Sunday, December 03, 2006

Quan Hy - Westminster



There were ten of us, converging to meet at Quan Hy in Westminster, like a conference of mobsters.

Eatdrinknbemerry and Oishii Eats, representing the LA Gang of Food Bloggers, put the event together while they were visiting our turf, and graciously invited the OC Bloggers which included myself, Beach, Chubbypanda and his fiancee Cat, Deb, Professor Salt and family.

We were all packing digital cameras, ready to shoot. And as the plates of food arrived, what occurred looked like a Mexican standoff, as only food bloggers could have it. All lenses were aimed and then, shutters clicked and snapped at the bounty; a Central Vietnamese feast which covered every square inch of the round table.

The first photos taken were of the Banh Beo ($4.75) and Banh Uot Tom Chay ($5.50), each delectable but identical and indistinguishable to those served at its sister restaurant, Quan Hop, which I previously reviewed on this blog.



Banh Quai Vac ($5.50), which were translated as "potstickers" on the menu, should have been dubbed "platestickers" since it grabbed onto the plate as if it had suction cups, and wouldn't budge without a fight. It was a demonstration on the adhesive power of glutinuous rice, here used as a wrapper for this translucent and luminous appetizer.

Once I was able to wrangle it off the plate and tuck it into my mouth, the bite-sized oval morsel also resisted my bite, chewing like a half-dozen gummy bears balled up into one. Beneath the playfully elastic membrane hid a phalanx of flavors, including pork and shrimp. The pair frolicked with diced mushroom in a filling both bold and rich. This was like dim sum amplified to eleven.



The Banh It Ram ($4.50) took the prize for textural and tactile overload. Not only did it possess the same components of the banh quai vac, it rested on a golden disk of fried rice cake, which had its own unique qualities to show off; a crunch noisier than a thousand pork rinds crushed by a thousand teeth.

In my skull, its raucous crackle reverberated and battled for aural dominance against the dampening might of the sticky glutinuous rice. It was like listening to an orchestra of crashing cymbals being suddenly muted by a tidal wave of slime. But in this game of one-upmanship, I was the victor.



Goi Mit ($10.00) was jackfruit salad with bits of shrimp and diced pork. This was my favorite of all the dishes, and also the most refreshing. Counterintuitive, since pork was a major constituent of the salad, existing in chewy clear, gelatin-packed pieces and in meaty slivers of greyish flesh. But with a tangy dressing that sliced through the protein pile like a vinegary blade, the salad did indeed delight the palate and made it beg for more.

Herbs such as lemongrass and and basil cut through further with an invigoratingly floral and garden-fresh flourish. Best of all were the planks of light-as-air rice crackers which surrounded the salad mound like a life raft. Depending on the user, they functioned as either crouton or scoop.



Not realizing that the others had each ordered a main course for themselves, and were already digging into them, I followed suit with an unadventurous choice in Bun Thit Nuong ($5.95). It was a wholly filling bowl of chilled and wiggly rice vermicelli noodles, resting on a bed of chopped lettuce and herbs. On top were the requisite pieces of grilled pork, with a generous sprinkling of sweet fried shallots. On the side, a ramekin of nuoc cham for dipping.

This was one of the better renditions of the dish I've had in a while, though next time, I'll be diving into the deeper depths of the menu, which also promises escargot, rice porridge, and jellyfish. More fodder for the food blogging paparazzi.

Quan Hy Restaurant
(714) 775-7179
9727 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683

To read Chubbypanda's report of the lunch:
--->>> CLICK HERE <<<---

31 Comments:

At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Kirk said...

Hi Elmo - Is that really Banh Quai Vac? Looks more like Banh Bot Loc? I thought, Banh Quai Vac, was a empananda-turnover kinda dish with Curry Chicken in it? Sheesh, shows what I know.....

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Lol. Mobsters indeed. Sometimes I really don't know where you get your material from, buddy. You consistently set a high bar for me to strive towards.

Good times.

- Chubbypanda

 
At 6:48 AM, Blogger Beach said...

