Sunday, June 29, 2008

Huong Huong - Westminster

Say you've been invited to potluck but you can't cook. Or your family's hungry, and you don't have much time or money to burn. There are a myriad of options, of course, most of them involving take-out. But for my hard-earned cash, there's Little Saigon's food-to-go shops -- establishments that exist just for these very reasons.

In particular, there's Huong Huong, a stop-in-and-get-out food-to-go shop with its own parking lot (albeit a tiny one) on Westminster's main drag of Bolsa.

There, Vietnamese home-style food sits ready in chafing dishes, under heat lamps, or wrapped in cellophane.

The choices are dizzying. Essentially, it's an entire buffet condensed into a few square feet of space. Proteins from animals that once swam, grazed, or clucked are all ready to be consumed, sold as combos with rice ($4 for two items, $5.25 for three), or by weight.

Some are stews rich in gravy, others are stir fried. There's ground beef stogies wound up in peppery la lot leaves, broiled and rammed through sticks. These are heftier, meatier, if not a bit cruder than the versions offered at proper seven courses of beef restaurants.

Fish dishes exist in as many colors as you'd find on a scuba dive. But one, which looked to be salmon, is chopped in bite-sized cross-sections, deep-fried and steeped in a rich, funky-tasting, red-tinged sauce I loved, but others may find off-putting. The likely secret ingredient? Fermented shrimp paste.

For the vegetarians, there's even a few tofu dishes. Their cha gio -- perenially crispy Vietnamese egg rolls the size of shotgun shells -- are the perfect two-bite appetizer to serve party guests.

The dish that's my go-to for to-go are the thit nuong, strips of charbroiled pork, which is normally the focal point on a plate of com tam. They're charred in just the right spots, well-marinated, and most importantly: cheap and always ready when I get there.

Huong Huong
(714) 895-6551
9262 Bolsa Ave # 3
Westminster, CA 92683

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Hak Heang - Long Beach

21 Comments:

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

How do the various dishes taste and what are they like? Or is this just an advertisement for this place?

Anyone planning on maybe going here and buying stuff for a 4th of July picnic and passing it off as your own cooking?

Your OC Weekly article is an Asian place too. Being Asian, myself, I know we rule the world and are taking over...but I know there is more to OC than Asian and Mexican food!

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

DD,

Just for you I expanded the descriptions. But even in the previous draft, I recommended the stuff I liked: namely the bo la lot, the thit nuong, the cha gio.

And just for you; I put in a warning about the salmon dish. I liked it but my friends didn't.

And an advertisement? C'mon. You know me better than that! In fact, the owner wagged her finger at me for taking pictures!

And there's no way the food can pass for my cooking. I'm a mediocre chef!

But you caught on to why I posted this this week. 4th of July!

Message received about the higher frequency of Asian/Mex posts. But again, have patience my foodie friend: I'm just one guy. I don't do this for a living (more for fun really). And moreover, maybe the dearth of American food posts isn't because I'm not looking, but because there aren't any worthwhile places to write about.

10-4 on the Steer Inn though. 10-4 on that.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Here is some real good descriptive writing that allowed me to really judge some food. It is when you wrote about TK burger (which I remember from 1990 in Newport where it was so good and had tons of cracked pepper in the meat and they put slices of avacado on the burgers for free). But anyway, this is how you described food in the past and I would go or avoid based on this: And I quote:

"Eventhough the face of the burger was singed and scorched, like Wile E. Coyote after an ACME TNT explosion, all the components were present -- the potato starch bun, the lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, pickle, and Thousand Island -- but this was not the beef patty I remember having at the TK's at Huntington Beach.

It was thin and bone dry, with no flavor to speak of. Its juices seemed to have been pressed out of the meat, as if an overzealous cook wanted to speed up the cooking process."


I am sure you can see why I thought the post of Huong Huong was more "ad-like" more than a review or critique.

Elmo, we rely on your pallete!

And remember if you go to Steer Inn, you have to get the bacon wrapped fillets or the fish and chips!

 
At 3:41 PM, Blogger WSL98787 said...

Great overview on all the dishes that you can try! Your writing isn't too advertise like- I think it is because you want the reader to know about everything. But it would be more fun to know about individual dishes you tried out- the sensation and taste- just like what you said about the fish dish. More, Elmo, MORE! Great big shot of everything that you can try. Thanks!

 
At 11:46 PM, Blogger Bill said...

I've been to this place. Some of the items can be dished out into a container to go for a BUCK! It has been awhile for me but I'm sure it has gone up a bit. But you can't beat almost "home cooked" food all you got to do its cook your own rice. Like Elmo says you can beat the bo la lot. It's been awhile since I've ventured out buying st

 
At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Eileen said...

