Sunday, January 18, 2009

Quan Hop's Bun Rieu - Westminster

If I may indulge you in an analogy: Beer is to pho, as a cosmo is to bun rieu. A bowl of pho is usually swigged, pounded down like a brewski -- poured and served in as many places as there are varietals of ale. On the other hand, a good bowl of bun rieu is rarer to find, slightly pink, and more apt to be sipped and savored; the Vietnamese noodle soup equivalent of a girly drink.

By comparison, pho is a masculine, seemingly testosterone-filled meal. Think of the proteins that inhabit a bowl of pho. Tendon. Beef brisket. Ahem, beef balls. Chewy things that hint of flexing muscles and manly brawn. The broth is bold, often wrenched out of ox bones, then seasoned aggressively, smelling of musk and labor.

As I've said before, the pho at Quan Hop is one of the finest in Orange County. So good, in fact, that it has distracted me from their even more fantastic bun rieu. And as they say, behind every good man, you'll find an even better woman.

In it, I met an elegant and sexy mistress. Its noodles caress my tongue in lustrous, feathery wisps. You don't chew it, you just let it melt. Briefly, you hear its bare whisper of sweet nothings, and then it's gone.

The broth it swims in is delicate and clear, but rimmed with chili red rouge; an elixir as intoxicating as a whiff of perfume from a passing beauty.

Shrimp -- chopped up and reformed into figure eight patties -- are as pink as naked skin. Nubs of sea snail chew softly but naughtily with a slight crunch. Cuts of fried tofu keep things grounded.

Then there's meat from a crab, packed loosely to disintegrate in your mouth as gently as a kiss. Floating in the bowl, a perky set of boiled tomatoes, both supple and plump, drips with juice as you squeeze them between your lips.

And if you kept your eyes shut, you could mistake the cube of congealed pork blood for silken tofu or pudding.

Quan Hop's bun rieu is a bowl to savor; a bowl to fall in love with.

Quan Hop
(714) 689-0555
15640 Brookhurst St
Westminster, CA 92683

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
India Cuisine - Santa Ana

27 Comments:

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Wow, that's a lot going on in a bowl of noodle soup. I was doing fine until the sea snails and pork blood cubes. You are one daring MOFO, Elmo to down this stuff.

 
At 7:08 PM, Blogger Loving Annie said...

The broth rimmed with chili red rouge and the noodles sound wonderful, Elmomonster !

Glad that you enjoyed your testosterone filled meal at Quan Hop :)

 
At 8:20 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

He-he-he...love the analogy, though I think Bun Bo Hue is masculine, and Bun Rieu is feminine. Just check out who orders what.....most times, Guys will order BBH, while the fairer sex orders Bun Rieu....

 
At 8:38 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

I never knew about bun rieu until I read your post today. Nice analogy in this post, and you have a great tone like always!

 
At 9:45 PM, Blogger Menu Taster said...

Bravo, you're hardcore. Growing up, I had the version without snails and pork blood cubes. Love my Mom's home cooking; one of my fav Viet dishes.

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

Will have to check this place out!

Thanks for the writeup (also on the Indian Cuisine one in the OCW - didn't even know it was there!)

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

DD,

Nah. This soup is child's play! The pork blood may not be my cup-o-tea, but the rest tastes as familiar as mac-n-cheese. Sea snail tastes and bites a lot like the giant clam you get at sushi.

Annie,

I like both testoterone filled soup and the estrogen laced one!

Kirk,

You're absolutely right. I was going to talk about bun bo hue, which they also serve here, but that's another post entirely! I think I'm stuck on bun rieu for a while. The romance is still young! HAHA!

EatTravelEat,

Thanks! The analogy was a fun thing to connect. If you like noodle soups, I think you'll love this one.

Menu Taster,

The snails give it that snap. But I agree the pork blood cubes (though they're delicious here), can be optional. Since there is only one you can just pluck it out and put it on the side.

christoofat,

If you do go to Quan Hop, also don't miss the dish called Banh Beo -- one the restaurants signature concoctions.

And thanks for the comment on the OC Weekly article! Ain't it great that Niki's chef is still around and cooking?!

 
At 11:51 AM, Blogger Bill said...

GEEESH - talking about vivid food porn.....I'm going to have to cook me some now!!!! ;-)

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger melissa said...

*Lighting cigarette*

 
At 11:18 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Bill,

Tell me about it. I was at Alertos today, and as I was enjoying my Flying Saucer, I looked outside the window and saw Quan Hop...Hmm, Bun Rieu would be a great chaser to this tostada. Then I snapped out of it. "One thing at a time," I said to myself, "Quan Hop's Bun Rieu will be there tomorrow."