That was a lot of fun. You should try this some time , Kirk. There are different ways of making Banh Quai Vac. It depends on the region of VN. The name stay the same but the fillings usually change depend on the taste of the region.

 
At 8:27 AM, Blogger The Bill said...

I don't recall the last time I went to Quan Hy. I guess the portion of meat\noodle to vege wasn't that great. Leaving unsatisfied sucks. I might give them a shoot again, maybe. Pictures does look good.

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

Hey Elmo,

Could you tell the difference between the pork and the jackfruit b/c that jackfruit sure is flesh-colored huh?

Kirk, banh quai vac and banh bot loc are the same thing. Just depends on what region you're from how you call it. I'm from south central and we call them banh tay vac. :)

Actually, in my region, banh tay vac tend to be just shrimp and are about and inch or two in size. Banh bot loc are larger, more bao size than potsticker size, and have shrimp, pork, mushrooms, dried bamboo. But the clear, chewy rice dough is the same. Hmm. Which reminds me, I haven't made these in a while...

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

Elmo, great write-up. I like the glutinous rice battle you had. Thanks again for coming out. I'd like to try Quan Hop next.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Kirk,

I guess it was Banh Quau Vac per the other responses? That was the first time I had this dish, so it was all new to me!

CP,

On the contrary, your detailed posts are the ones that's setting the example. Plus you got the YouTube videos goin' on!

Beach,

Great fun indeed! Your expertise was indispensable yet again!

The Bill,

The appetizers were quite expensive, and that salad...$10.00! But for the flavor alone, I think I'll go back and order it again, so long as I'm not starving.

Wandering Chopsticks,

You know what?! I think I might have mistook some of the jackfruit for pork! The texture of jackfruit is so close to meat that sometimes I can't tell the difference.

EDBM,

Thanks again for putting it together. It was great to finally meet you and Oishii Eats. Also great to meet Professor Salt, Deb, et al, for the first time too.

 
At 9:53 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Food Mobsters - I like that idea! The sight of ten eager bloggers pointing and shooting their cameras away, must be an awesome scene indeed! I thought I had my Vietnamese ground pretty well covered, but everytime I read one of your posts it makes me realize how much I don't know! :) Now this is my idea of education!

 
At 3:19 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Loved the Spinal Tap reference. ^_^

Great writing, as usual. On most days, I would also say you made me hungry. Especially since I love Vietnamese food. But my appetite has been weird lately. I have an aversion to most food now. So excuse me while I finish my breakfast of mac and cheese.

 
At 5:08 AM, Blogger Deb said...

Sitting next to Beach I did feel a little of the mobster vibe eminating from the table! I had a great time..Good food, fun company. I may even need to start a second 'food only' blog. Sometimes others just don't understand us! ;)
Thanks again everybody for letting me join the party!

 
At 8:03 PM, Blogger Deb said...

p.s. after out lunch I was inspired to creat a blog for food only! Thanks again!

 
At 8:36 PM, Blogger Daily Gluttony said...

wow! a meeting of LA and OC foodbloggers! kinda reminds me of that seinfeld episode where jerry & gang finally come face to face with "bizarro jerry" and his peeps. (only which one is the bizarro? LA or OC? LOL!)

i haven't tried the cuisine from vietnam's central region yet, and now i am dying to--i've just added it to my "must try" list!

great post as always!

 
At 10:28 PM, Blogger Rasa Malaysia said...

I like their clams salad with the rice cracker...you should try it the next time.

 
At 11:26 PM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

Elmo, you've got me gasping for breath here. You are sooo the best food writer on the planet, and (my) words cannot even begin to describe how I am in complete awe of you. Chubby Panda has it right on the money!

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Kathy,

It was definitely a surreal experience. A first for me to see the sight of all those cameras trained on the food. Usually when I take pictures at restaurants, I feel awkward, an oddball of sorts, even a weirdo, but not that day.

And you must try Hue cuisine. I know you'll love it. It's still new to me and I'm already enamored.

Juliet,

I should put a warning that some foods I cover will make pregnant women nauseous. But then again, it can be anything mundane can't it? Like rice (per your blog post)!