I wish we have one of these in SGV. We have so many Vietnamese restaurant but don't have one like this style. (But plenty of Chinese restaurant with the combo deal.) If I ever have a chance to go down to Westminster, I'll definately stop by here to buy some yummy food to go.

 
At 10:38 AM, Anonymous reyrey said...

What's up with the elmomonster bashing lately? Geez, as far as I know, elmomonster does this blog for free and his readers get all these recommendations for free. If people are only going to come here to complain that his writing is lacking, then why come at all? Why not support this great food reviewer who has helped many people find delicious places to eat for so many years? And no, this is not elmomonster and this is not someone who has actually met him. I'm just someone that appreciates someone who can manage to post at least once a week for our benefit. Thanks elmomonster!

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger J. Tran said...

I love your posts, Elmomonster...have you tried the Huong Huong location at Westminster and Brookhurst? There are a couple different recipes there as well. Keep blogging!

 
At 11:04 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

reyrey:

I would hardly consider it bashing. I have tried so many places because of him. I don't think suggesting that he describes the food like he used to and gets back to what made him great is bashing.

In this particular post, he references a previous post about a 7 Courses of Beef place (Which I visited because of the review). Read it. Its genius. I suggest you all read it. You can experience that place and the food and the tastes, just by reading that review!

I just liked it better when Elmo wasn't so busy with all these writing assignments and he didn't consider it things that made him "busy". Rather it was just a love and passion and it made him happy to do it and not busy.

Originally, this post read like an "ad". I am not saying Elmo took money for writing this. More so that the post (before revisions) just seem to tell about the place and what it had rather than talking about the food or the dishes to order or how they tasted. it would be like writing a review on IN-N-OUT and simply saying "Its a clean, sparkling bright fast food place and you can get burgers, fries, and shakes" and saying not much more.

Also when you go into a restaurant, there are usually more than one thing you can order. It was nice when Elmo used to tell you exactly what he had and his recommendation so that you knew what to order.

Just like I tell him about only ordering the Tacos at Mi Casa or the Bacon Wrapped Filets or Fish & Chips or Onion Rings at Steer Inn. And he still has to go back to try the carnitas at Carnitas Los Reyes as they ran out the last time he was there.

I also Enjoy Elmo's blog immensely and appreciate it so incredibly much. I hope he doesn't take my suggestions as bashing. Bashing would be how I talk about Taco Bell.

 
At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should update your blogs at least 2-3 times a week.
Maybe a breakfast, lunch/dinner entree portion and a dessert portion?

 
At 3:16 PM, Blogger kabukimoon said...

HH definitely has a large variety of cheap food for the local working class. Personally I don't think the quality is the best, but if you're in a fix and want something quick and cheap it's a solid choice. My cuz loves the tomato braised tofu stuffed with meat, but I think it's only available at the Westminster and Brookhurst shop. ^_^

 
At 5:06 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

DD,

OK, I admit, that TK Burger writeup was a pretty good post. Also, it was very easy to write since there was something that was obviously bothering me. And you know as well as anyone that when you have something to complain about, the words just spill out. Also, doesn't that burned bun look like a Looney Tunes gag?! ;-)

By the way, Jim Kalatschan, the owner wrote a nice e-mail to me pledging to change things there. So give them a try if you haven't. They have improved (at least during my last visit a few months ago).

But anyway, like you said in your response to reyrey, the latest incarnation of this post is better than the first.

Not that anyone's interested, but here's my usual process for writing these things:

I usually start early Sunday morning, like say 4 AM - 5 AM. Once I think I'm done, I publish and take a nap.

Then at around 8 AM - 9 AM, I go back and read what I wrote. Usually, I say this to myself: "WHAT THE HECK WAS I THINKING WITH THIS SENTENCE?!" and promptly revise and add/subtract.

As the day goes on, I edit the post perhaps about a dozen times. Sometimes the changes are miniscule. Sometimes, it's major.

You have the distinct honor of catching my post while I was taking that first nap, and then commenting on it!


WSL98787,

To be honest, nowadays I usually get three things from there, and just three things: the bo la lot, the cha gio and the thit nuong. Not because everything else wouldn't be delicious, but because I know those three will be sure-fire hits! And if I'm buying stuff from Huong Huong, it's not just for me, but for a butt-load of people.

The fish dish, for that shrimp paste taste, is a hit or miss with most people other than myself.


Bill,

The bo la lot is actually a lot bigger than those served in "Bo 7 Mon" restaurants, isn't it? And yes, cook your own rice; save even more money!


Eileen,

On the flip side, I wished there were more Chinese take-out places here that are of SGV quality!


reyrey,

High five! You made my day. Thanks so much! It great that I have champions and defenders like you, especially when I didn't have the time to post my own comments until now.

