I took my sis to Grand Century Mall on Story & McLaughlin so she could eat & shop for Vietnamese treats to her heart's content.
We started at the strip mall anchored by Hai Thanh supermarket, at the McLaughlin entrance. At the "Tuoc Bac" herbal medecine shop, she sought advice and bought a quart of inky bitter medecine to treat her sore throat and general oogliness.
Then we had a small snack at Saigon bakery, where we bought a pre-wrapped package of banh bot loc (opaque squares of tapioca flour around small shrimp), a childhood favorite that our grandmother used to make. Room temp and almost rubbery, I didn't like it but she did, since she never gets this where she lives. She wasn't interested in the buy 2 get 1 free banh mi (and the last time I went, the bread was dry and crumbly) so we moved on.
I steered her away from the pho shop next to Saigon bakery (bland and flavorless pho when I tried it) and we crossed the parking lot to the actual Grand Century Mall. We walked by all of the eating choices before deciding on the grilled catfish (cha ca) at Pho Thien Long. This is the site of past Chowdowns for cha ca, and the cha ca is still as good as ever, but the mam tom (purple fish sauce) this time was too sweet, but still a good and very filling lunch (we took home some of the fish for my hubby). My sis enjoyed the suong sa hot luu (sweet coconut milk drink with those little pink seeds) esp since the jelly strips were cut very thin.
During our walk through I noted 2 new places since my last walk through in October:
Vung Tau has opened a stall in the food court called Banh Khot Vung Tau. We saw a pretty good looking plate of banh khot but we passed. I think it replaced the Chao Vit food stall, since you can get chao vit at the purple duck sit-down restaurant on the other side of the mall.
The swanky looking Chit Chat Lang Nuong (translates to "Grill Village" was really strange. All the tables in the front half with huge, comfy upholstered armchairs were empty. In the back half, some of the regular looking circular booths were occupied, but the tables had no place settings on them. There were no female customers, only men. The servers were all pretty, thin as a stick Vietnamese ladies. I was really icked out. Just for kicks I asked to see the menu, and dishes were priced at $18-35.
After our lunch we bought some chicken bao and pork (chasiu) bao for my sister's breakfast on the plane ride home. I tasted one of each and the chicken is better than the pork but the filling too small; these are still a good deal at 3 small baos for $2.
We also found some really fat seedless "li hing mui" (salted dried plum) at the Eurasian sweets shop for my sis to bring back for my brother. We then spent over an hour at the housewares shop in the far corner of the mall, where I bought some dipping dishes (I now have more dipping dishes than I have plates), and my sister bought the most stuff I ever saw someone be able to fit into a carry-on bag that was already full to begin with. This shop is so cheap and has so much stuff for the home cook! And we capped the afternoon shopping for kicky shoes ;-).