Quan Bun Ban Mai, Westminster

canh bun 

We love little hole in the walls and small culinary treasures. Granted, we enjoy a fine elegant meal as anyone else would, but there’s something homey and comforting about places that you know and trust and can always return to for great day to day food. One such place is Quan Bun Ban Mai in Westminster in the heart of Little Saigon. 

This restaurant specializes in a delicious noodle soup called canh bun, a very binh dan, or common working folk dish. In fact, the owners are from a small farming town about 1 hr south of Hanoi called Nam Dinh, which is where my grandparents family were from and where my dad was born.

Canh bun is a little known noodle soup that originated in northern Vietnam and is very similar to one of our all time favorite Vietnamese noodle soup bun rieu (crab noodle soup). The broth of these soups are the same pork bone and minced crab meat, but what sets this dish apart from bun rieu is that the thick rice noodles (same as ones used in bun bo hue) are cooked for a period of time in the broth, rendering a silky soft texture. Also rau muong (ong choy/morning glory/water spinach) is also cooked in the broth infusing it with the flavors of this favorite vegetable. Common accompaniments include fried tofu, tomatoes, huyet (blood cake), fish cakes, and shrimp paste. Quan bun’s version also includes oc (periwinkle) meat used in bun oc.

 

canh bun

A squeeze bottle of fermented shrimp paste (mam nem) sits at every table. This is not a place for the weak of heart or a place to bring a first date as this pungent smell can be overpowering to some…but we love it!

The dac biet (special) canh bun with all the fixings is about $6 for a small bowl– fairly reasonable for Little Saigon. A plate of extra rau muong is $1. They have other good soups on the menu, including bun rieu and bun oc as well as other northern Vietnam regional dishes such as bun cha Hanoi, however the canh bun is the dish that has kept them in business for over 20 years. 

Instead of the usual pho or bun bo hue, try this lesser known but fantastic noodle soup sometime when you’re in Little Saigon. Atmosphere wise, there’s nothing pretty at this restaurant but your stomach will leave happy. The restaurant is in a strip mall of numerous Vietnamese fruit shops and bakeries so stop by for some soup and fresh exotic fruits such as durian, jackfuit, or longan. If you’re not from southern California or in Vietnam, we understand…we’ll post our canh bun recipe soon!

canh bun

 

Quan Bun Ban Mai

8890 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683

(714) 894-8432

 

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11 Responses to “Quan Bun Ban Mai, Westminster”

  1. 1

    EatTravelEat — July 10, 2009 @ 6:14 am

    You sure make this place look so pretty though! The photos are wonderful and have great focus and blurring on them :). This noodle soup is something new to me and the ingredients sound very delicious. I'll need to try it out someday.

  2. 2

    Anthony — July 10, 2009 @ 9:14 am

    Looks fab. In Vietnam at least, I believe the noodles uses in BANH CANH soups are made with part rice and part tapioca flour- and they're noticeably thicker than BUN BO HUE noodles. Maybe they double up back in the states. Rau Muong is as Vietnamese as it gets (especially for northerners!).

    mmm..i think I'll try to hunt some down.

  3. 3

    Anh — July 10, 2009 @ 11:58 am

    I love "bun" so much. What a pity the fresh type here cannot even compare to the original one. Meanwhile, I would be happy digging into one of those bowls 🙂

  4. 4

    catty — July 10, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

    OMG I saw this pic on Tastespotting and I was like that's blood cake! i LOVE the stuff (I know, I'm weird) and haven't had it in YEARS. This looks sooo yum 🙂

  5. 5

    Laurie Vengoechea — July 10, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

    This looks very comforting and delicious!
    I agree about homey style restaurants. I feel so comfortable sitting in a familiar cafe that has been approved by the test of time.
    Beautiful photo's!

  6. 6

    Thuy — July 11, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

    This bowl of canh bun really caught my eyes on Foodgawker, it is one of my favorite breakfast soup in VN. Really nice blog and amazing photos 🙂

  7. 7

    Ravenous Couple — July 14, 2009 @ 4:46 am

    EatTravelEat: When you're in little saigon or Vietnam, def. try it!

    Anything: Definitely keep up the blogging in Vietnam.

    Anh: It always makes us happy after eating canh bun.

    catty: You either love it or hate..blood cake is def. something that brings the extremes out of pple. We def. like it.

    laurie: Thank you for the kind comments. Little saigon definitely has no shortage of these type of eateries.

    Thuy: Thank you so uch for your comments! We hope you visit and comment often.

  8. 8

    Jessica@Foodmayhem — September 5, 2009 @ 2:50 am

    I will be landing in LA tomorrow and I'm planning on going to Little Saigon. If I only have one meal there, which restaurant should I go to?

  9. 9

    onset — March 20, 2010 @ 12:05 am

    Hello Ravenous Couple! I LOVE your site, and rely trust the recipes you post as delicious and authentic! I would love to make this Canh Bun soup. Did you ever get a chance to post the recipe? I cannot find it! If not, would you PLEASE post it soon? thanks so much!

  10. 10

    Ravenous Couple — March 20, 2010 @ 12:22 am

    Onset: thanks for reading our blog! Canh bun is pretty much exactly the same as bun rieu, except that you add rau muong and use the thicker bun bo noodles and cook it in the broth. We'll post it soon!

  11. 11

    Recette de Canh bun - Forumvietnam.fr - Forum Vietnam — July 23, 2011 @ 11:03 am

    […] […]

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