Deb,

You're right about Beach. He is the Godfather of Bolsa Street. Aren't you glad he's on our side!!! ;-)

And "Hurray!" You've started a food blog! I'm going to link you ASAP. Lookin' forward to reading about your adventures!

DG,

Oh I looove that episode! That's a great analogy (why didn't I think of it!). Except the OC Bloggers outnumbered the LA Bloggers, 5 to 2 at this meeting. But on the whole there are a lot more of you guys than there are of us bizarros!

Rasa Malaysia,

I saw that dish. And I also read about it on Professor Salt's blog. Definitely next time. I love clams!

PE,

You're too kind. Really. Too kind. But I'm humbled that you think that about my writing. Thank you always for your encouragement!

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

A reader of this humble blog (and a blogger herself) asked me for an interview! Apart from being dumbfounded that anyone would really be interested in what I had to say regarding myself, it was a fun exercise.

If you're interested in reading my rambling answers to her astute questions, CLICK HERE

 
At 3:46 PM, Blogger Rasa Malaysia said...

CP, PE, and EM,

Yes yes, Elmo is the best food writer in the making (I can almost smell James Beard Award!). Coming from the same region, he puts my English and writing in great shame. :P

Here is a new blog idea, I will take care of the cooking and photography, CP will take care of YouTubing, and Elmo will write, and PE will do all the eating (Passionate Eater!)?! LOL.

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Rasa Malaysia,

I think you guys are really overestimating me. You all write really well, which is why I'm constantly visiting your blogs to get inspiration.

But I like that idea:

Rasa of the Epicurious Malaysian Monster, Passionately Eating, Wandering, and Munching.

 
At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've eatten there before and was not impressed--overpriced and underwhelmed. You guys should have went across the plaza to Tay Ho, then used all that extra cash to get Che from desert place two doors down from the phone store. =P

 
At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Passionate Eater said...

Rasa Malaysia, I'll gladly take over the "eating" portion!

And Elmo, I don't mean to shower you with so much praise so that you wriggle in your seat uncomfortably, but, "You da' Elmo Man!"

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

PE,

I always look forward to your praises. It always gives me the warm fuzzies! It keeps me going when I begin to tire of blogging, and gives me an energizing boost, as a gulp of water would a marathon runner.

 
At 5:15 PM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Mmm... Another sizzling simile from Elmo the Metaphor Monster. I'm in on the Rasa Passionate Munching Wanderer thing.

- Chubbypanda

 
At 5:54 PM, Anonymous happy said...

how come i wasn't invited? :P

 
At 9:01 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

Completely missed your post the first time around. Tay Ho sounds great, but what's the Che place you speak of?! I love che. What's it called? Any signage I should look for?

CP,

You know me too well to know that I couldn't resist!

happy,

Drop me a line whenever! I'll be sure to tell you about the next one of these.

 
At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Elmo,

The desert place is 3 doors down from Tay Ho, toward the market. There's no sign outside but a big banner that says "CHE", the last time i looked. There is a fairly big selection, but sadly no menu to decipher what is what. Just take a risk and get some of everything.

Enjoy.

 
At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Seth Chadwick said...

*sigh*

I really need to get to OC more and hang with you all.

In return, I will so make you a cheese crisp.

:o)

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Seth,

I think you're overdue to visit J! A perfect excuse to get together with the bloggers!

 
At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although the food overall is above average, I wish they paid more attention to service. Case in point: every time you order multiple trays of banh beo (which, BTW, is the best banh beo in town, in my opinion), they bring the stack of trays to the table and just leave them there. They don't bother to unstack them and serve the individual tray to the guests. So rude! That's what the Vietnamese restaurants lack in general: good customer service.

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

Sigh. The same goes for Chinese restaurants. There are places in SGV that I think are far worse in terms of service...but man, is the food ever good!

 
At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, just to let you know, the sauce is called "nuoc mam," not nuoc cham

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger HoustonWok said...

This place is great!!!If time allowed and it was a practical thing to do, I would literally catch a flight from Houston just to dine here for lunch and fly back home for dinner.It's crazy!

 

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