July 18, 2007

Bo De [Westminster]

Bồ Đề is one of the more obvious Buddhist vegetarian restaurants and is also my new favorite. While Vietnamese vegetarian cuisine carries its roots in Buddhism, very few restaurants are as decorated as Bo De, which caters mostly to a Vietnamese clientèle. Bo De refers to the Bodhi tree, which is a symbol of Buddhist enlightenment.

Only steps away from the Asian Mall, the restaurant was packed to the brim during our 12 o' clock lunch. It is located at the mouth of a mini mall with seating on either side of the hallway and a small food to-go operation near the cashier.

As with most Vietnamese restaurants, the menu was extensive. So like any person in an unfamiliar setting would do, we poked our heads around to see what everyone else was ordering. We settled on the Pho Ap Chao whose aroma wafted into our noses from across the room and the Bun Vit Sao Mang, which we ordered on a whim.

Pho Ap Chao is similar stir-fried chow-fun noodles, which is often found at Chinese restaurants. At Bo De, the rice noodles are formed into a crispy golden pancake that is pan-fried on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. The noodles are topped with a thick and shiny sauce of veggies with a variety of soy and seitan "meats," of which I could discern duck, ham, and pork meatballs. The dish had a good savory flavor from the oyster sauce and the deeper I delved, the more soy surprises it held for me.

Bun Vit Sao Mang is a rice vermicelli noodle dish with a duck broth that is infused with bamboo shoots. The broth has a rich smokiness to it and finishes on a sweet note, similar to Chinese five-spice. While the imitation duck wasn't much to look at, I dont usually eat vegetarian with the expectation that the dishes taste and look wholly carnivorous. The crunchy bamboo shoots, spongy duck, and slippery vermicelli were all it took to convince me of a future career in vegetarianism.

Since it's conveniently located around the corner from my house, you can look forward to an update in the not-so-far future.

Updated July 27, 2007

After trying the com phan (combination rice dishes) at Bo De for lunch, I can now vouch for the restaurant's talent and range in cooking vegetarian food. Com Phan costs $4 a box and comes with three items plus rice, though some of the more labor-intensive foods will bring you down to two items.

Being Vietnamese, even I was overwhelmed by the numerous varieties of tofu before me. And while some combinations are identifiable, most will be a mystery for your mouth to uncover. So when in Little Saigon, do as the Vietnamese do and just point and direct your server to what looks most tasty.

On the left is a version of cha ca thi la and dau hu xao xa. Cha ca is usually made of fish cake, but Bo De does theirs as an egg cake scented strongly with dill. Baked, the eggs are fluffy and airy. Dau hu xao xa refers to tofu that is generously sprinkled with lemongrass, which gives it a spicy finish.

The dau hu sot ca, or tofu in tomato sauce, is one of the best I've had yet with sweet tomatoes over a delicately seasoned tofu cake stuffed with vermicelli and mushrooms. The mushrooms and tofu are flecked with peppercorns that are extremely fragrant when bitten into.

I tend to find stir-fry vegetables at food to-go places greasy, so I always opt for soups, which often come with leafy greens. Both the canh chua and canh rau muong (sweet and sour soup, water spinach soup) were excellent.

The kitchen really showcases its range of cooking in the com phan meals, where you can have tofu prepared 10 distinct ways with each being just as delicious as the next.

Bồ Đề
15131 Moran St. #417
Westminster CA 92683
(714) 891-5809

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