July 18, 2007

Binh Minh [Garden Grove]

My earliest memories of Vietnamese dining hails back to Bình Minh, which was a regular haunt of my family's after we moved to California in 1996. Within the last few years, the interior has gotten a face lift, so it no longer has the same dirty Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall charm that it used to.

Binh Minh specializes in bún (rice vermicelli) dishes in both its brothy and dry preparations. Most dry bun dishes come with BBQ meats, which you mix with lettuce, herbs, and fish sauce to enjoy. Among the dry variations, you'll find: Chả cá Thăng Long (fish cake), chả gìo (egg roll), bó nướng (grilled beef), thịt nướng (grilled pork), tom nướng (grilled shrimp), and (shredded pork) . Most of these bun dishes originate in the South.

On the right, you have the dish as brought to your table. Left, an image of how to construct your bowl.

For this particular lunch, we opted for the Bun Cha Ha Noi, which is different from Bun Thit Nuong in two ways: 1) The grilled pork sits in a pool of fish sauce (otherwise served on the side) and is served with pickled carrots and papaya and 2) In addition to the grilled pork, you also have ground pork patties. When it comes to the various herbs, I suggest you figure out what you like and dont like using the simple process of trial and error. The dish was solid as usual.

We were going for authentic, so I thought I'd introduce my friend to Bun Rieu Oc, which is a soupy bun dish with a crab meat and tomato base. Oc refers to the addition of snails, though we could have done without the tough, chewy little things. Though the dish looks exotic, the flavors are more familiar than you'd expect. While the broth tastes predominantly of tomatoes, there is a pungent aroma that you'll smell before you taste. Usually Binh Minh is a reliable place for bun rieu, though it was bland this time around.

If tomatoes and crab are not odorous enough for you, add some of the gray mam tom paste in . Use the fermented shrimp paste sparingly, as it does have a strong fishiness to it. The acidity in bun rieu makes the piping hot noodle dish good even in summer and a helping of fresh cabbage and herbs won't hurt either.

It seems overly simplistic and cliche, but the Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong here is one of my favorites.

Binh Minh
9908 Westminster Ave
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 636-7103

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