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A friend tipped me to the July opening of Bac Lieu in the La Lengua neighborhood. A few days later I had a chance to try it myself during the soft opening.
The menu has Vietnamese dishes not often seen in San Francisco. I tried the banh khot, that were delightfully soft and custard-y but could have been crisper around the edges. The shrimp were cooked on point and not too dry or hard. The nuoc cham was well-balanced with enough acidic zip for a counterpoint to the coconut milk sweetness.
Then packed to-go, banh hoi with grilled pork skewers. I've only had these spongey and web-like woven rolls of thin rice noodles in San Jose's Little Saigon. The skewers were highlighted with aromatic charring, well-marinated and juicy. The accompanying nuoc cham was a little different, a touch sweeter and not as fishy.
I liked both dishes and would order them again. The chatty female owner introduced herself. She is ethnic Teochew Chinese from Bac Lieu in the southern tip of Vietnam. The specialty in her region is Bun Mam, the potent fermented fish and noodle soup, that I've not yet acquired a taste for. I was amused when the Korean-American family at the next table ordered the bun mam on their second visit here and the young son refused to taste it because of the pungent odor. It was smelly enough to reach me several feet away.
Anyone else try Bac Lieu yet?
Bac Lieu Restaurant - Vietnamese Homestyle Cuisine
3216 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA
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