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Vietnamese Pancakes (Banh Xeo) & Fried Bread for Pho

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My wife and I went to Vietnam earlier this year. Specifically, Saigon.

There were two items that I haven't seen here in the US.

Is there anywhere in LA serving fried bread with pho like they do in Saigon?

Also, a common and wonderful dish in Saigon are the pancakes... sort of like Vietnamese savory crepes. Is anyone doing that in LA?

I'd prefer answers for the LA area, but OC responses would be appreciated as well.

Thanks.

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  1. 1. you mean "chinese donuts"?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youtiao

    If so, I have never seen this served with pho in SoCal - only with other vietnamese noodles

    2. banh xeo, found at many general vietnamese places (sorry don't got a rec)

    2 Replies
    1. re: ns1

      Hey NS1,

      Thanks for the response. It looks like that's the right bread. Does Dau Chao sound right for Vietnamese? And why don't places here serve it with pho? It's a great compliment.

      I'm on the west side. For Vietnamese, I tend to stick with Pho 99 or Pho Show. I refuse to go to Pho Citi. And when I venture out of the area, it tends to be for Pho 79 in Alhambra.

      I don't believe any of the three have the pancakes. Could be wrong. Am I missing it? Anyway, what are your favorite Vietnamese places in LA?

      1. re: mikeinla10

        dau chao quay sounds about right.

        great version of it @ trieu chau on bolsa right next to newport seafood. good noodle soups to go along with it; get there real early because they sell out if it really early.

        for vietnamese, pho 999 in van nuys or I head to the SGV/714 for vietnamese. I don't bother with the vietnamese places around "these parts" of LA.

    2. I know what you are talking about, but not that many places serve Chinese Donuts with Pho in LIttle Saigon. We always like to eat at Pho Pasteur in Saigon, and they have the donuts. I don't really eat them very often since I don't like fried bread that much.

      But if you give me a good baguette and some Bo Kho, I"m in heaven.

      Banh Xeo you can find at many places. I think it is one of those dishes that is only good if it is done right. There's only one place in Saigon where I eat Banh Xeo. My wife doesn't like it because she thinks it is boring.

      I took a cooking class in VN where they taught me to make it. Maybe I will open a food truck serving Banh Xeo.

      1. The bread is called dầu cháo quỷ and around here is usually only served with hot soy milk or cháo (congee), and only in the mornings. It's available from both Vietnamese and Chinese places so I suppose you could buy some and then take it to a pho shop. In Cantonese it's called yau ja gwai.

        Bánh xèo are very good at Van in Garden Grove. They pretty much serve that, various salad rolls, and bún chả Hà Nội.

        1. Banh Xeo is excellent at Vietnam House in San Gabriel, with the equally excellent Egg Rolls, both come with very extensive accompaniments such as herb and lettuce plates and various sauces. We always order both of these dishes, and the entire table is covered with plates. I'm now drooling.

          1. the best banh xeo in Little Saigon is no longer Vans Restaurant, but newcomer Thanh Ha on corner of magnolia and bolsa.

            1 Reply
            1. re: hppzz

              Thanh Ha is pretty good, but last time I cruised by (around 2:30 on a Thursday, I think) it was closed? We got banh xeo at Banh Cuon Tay Ho instead...

            2. Thanks everyone for your responses. This helps me. Now go see my fried rice question!

              1. I have ordered them as a side order to my Pho at Vietnam Restaurant on Las Tunas. I am not a fan of their pho, though. But I do like those doughnuts. They make them fresh when you order them and they are hot. They are the long ones.
                You can also get them at J&J Bakery in Arcadia (no Pho) but they are kinda greasy and cold.
                At Pho-Licious in Arcadia, I have started to order a side of their garlic bread with my Pho. God that is good dipped into the broth!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: WildSwede

                  The best banh xeo is at ban coun tay ho in san gabriel. It is crispy and not to oily. I find that most restaurant banh xeo is oily.Banh Xeo is one of my favorite dish. Do not go to ban xeo quan in rosemead. It is one of my worst vietnamese meal. Don't forget to get the rice noodle from ban cuon tay ho.
                  1039 e valley blvd suite b 103
                  san gabriel

