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I might be ready for Vietnamese but I think I need your help...

So, I just had my first banh mi and I loved it. I also had a bite of some beef/noodle thing my friend got from a food truck and liked it. I want to explore more Vietnamese dishes, can anyone recommend a great place for a novice? Preferably Hollywood (east or west) area. I love vinegar but am not great with heat. And PS, I don't eat seafood of any kind. Thanks!

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  1. LA - no real advice for where, but I LOVE VN food! if soup sounds good then Pho (often pronounced fuh) is what you may want. usually beef based but there all kinds of variations. mostly a complex noodle broth served with a side plate of stuff to let you make it as spicy as you want or not.

    another gateway dish is 'Bun Thit Nuong' (grilled pork on rice vermicelli) often served with a small side of cha gio (crispy rolls) as a special combo.

    if you want something light and cool, don't skip the Summer rolls - bi cuon or goi cuon chay (soft rice paper rolls not fried, think a handheld salad.

    1. Head to the SGV or to Van Nuys (Pho So 1)?

      1. Stay away from the pho places in Koreatown. It'll give you the wrong impression of Vietnamese.

        1. Are you opposed to eating fish, or do you just not really like it? A lot of Vietnamese foods come with (or are dressed with) a fish sauce vinaigrette. Nong La on Sawtelle in West LA (hey other Chowhounds, are there places like this in the Hollywood area?) offers basic Vietnamese dishes (banh mi, pho, bun bo Hue, vermicelli noodle bowls, rice bowls, etc) that may ease you into Vietnamese flavors than would a more authentic Vietnamese restaurant, and you can request a vegetarian "fish" sauce in case you're looking to avoid eating fish altogether.

          18 Replies
          1. re: phamschottler

            I've found that while fish sauce as a marinade imparts a certain flavor in the cooked food, really no fish flavor.

            1. re: phamschottler

              Not opposed, just really, really hate. So much so that if I accidentally ordered something with a fish sauce it would probably be the last time I try vietnamese food again :) What would a vegetarian fish sauce taste like? I think I really need to start with some basic stuff.

              1. re: schrutefarms

                If you really, really hate fish sauce then I don't think you have any sort of realistic future with Vietnamese food.

                1. re: Tripeler

                  I was skeptical about fish sauce but I love it. Favorite condiment for almost everything. Left over Chinese. Steak. Fruit and chili salsa. Don't fear

                  1. re: Tripeler

                    I've never had fish sauce. I just know I hate fish.

                    1. re: schrutefarms

                      Usually fish sauce does not have an overly distinct fish taste, rather sweet and vinegar. The fishiness, is overabundant in the aroma department however.

                      1. re: A5 KOBE

                        I've never had fish sauce that was vinegary. Agree with Tripeler, if you really, really hate fish sauce, you have no real future with Vietnamese food.

                        It doesn't have to have shellfish (there are all types of fish sauce). It really isn't "fishy", unless you smell it.

                        1. re: JThur01

                          Sweet salty tangy and nice w raw jalapeƱo in or on stuff. I agree not vinegary but pungeant.

                          1. re: jessejames

                            Fish sauce (vinaigrette, not straight-from-the-bottle fish sauce) is super salty, savory, and sweet. It has a pungency not unlike vinegar, and you might not even notice the fishiness. In fact, schrutefarms, I was wondering if you've already had it in one of your dishes and wasn't aware of it. It's a very nice complement to other Vietnamese flavors, so if you just disregard that there might be small amounts of fish in your food, you might really enjoy Vietnamese cuisine. I'd say, stick to dishes like Vietnamese egg rolls, pork spring rolls, rice and noodle bowls, and have a few more banh mis to get better acquainted with the flavors. When you start craving it more often, then move on crazier stuff.

                            1. re: phamschottler

                              I'd allow that fish sauce may smell like old dead socks left in an unused cooler for a few weeks, but not fishy. and that rankness used in a marinade cooks off and leaves the food with a whole new profile. but no taste of fish.

                              not sure if this thread will win you over or send you further into the shadows:
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4422...

                              1. re: hill food

                                Agree w/ all the other posters that fish sauce doesn't really tasty "fishy."

                                To the OP, give it (the dishes containing it, not the sauce alone) a try. What's the worst that can happen?

                      2. re: schrutefarms

                        how do you feel about worcestershire sauce?

                      3. re: Tripeler

                        Might as well amend the statement to "southeast asian food"

                        1. re: ns1

                          Plenty of Indonesian dishes don't use fish sauce/terasi.

                          1. re: BuildingMyBento

                            We got like what, 4 Indonesian restaurants in SoCal?

                            Fair point though.

                            1. re: ns1

                              There seemed to be plenty, as in more than 4, in Gardena when I was there a couple weeks ago.

                              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                Waddya know. I learned something today.

                                 
                      4. re: schrutefarms

                        Not near you but Saigon Dish in Lawndale does many very good vegetarian dishes. It's a wonderful neighborhood place too.

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