Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quan Hy Restaurant

Friday night, Judy and I were taken out to dinner by Bill and Esmee Tooke at Quan Hy Restaurant, located at 9227 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683 (phone: 714-775-7179). It is something we have been talking about doing for a long time. Esmee grew up in Saigon and her family was airlifted out the day after Saigon fell. She knows I love to try new and unusual foods and she introduced me to durian awhile back. It was marvelous for us as they drove us through the area in Orange County known as Little Saigon and learned that it has the largest Vietnamese population in the world outside of Viet Nam. Best of all, Esmee ordered food for us at Quan Hy and shared her knowledge of Vietnamese food while we all ate. Unfortunately, I did not have a pen and paper to make notes, so I'll do the best I can to piece our meal together. I am discovering that Vietnamese food is full of complex and contrasting flavors and textures. 

First we got an appetizer called banh beo, which is steamed rice cakes with shredded shrimp. 
It is difficult to discern in the pictures, but there is a white rice cake layer on the bottom of each dish with shredded shrimp on top of it. 
Then you add some diluted fish sauce with chilies in it, 
then fold the rice cake over like a taco and eat it. 
I love the rice cake texture. It was very different from anything I've ever eaten before, but I absolutely loved it. It is a gelatinous, shrimpy concoction that just slides down the throat. Good stuff!

Our next appetizer was banh it ram, potstickers stuffed with mushrooms, pork and shrimp on crunchy rice cakes. 
The potstickers were much thicker than the rice cakes, although I assume they are also made of rice, and they mostly overwhelmed the mushrooms, pork and shrimp. It was kind of like eating a huge clump of melted mozzarella. They were okay, but not as good as other parts of the meal. 

My favorite item was the banh uot tom chay, steamed rice paper stuffed with shredded shrimp. 
It came with a dipping fish sauce which was very sweet. 
I could have eaten 100 of them. From the texture of the rice paper, the complementary shrimp taste and the amazing sweet dipping sauce, it is food for the gods. 

For our main meal, Judy and I each got an item and shared them both. One item was Mi Quang, 
egg noodle, Asian veggies, spicy pork, shrimp, peanuts and sesame rice crackers. The rice crackers eventually soaked up some of the juice and developed a wonderful, softer, consistency I really liked. It was a nice combination of sweet, crunchy, salty, noodles and some broth. Out of the main dishes, Judy and I both preferred this one, although both were good. 
Our other main dish was Bun Bo Hue. Hue is apparently a town in central Viet Nam and this is a dish for which it is known. The broth has a bit of a spicy kick to it and there is a variety of meat items that make it fun. For example, it had a large chunk of pork blood in it which wasn't bad (see the upper right side of the bowl below). 
I've previously had some blood sausage that I was not terribly fond of, but this did not have an off-putting blood taste at all. It had a chunk of what one of the Tooke's kids call "good meat," a processed mixture of pork (the front of the bowl above). It had pork foot in it (mid-left of the bowl below), 
some pork surrounded by a ring of fat and skin, which also was good. Then there were other slices of meat with cartilage that I'm not sure where they came from, but it was all good. It came with a side-plate of add-on vegetables and lime, but we pretty much enjoyed the dish as it was. 
For dessert, we shared some che khoai mon nong lanh, which was taro in coconut milk. 
I've had taro several times in Hawaii in poi and have not cared for it. This was good. It was not as wall-pastey and the sweetness of the coconut milk jazzed it up tremendously. We also had some che thach dau xanh, mung bean with jello. 
It was yellow and each taste went through about three progressions of taste. First it was kind of creamy and sweet, but then a moment later an added layer of sweet came pouring in, then it mellowed and left an amazing after taste. It was magical stuff. Our third dessert was che cau do bot loc nuoc dua, red bean with syrup and coconut milk. 
It was red, and unlike the mung bean, the red beans were distinct and identifiable. It did not have as smooth a consistency and was not as sweet, although it was very good. 

Judy and I also shared drinks which I can't find names for. One was a dried lemon which was very potent and had competing sweet and salty tastes at the same time. It was a little too salty for us and we only had a little of it. The other was much better. It was soda and condensed milk and something else. It was very different, but good. 
All together it has greatly increased my desire to have more Vietnamese food and to try other types of Vietnamese dishes. 

1 comment:

  1. I think I loved every single thing we tried. That's pretty remarkable for a new restaurant with unfamiliar food!