                  1. re: yoyo

                    i have to disagree, maybe if it was a couple years ago, but they no longer make them that good. they've really skimped on what goes inside and anything that requires frying with oil, including the shrimp cake and yam tempura, comes out hard, burnt, and super crispy. the oil may be too high or they keep reusing the oil. years ago the banh xeo wasn't that oily, but nowadays they've come out with puddles of oil.

                    i've pretty much thrown out most of their food this year because it's not that edible.

                2. In OC, but Brodard has what my friend stated was a good version of Banh Xeo.

                  1. Thank you to everyone for your suggestions.

                    We went to Banh Cuon Tay Ho yesterday. Unfortunately, we weren't crazy about the banh xeo. It wasn't anything like what we had in Saigon. Here, it was simply a really crispy shell with a ton of bean sprouts in the middle and a little bit of pork and shrimp.

                    In Saigon, when we had this dish, the outer layer had more of a crepe like consistency. The fillings had more of a relationship to the exterior, along the lines of an omelet, melted in. At Banh Cuon Tay Ho, once again, the outside was a thin, crispy later with oily fillings in the middle. Maybe we just need to try some places in OC.

                    Having said that, I'm glad we went because I had never had Banh Cuon. I like that dish. I have a question. When you're given the hollow rice noodle portions, do people generally fill that with the cucumber slices, shrimp toast, bean sprouts, etc., and then dip and eat? Or, do people just down those plain? I was guessing that they're given as sort of a "make your own sandwich", as with getting tortillas with a Mexican meal.

                    I ask this question because our order included some noodles filled with sausage and other completely plain.

                    Anyway, thanks again for all the responses. Next, we'll try a pho place that has Dau Chao. It was so good in Vietnam even though the bread is boring and bleh on its own.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: mikeinla10

                      Have you tried Ban MI Che Cali? The branch on Garvey btwn Del Mar and San Gabriel (City of Rosemead, I think) has these meat-filled crepes that are made to order, which remind me (in appearance) of those rice noodles filled with meat or shrimp sold as dim sum at Chinese places. BMCC also has a few kinds of omelette, those fried-bread crullers, and decent variety of lesser-known snacks, desserts and lunch-y items. They also have your "white" fried rice, which I had yesterday. I'm not a fan of their grilled pork (I don't think they have a grill, it's sort of red-marinated and quickly fried maybe?) but I love going in there and trying new things. Also, fresh-pressed sugar cane juice (to order).

                      1. re: mikeinla10

                        In general, little saigon restaurants are sub specialized-- they are known for one or two dishes. Very few restaurants make many dishes well. If u go to banh cuon restaurant, order the banh cuon and not banh Xeo. Brodard is known for nem nuong and makes a subpar banh Xeo.

                        As for your question of how to eat banh cuon, theres two main types, one with filling and ones without. When given plate of banh cuon with fillings, w just add all the veggies and pour on the nuoc Cham. You can read more on our blog about banh cuon http://www.theravenouscouple.com/2010...

                        1. re: mikeinla10

                          pho tau bay in Santa Ana makes a far superior banh cuon to Tay Ho IMHO

                          1. re: mikeinla10

                            Ugh. Sorry you had to endure banh xeo at BCTH.

                            How about now you try in Banh Xeo Quan instead?. Their banh xeo, while still not exactly what you'd find in Saigon (afterall, it's 10x more expensive, and 4x as large), is fairly decent, and a bit oily. I mean, the damn batter is fried in a puddle of low temperature oil, of course it's going to be greasy, just like it is in VN.

                            FWIW, it's hard to find that exact soft(er) crepe(ier) banh xeo style the OP is looking for. Not even Van's serves it. By definition, "xeo" should translate to a crisped crust. Someone can chime in to correct if wrong.

