned some of the sauce – diluted fish sauce steeped with slices of fresh jalapeño chiles – over one banh ram it placed in a small rice bowl, then I tried to bite through the whole shebang for one mouthful. Not that easy, but having all components in one bite to chew together gives the full experience of contrasting textures and flavors. Not just eye candy, but very tasty too and highly recommended.
Bún hến, $6.75 – Clams served with rice vermicelli, I’ve had the rice version of this a while back at My Khe Quan Hue. Cool room temperature mass of skinny rice noodles topped with a salad-y julienne of green apples, lettuce, mint, tiny clams, white sesame seeds, cabbage, bean sprouts, jalapeño, and chicharrones is served with a side car of hot soup plus spicy sauce to season to taste. The soapy, alkaline off-taste of the soup stock made me consider that the overused “dishwater” adjective would be entirely apt. The plentiful clams lacked any flavor as well, and the whole thing other than the crispy apples fell flat.
To drink, Sô-đa chanh, $2.25, bringing my tab with tax and tip to $15+. I’ll certainly return for the banh ram it and to try more of the banh array on the menu. What else have ‘hounds liked here?
3005 Silver Creek Rd, #190
San Jose, CA 95121
Other reports on food in Paloma Plaza shopping center
Fung Shui House, #126
Bun Mam Ha Tien, #192
Com Tam Long An Restaurant, #112