Banh Tom (Sweet Potato and Shrimp Fritters) at Van's - Garden Grove
The second thing you need to order is the banh tom. In fact, just order the banh xeo and banh tom. The two will make what I consider a very lovely lunch.
Banh tom is deep-fried simplicity at its finest and most basic. They take sweet potato, lace it in a light tempura batter, then drop it in the oil with these thick, fat, juicy, gigantic whole shrimp. Traditionally, like at Brodard across the street, they are supposed to arrange the sweet potato sticks to form little rafts on which the shrimp rests. No such effort is made at Van’s. Van’s doesn’t do much more than throw a mess of the potatoes into the fryer and follow it with the shrimp somewhere in the middle. But somehow, Van’s banh tom is much better, crispier, sweeter, more delicate and more decadent than Brodard’s.
Be prepared on how greasy the thing is. It straddles that fine line where you’d say it’s too oily but never goes over it. It’s perfect tangle of hot, fried food. You eat it the same way you eat the banh xeo: with fistfuls of herb and cold dunks into that ambrosial fish sauce.
I should warn those who’ve never been to Van’s that this restaurant is old, well-worn and grimy. The floors seems to be perennially strewn with bits of food from the last group of customers who just finished their own banh xeo and banh tom feasts. There will be a few discarded stems and bits of torn napkin that may not have had a chance to be swept up. The overworked busboys simply can't keep up with the demand for tables and the ravenous appetites of those who come for the banh xeo and the banh tom.
14122 Brookhurst St
Garden Grove, CA 92843
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