                            1. re: TonyC

                              Definitely going to try it sometime as my cousin has lived down the street from it for years, before when it was a Mexican joint too. I'm surprised it has stayed in business for so long but I am going to make an effort to eat there when I get my bahn xeo craving.

                              1. re: TonyC

                                in my 25 years of eating vietnamese food in SoCal, getting a soft banh xeo = crappy banh xeo

                                even making it at home, the point was a "crunchy" banh xeo.

                                1. re: ns1

                                  I agree. We also make crunchy ones at home.

                                  1. re: raytamsgv

                                    How do you get it crunchy? Do you add beer?

                                    1. re: yoyo

                                      I'm not sure about other people, but I make sure the batter is thinly and evenly spread.

                                2. re: TonyC

                                  I had the worst banh xeo at Banh Xeo Quan . I would ever go back.

                                3. re: mikeinla10

                                  Question from mikeinla : When you're given the hollow rice noodle portions, do people generally fill that with the cucumber slices, shrimp toast, bean sprouts, etc., and then dip and eat?

                                  I just pour the fish top over the noodle and eat it like the vermicill dishes.You don't wrap banh cuon. It's more like a salad. Just be a lil nosy and look at the other patrons

                                  1. re: mikeinla10

                                    I'm sorry you don't like the banh xeo at Banh Cuon Tay ho.I think i was the one that suggest it. Opps my bad.i'm just so impress with the crispy skin.Too much oil is always the problem. If you talk to vietnamese people they will tell you the best banh xeo is homemade. i just invite myself over everytime my friends mom makes banh xeo. Let me know when you find the perfect banh xeo. I can eat about three at one sitting.

                                    1. re: mikeinla10

                                      i wouldn't recommend tay ho in sg for banh xeo either. unless maybe if you had a time machine. years ago they used to make really good. now it's like crispy fried batter with bean sprouts. not very appetizing. i honestly don't think you're going to find a very good one here. i've tried many places and i can't recommend any of them.

                                      as for banh cuon, it's more like a salad that needs to be mixed up, but most just scarf it down. not a lot of folks actually like bean sprouts, cucumbers, veg or herbs from what i've seen leftover on plates when people leave their tables.

                                      golden deli and saigon flavor (same menu) have chinese donuts on their menu as a side dish. i used to order it because i didn't care for their food. a lot of folks like them, but i'm one who falls into the not category.

                                    2. Hmmm... this is all very interesting, especially to learn that 'xeo' means crisped crust. (Thanks to Tony C for that.)

                                      Here are two pictures that are more like what we had in Saigon:

                                      http://phoansandy.com/images/banh-xeo...
                                      http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4015/4...

                                      At Banh Cuon Tay Ho, it looks like this:

                                      http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/7IU2xN...

                                      Perhaps I shouldn't have said "crepe-like" because it wasn't exactly soft in Saigon. But it also wasn't bulky and uber-crispy with the fillings having no relationship to the shell. Looking at the pictures from Banh Xeo Quan, I don't think I'll like theirs that much either.

                                      @yoyo,

                                      No need to apologize. I thank you for the recommendation and without it, I wouldn't have tried banh cuon. I also thank you for your answer to my question about how to eat the hollow noodles of banh cuon. I figured you just eat them with the nuom cham because it's too hard to get the veggies inside.

                                      Anyway, if I find a banh xeo more like the ones I had in Saigon, I'll post it here.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: mikeinla10

                                        Xèo doesn't mean crisped crust. It means sizzling... and of course you can't have a sizzling crêpe unless it has a crisped crust!

                                        1. re: mikeinla10

                                          Just curious... where are those photos in saigon from? I"m not the biggest Banh Xeo fan (my wife thinks that it's boring), but those don't look that great.

                                          I took a cooking class in Vietnam and one of the dishes was Banh Xeo. Seemed like a weird choice since to me it is a dish that is better eaten at a place that specializes in it. It's a lot of work to get it just right.

                                          I kind of like Banh Khoai more since it is a little smaller and easier to eat. I'm sure there are some Hue restaurants in Little Saigon that have a pretty good version.