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ISO Best Markets for fresh Vietnamese Herbs

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Need to pick up a bunch of Vietnamese herbs before heading back to the Chow-less wasteland I now call home, and would like info on the market(s) *most likely* to have fresh, good-quality Vietnamese herbs, like Basil, Mint (hung cay & hung lui), Rau ram, Tia to and Kinh gioi. Anywhere is fine - either SGV or Little Saigon.

It seems to me that a lot of the SGV markets like 168, San Gabriel Superstore or Vien Dong, are hit or miss; one time, the herbs will be fresh, the next time they're tired. Normally, I'd just go from market to market until I found fresh herbs, but unfortunately my time is limited (have to cram in a bunch of chowing before the flight as well...last drink before the desert, y'know), so would like to maximize my chances of getting good herbs on the first one or two tries (last time, I guessed very poorly and went home empty handed).

Better to try Little Saigon? Which stores (I'm more familiar with SGV than Little Saigon)?

What about Farmer's Markets? I've seen Thai basil at some before, but what about the other herbs; any vendors selling those?

Also, has anyone seen potted VN herb plants for sale at any local stores/nurseries?

TIA

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  1. I generally have good luck at T&K Food Warehouse in Westminster, which I call the Viet Costco. The herbs are fresh, but they're also packed in large bags for restaurants to use. See also http://professorsalt.com/2004/12/29/v...

    T & K Food Warehouse
    9681 Bolsa Ave
    Westminster, CA
    714-775-6678

    Right down this section of Bolsa Ave, there are several other supermarkets as you work your way west, and by the time you get to the Asian Garden Mall, you should have all you need of any Vietnamese groceries.

    -----
    T & K Food Market
    9681 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA

    1. ABC, on Bolsa and Magnolia.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        ABC is great but I would often have trouble finding parking even during weekdays.

        A Chau, at Magnolia and Edinger, is also a great market and tends to be a LOT easier for parking, though there is not the possibility of a great pre-shop nosh there.

      2. I'm only familiar w/OC. I really like Saigon City Supermarket on the corner of Brookhurst and McFadden. The herbs are usually trimmed at the bottoms and come in much neater and compact bunches than some of the other Viet markets. Last time I was there saw: hung cay, thai basil, the more traditional mint, kinh gioi, tia to (my fave), dup? ca or fish mint, rau ram.... I've seen potted plants at ABC Supermarket and sometimes a random person selling it on the sidewalk in the front of the Banh Mi Che Cali a few storefronts down.

        Saigon City Supermarket
        15471 Brookhurst St
        Westminster, CA 92683

        ABC Supermarket
        8970 Bolsa Ave
        Westminster, CA 92683

        1. What's another name for the herb that I've called saw-tooth herb?-- Usually served sparingly with pho.

          Hmm. I found this later:

          ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eryngium_foetidum

          1 Reply
          1. re: Hershey Bomar

            In Vietnamese it's called "ngo gai" (sorry, can't do diacritics on this keyboard). Spanish is "culantro" or "recao".

          2. I'd go to A Dong Supermarket in Little Saigon. The herb selection there is vastly superior to Saigon City or ABC. As a matter of fact, if I'm grocery shopping all around Little Saigon, I'd make a special stop here just for the herbs.

            1. I have this problem living in LA(los Feliz) as well. I picked up a few potted basil plants and you can find them at most groceries in OC. I picked up mine at the Goldenwest Swap meet. There's always a couple of vendors selling vietnamese herbs and they have lots of other plants as well. If you have relatives around the area, it's probably likely they are growing all those herbs in the backyard and ask for seedlings.

              1 Reply
              1. re: hppzz

                Try the Green Farm Market in Little Saigon. Its off the corner of Magnolia and Edinger

              2. Thanks for all the recs. After an early b-fast at Elite, I zipped down to Little Saigon and managed to hit three markets.

                -- T&K - got lucky and noticed a worker in the back packaging basil, so I got some very fresh packages. Also grabbed a nice kabocha.

                -- A Dong - picked up most of my herbs here (along with a tub of the pickled carrot and daikon shreds). They were pretty good (especially the garlic chives), but the kinh gioi was a bit weak.

                -- ABC - had excellent kinh gioi, and also had some potted plants for sale - tia to, rau ram, kinh gioi and one or two others. I wrapped and crammed a rau ram and kinh gioi plant in my luggage; the rau ram survived alright, but the kinh gioi looks a bit thrashed.

                --then, daunted by the scrum in Banh Mi & Che Cali, I hit Top Baguette for a quick banh mi (excellent), pate chaud and cha gio lunch, then made it to LAX just in time.

                --The extended family quite enjoyed the goi cuon buffet Sunday evening...a seldom-seen ray of Chow-light that shone briefly on this benighted corner of the culinary globe.

                So, thanks for the recs. Greatly appreciated.

                1 Reply
                1. re: yclops

                  Glad you had a good visit back here. Your profile says you're in Fruita, CO now.

                  This it totally OT for the L.A. board, but there were a couple of Vietnamese restaurant / markets in Grand Junction the last time I visited (a couple years back). If you've not discovered it yet, you might ask on the Southwest board for intel.