Quan Bun Ban Mai, Westminster
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.
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!
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!
Westminster, CA 92683