Carb Lover organized another yummy lunch for us yesterday, with 8 coming to Quang Da for Central Vietnamese cuisine. We sampled 6 different banh dishes (7 if you include the New Years Cake that Yimster brought), plus 4 other dishes.
The list of dishes and translations are below.
Banh La (also called Banh Nam) flat cakes wrapped in banana leaves made of rice flour, shrimp and pork, eaten with nuoc cham dipping sauce spooned on top
Banh Bot Loc small dumplings of opaque tapioca flour with pork and shrimp inside, dipped in nuoc cham
Banh Uot Thit Nuong steamed rice flour rolls, tightly wrapped around grilled pork, shredded lettuce, and mint, eaten with peanut-sesame dipping sauce
Banh It kep Banh Ram this is really 2 cakes on top of each other: the top is a round dumpling of sticky rice flour topped with dried shrimp powder; the bottom is a deep fried fritter made of rice flour.
Banh Beo steamed rice flour cakes topped with dried shrimp powder, ground red pork, scallions and a small bit of crunchy fried pork fat. Here, they are steamed in a small bowl, rather than the usual small dish.
Banh Cuon Nhan Thit Tien Hung steamed rice flour rolls with filling of ground pork and cloud ears, topped with thin slices of pork bologna and shredded pork lint, served with a slightly sweet nuoc cham dipping sauce that had slices of carrots and green papaya.
Mi Quang Yellow rice noodles topped with bean sprouts, shrimp, pork, lettuce, mint, shreds of banana blossom, with a small amount of crab soup underneath and topped with a black sesame rice cracker (banh da).
Goi Mit Tron, Xuc Banh Trang Jackfruit salad, mixed with ground pork, shrimp, peanuts, served with a large rice cracker so you can scoop up the salad with pieces of rice cracker.
Bun Bo Hue Spicy lemon grass beef noodle soup. Topped with a small cube of porks blood and several pieces of beef tendon, beef shank, and sliced pork. Served with a plate of bean sprouts, shredded lettuce and chopped herbs. This version was actually not spicy at all.
Com Hen Steamed rice, served with a mixture of chopped clams, minced pineapple, lettuce, fried shallots, and on the menu it says banana bud but I didnt see this; there were julienned apple slices however. You mix it all together with the sauce made with fermented shrimp paste (mam tom). A small bowl of clam broth served on the side was to be eaten separately with the clam mixture.
Our total came to $12 per person, a great deal considering we ordered 2 servings of most of the banh dishes, and 3 orders of the Banh Beo.
I think this is the first Vietnamese restaurant Ive been to in the South Bay where the nuoc cham dipping sauce was not sweet. YAY!! It was served at the beginning with the banh cakes (not the one served with banh cuon). I liked that you can actually taste the fish sauce, and that the chopped chiles (which were not the blah jalapenos) gave the sauce a hint of spiciness for when you like it mild, but plenty heat if you eat the chiles as well.
My favorite dish was the Com Hen, with the pungent taste of the shrimp sauce accenting but not overpowering the clam mixture, which was a wonderful blend of tastes and textures. Our waiter recommended this dish reluctantly because of the shrimp sauce, and we had to assure him we loved that smelly stuff.
My second favorite was the Banh Uot, because of the peanut-sesame sauce that mystified me, and because I liked the herbs in these little rolls.
In third place was the Banh Cuon, which had really great thin wrappers and good filling-to-wrapper ratio, but Im not used to the version of toppings here: the dried pork lint is unusual, which I actually liked, but there was not enough cilantro and fried shallots (were there any? I dont even remember).
I liked all of the other dishes as well, but found myself nit-picking them and comparing them to the same dishes at Bun Bo Hue #1 (site of our Chowdown in 2003). The Banh La is a good version here, but kind of small for the price. Banh Bot Loc had a perfect chewy soft texture, and was a little bland but with that perfectly non-sweet dipping sauce it was really good. Banh Beo had too much flour to topping ratio, and I think it didnt have the (requisite for me) yellow mung bean paste. Mi Quang had a somewhat bland taste in the noodle mixture (not enough herbs), but slurping the crab soup at the bottom was heavenly.
The jackfruit salad was a puzzler. We first thought they brought out the wrong dish because there was no jackfruit at all. Then I reread the menu and concluded those things that looked like chopped hearts of palm might be young jackfruit shoots. Ive never encountered this before. The salad was good, but a bit bland.
Sorry I posted such a lengthy start; I wanted get my thoughts down before I forget it all since it was somewhat a blur in my mind. Stay tuned for Carb Lovers wonderful photos and I hope the others will chime in with their thoughts. And thank you Yimster, for the Lunar New Year cake, and thank you Pia, for the peanut candies that remind me so much of the Philippines.