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Jun 30, 2013 04:50 PM

Ha Tien Quan (SGV)

(copied over from my blog:


Despite domination of the San Gabriel Valley by the Chinese (at least from a culinary perspective), there is no shortage of Vietnamese restaurants in the area. You can most likely satisfy your cravings for pho, banh mi, or bun on just about every block of a major street. However, at Ha Tien Quan, a new-ish Vietnamese restaurant that opened on Valley Blvd in San Gabriel as few months ago, you won’t find any of those standard dishes. Instead, you’ll have to “settle” for dishes such as bun mam, an anchovy-based noodle soup with fish, shrimp, pork belly, and eggplant, and hu tieu nai sa-te, a lemongrass chili-based one with slices of deer. I doubt most people in LA, outside of regional Vietnamese households (Ha Tien is a city located in the southwest part of Vietnam, bordering Cambodia), have had these dishes.

So how did I hear of this restaurant, one with minimal critical and online presence? Well, there were a couple of places where Ha Tien Quan was featured, and they’re two very influential ones: LA Weekly, which featured the restaurant in a blog post ( before naming it one of their 99 Essential Restaurants of 2013, and the Gastronomer (, who is one of the most respected food bloggers in LA and my go-to source for all foods Vietnamese. But all that this has resulted in are a dozen or so Yelp reviews and exactly zero reports from other publications/blogs; not that the restaurant is hurting for them though – we arrived on a Saturday night to a lively room, one that wasn’t completely full, but full of apparent regulars of the place who are friendly with the owner.

Although I felt a bit out of place (had the ambiance of a Vietnamese family gathering, one I was essentially crashing), I enjoyed my meal at Ha Tien Quan. I ordered the bun mam (which I described earlier), and it’s quite a genius bowl, combining both savory and sweet flavors, topped off by a briny effect from the anchovy broth that’s fantastically funky. It’s something I can get down to – or with, rather. The herbs and veggies that came on the side were also quite unique. We also split an order of banh khot, which are mini pan-fried rice cakes you eat with lettuce, herbs, and fish sauce (similar to banh xeo, which is more familiar to us novice diners of Vietnamese cuisine). The rice cakes are both airy and crispy, and even more delicious with all the accompaniments.

I look forward to my future visits to Ha Tien Quan and discovering new dishes to expand my Vietnamese palate repertoire. I might even be interested in trying the vegetarian versions of their dishes, which they serve (and those alone) only on every quarter and three-quarter moon days, in accordance to Buddhist traditions – check your lunar calendars.

Ha Tien Quan
529 E Valley Blvd, Ste 178A
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 288-1896

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  1. I've actually been to that restaurant before with my lovely wife a few months ago. I can't remember the dishes we ordered, but we enjoyed our lunch there. The owner there is really nice and accommodating. My wife heard about them from one of the Vietnamese language television stations.

    2 Replies
    1. re: raytamsgv

      Was it busy when you guys were there?

      1. re: raytamsgv

        No, it was empty except for another table of patrons. It was at lunch time during the middle of the week.

      2. "Despite domination of the San Gabriel Valley by the Chinese (at least from a culinary perspective), there is no shortage of Vietnamese restaurants in the area. "

        The great majority of the vietnamese restaurants in the area are owned/run by chinese-vietnamese.

        4 Replies
        1. re: blimpbinge

          Wasn't trying to imply that they weren't owned by such, just saying that there are still plenty of restaurants serving Viet cuisine in the area.

          1. re: chrishei

            actually i was just adding some info

            the chinese vietnamese came to this area in very large numbers. Some lean towards the vietnamese side (can't speak chinese, open vietnamese restaurants), while the majority speak chinese and have hints of vietnamese (name change, language). You'd be surprised at how many chinese (and their restaurants) in the area actually have passed through SEAsia.

            1. re: blimpbinge

              Many Vietnamese-Chinese fled Vietnam after the Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979. That's why so many Vietnamese restaurant owners are ethnically at least part Chinese.

              1. re: raytamsgv

                They might even be fully ethnic chinese, as many of the chinese that passed through vietnam tend to stick with other wah yan or hua ren.

                It wasn't so much invasion by chinese, but the crackdown of ethnic chinese in vietnam by the communist vietnamese government. They especially targeted the middle and upper middle class chinese.

                Some of my family was part of that immigration, so I know of it.

        2. Based on this post, we ate there yesterday, and are thrilled to have found this restaurant. We foolishly ordered two soups, the bun mam - genius is the word for it - and another soup with a lighter broth, I can't remember the name - with duck and bamboo shoots. We also shared an order of banh khot and loved them. Ate all the banh khot, we're having soup for lunch today.

          And in response to some of the other posts, the owner told us he is ethnic Chinese from Vietnam, and took the time to explain many of the similarities between Chinese and Vietnamese cultures.

          2 Replies
          1. re: judybird

            The similarities between chinese and vietnamese cultures goes far far beyond the more recent generations immigrants. History between the vietnamese and southern chinese literally go back over a thousand years. You'll find my other post somewhat accurate :)

            1. re: blimpbinge

              The Chinese occupied Vietnam for a thousand years, so it would make sense that there would be many similarities between Chinese and Vietnamese cultures.

          2. finally had lunch there last friday. the bun nam wasn't nearly as funky as i'd been led to expect but no less good than i expected. the accompanying veggies included a couple of fibrous things i could not readily identify but one reminded me of burdock peel. it really contributed to the unique overall texture.

            there was no hint of gaminess in the deer noodle dish that i'd normally associate with venison. and the fried fish salad was also very good. the fish was nice and crispy, reminiscent of deep fried fish skeletons you might get as a complimentary dish after an order of aji, etc. at sushi. actually, i'd call it the vietnamese version of a salmon skin salad with fish sauce instead of ponzu.

            i'd go back to try the banh knot & banh xeo.