Diamond Dog is cool though. If you read the comments he left on the Beard Papa's post, he actually went ballistic on an anonymous commentor that had not-so-happy words about my beloved Souplantation cookies. It was quite entertaining to read for me actually!

And that anonymous commenter even left a conciliatory note afterward.

So it's weird this blogging thing. I do it for fun...but man, never in a thousand years did I anticipate how seriously people would take my words and recommendations.

It's great! And flattering, even when it's not.


J. Tran,

Is that location better than this one? If so, I'll try it!


Anonymous,

You forgot afternoon tea, coffee breaks, and salty snacks from the vending machine! HAHA!


kabukimoon,

Tofu stuffed with anything is awesome. Must. Try. This. And I bet its cheap too.

 
At 8:27 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Your Pagaloc writeup was awesome too! I went there only because you wrote about it.

The owners of TK burger have a big beautiful house on the Eastside in Costa Mesa and are neighbors of my friends so I will probably see them again.

I went into TK Burger for a coke the other day and there were these hot beach bunnies taking orders.

 
At 9:44 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Honestly Elmo I haven't notice the size of the bo la lot I just know if it's good as long as it doesn't give me indigestion. Yo Elmo when you get a chance swing by this place for lunch and let me know what you think?
Ban Coun Hong Mai it is the new shopping plaza next to TK market. I had their Bun Cha Hanoi and I thought it was pretty good despite lacking in few greens that compliments the dish.

 
At 8:03 AM, Blogger taberlykim said...

I used to work in Garden Grove with about 20 Vietnamese ladies and when we had potlucks, I would get a tray of their hu tieu noodles (clear noodles) and (cha gio) eggrolls. Always a hit. At $25 each, I would do it for a Fourth of July BBQ too.

The hu tieu noodles are a fantastic clear noodle version of the best chow mein you've ever had. Vietnamese style.

The only other eggrolls I can stand to eat are (1) from Benley restaurant in Long Beach (near Los Alamitos) or (2) the vegetarian eggrolls at Van Hanh on Bolsa/Bushard. I like my eggrolls crispy and delightfully stuffed with pork, shredded mushroom, and clear vermicelli.

 
At 5:59 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

clap clap clap clap. Awesome review of Charlie Palmers!!!!!!!!!!! Thats what I am talking about.

 
At 10:02 PM, Blogger Delta Boy said...

Hi Elmo!

Great article as usual! I'm curious if you tried Cha for Tea yet? I had dinner at the Long Beach "Cha for Tea" last night after golf. It was exceed my expectation (which wasn't that high). There are two other location as well (Irvine and Alhambra). I wrote at brief description in my posting: www.Xanga.com/hironju check it out.

Happy Fourth of July!

DB

 
At 10:10 AM, Blogger 'C' said...

Hi Elmo,
Have you tried to new Thai Cafe located on Jeffrey (ex El Conejo)?
They just opened last week and their food really good (although their complete menu still on the way).

 
At 12:58 AM, Blogger nomnomnom said...

Hello Elmo,
just read your review on Charlie Palmer... and all I can say is WOW. Must try once I get my next paycheck.
Anyways, please check my blog because I did a post on a yakitori place in San Diego that I'm sure you will LOVE. It kicks Honda-Ya and SSG's arse any time.

 
At 7:55 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Diamond Dog,

Glad you liked the Charlie Palmer review. It was fun to write too. And I didn't mention how TK Burgers hires models, because I thought everyone knew!



Bill,

Thanks for the tip. It's on my list now (yes, finally, I keep an electronic list of suggestions so I don't lose them). This place sounds new too. And what better dish is there than Bun Cha Ha Noi. It's got everything you need. Nothing you don't.


Taberly,

Those egg rolls have made me the hero of my potlucks too! Nothing but raves and "Where did you get these?" Of course, it's never "Can I have the recipe?" I don't pass off as a good cook I guess.



Delta Boy,

I have tried Cha for Tea, but 4 years ago when I was at grad school in UC Irvine (there's one across the street). I need to go check it out again in light of what you said on your blog. And that orange chicken looks tasty. How much was it?



C,

I saw it opened! I'm going to give it a shot soon. Maybe when they've got all the menu components in. What dishes do you recommend?


nom x 3,

Thanks! CP's is definitely a "try it once just to say you have" kind of place. And that's awesome about that yakitori place. I'm going to have to go there. I will be going to SD soon to look at some animals too! Excellent!

 
At 11:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elmo,

They tried to charge us more for the items that did not have a price tag. They kept on saying 10 dollars when it was really 7 dollars for a vietnamese person. Good thing I understand Vietnamese. Their food was not fresh or good at all. It was a waste of time and money. They discriminate!!!

But thanks for your effort.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home