Melissa,

LOL! If you only knew what other metaphors I decided not to use! My last line was going to be something to the effect of your comment. HAHA! Thanks for getting me!

 
At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Dave W said...

yea seriously, this entry just scream dirty delicious food porn. I don't even think Anthony Bourdain himself could have made a dish so sexual and that says something! and in the words of Andrew from last season's top chef..

"I've got a culinary boner."

 
At 3:45 AM, Blogger Pepsi Monster said...

Wow Elmo, it almost make me nervous to break a sweat. Thank goodness it's PG-13. Hehehe.

Nice take on that Crab meat noodle soup. I'll have to come here to check it out. Out of curiosity, why do you think it's hard to find a good bowl of bun rieu these days? To be honest, I usually ordered a bowl of pho instead of bun rieu.

 
At 8:31 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Dave W.,

HA! I must say, I think you've picked a perfect time to invoke that choice quote from Top Chef's Andrew.

Though did you hear how Bourdain described the fermented cactus drink in a recent episode of No Reservations? Truly one of the weirdest things he's ever said. It involved Ryan Seacrest. And one of his bodily functions.

Pepsi,

Finding a good bowl of bun rieu is tough. So far I've tried three. The first bowl was a nightmare! Stunk to high heaven and I couldn't finish it. The second (at Vien Dong) was awesome. Everything I thought it would be. This one, however, is so good that I prefer it over any other noodle soup right now. To quote Melissa above, you'd want to light a cigarette afterward.

But if I had to guess why it's hard to find a bowl like Quan Hop's everywhere, I figure it is because this is a dish that is most often perfected in Vietnamese homes, like American casseroles and such. No one bothers to go out for it because their mom's could do so much better.

 
At 1:51 AM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1:52 AM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

At first, I was going to vehemently disagree with your characterization of bun rieu as feminine, but then I finished reading the post, and thought it was so beautifully and aptly written that I decided that I will just clap my hands and say "bravo Elmo" instead. :)

 
At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Pance said...

Every time I read your blog, I drool a little bit. I just thought you should know.

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger jepot said...

For a second there, I thought I was reading the confessions column in Penthouse mag :) I'm adding bun rieu to my short list.

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

P.E.,

I'm glad I stopped when I did then! The first draft I had in mind was a little more explicit.

Pance,

I didn't know that! But I'm always happy instigate drooling.

jepot,

I had this Marvin Gaye song in my head as I wrote this up. When you get bun rieu, be careful...there are some purveyors out there that just butcher the dish. This one is the best one I've had yet.

 
At 10:03 AM, Blogger dumplings said...

Elmo

That looks delicious. A colleague to me to a place that specializes in making similar dish. I forgot what the place is called. If you go north on Magnolia, it is inside the plaza on the left right at the Bolsa intersection.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=2373841&l=a09b1&id=681775114

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Ever think of writing food based romance novels? I'm just sayin'.

I am so hungry now! And it's freakin' cold here in Michigan! I need to get some VIetnamese this weekend.

 
At 8:07 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

dumplings,

Now that looks great! I know which plaza you are talking about, the one with ABC Supermarket or something. But if I recall correctly, there's like four restaurants in there.

Juliet,

Somehow, when I read your comment, a mental image of Fabio slurping bun rieu popped in my head...HAHA! Well, there goes my appetite. ;)

 
At 8:43 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Eww...LOL

 
At 11:00 PM, Anonymous white on rice couple said...

I don't ever think I've ever read a write up on Bun Rieu that was this orgasmic. I think NOT to tell my boyfriend, k? ;)
Quan Hop does have a fine bun rieu, as with a few other places. But I must admit, my mother's bun rieu is, hands down, the best I've had.
If she ever opens up her Bun noodle restaurant, I'll let ya know!
Don't know if you've had another great bun dish, bun cha hanoi?
I'd love to read what you write up on that dish!

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

WoRC,

I love bun cha Ha Noi! Now that you've reminded me how much I love it, I have to go get me some. Vien Dong has a good one. So does Com Tam Tran Quy Cap on Harbor. Any other recs for the best?!

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

Elmo, are you talking about a date or are you talking about food? Because I can't tell the difference haha. I agree, pho is grub, but bun rieu (and bun bo hue) are things I like to enjoy every slurp of. This is also owned by the people at Quan Hy too right?

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

EDBM,

I *think* I was talking about the soup...now it's getting harder to reconcile!

And yep...this is Quan Hy's less popular, but just as pretty little sister.

 
At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mouth is watering! I have never heard my fav bun described this way but agree with you completely.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home