Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kim Huong's Bun Rieu - Tustin

I know what you're thinking, but no, I haven't written about the bun rieu at Kim Huong. I've waxed poetic on Quan Hop's bun rieu (the homey dish I once described as the more feminine face of Vietnamese noodle soups) and praised Kim Huong's discounted prices on pho, but I haven't shared a word about this particular dish at this particular restaurant.

And not telling you about it is like leaving out Pirates of the Caribbean when I'm talking about Disneyland. Part of the reason is that it's become part of my take-out routine, and as such it disappears into my day-to-day consciousness, like brushing my teeth. What I'm saying is that I eat Kim Huong's bun rieu a lot. Their number is on speed dial, and when I call they usually know who I am, what I want, and that I'll be there to pick it up in ten minutes.

That's another thing about it: they'll package it up for me. The soup in its own container. Accoutrements in a baggie. Noodles in its own bowl. Only assembly required? Pour the broth on top of noodles. Squeeze the lime. Pile on as little or as much of the included roughage. Dinner's done.

Above the convenience, the price is rock-bottom low; because if I'm anything else besides a creature of habit (and lazy); I'm a cheapskate. The pre-tax price: $3.60 (it's $0.50 less if you opt to dine in).

The soup is wondrous and light. It's just slightly spicy, mostly sweet and tomatoey. Actual tomatoes are present, softened by the heat of the brew and slowly melting into it. There are floating rafts of fried tofu and compressed, meatloaf-like morsels made from ground pork, crabmeat, and what I guess is beaten egg as a binder. And of course, those wispy noodles that dissolves instantly in your mouth.

On the side, as tradition dictates, a plastic thimble containing a purplish paste that reeks like crab toe jam (this one I use very, very sparingly). A packet of ketchup, it is not; but neither is this typical take-out food...well, I guess for me, it is.

Kim Huong
17311 McFadden Ave # B
Tustin, CA‎ 92780

Boqueria - Costa Mesa


At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" Accoutrements in a baggie."

Accountrements DOES NOT mean accompaniments - especially when referring to a food offering!

At 10:16 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


If it's good enough for The New York Times, it's good enough for me.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Bill said...

You for got the gray paste matter. ;-)

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NY Times is incorrect as well.
Usage does not a definition make.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

...and yet we completely UNDERSTAND what you were saying..ah the human mind..
That looks fantastic, even more so for that price!

At 11:00 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I did remember! Except, it looks more purplish to me. That stuff is potently stinky, but goooood! Do you use all of it?


Usage does not a definition make.

True. But given enough time and frequency, it does. "Google" is now a verb in Merriam Webster, as in "I googled the word 'accoutrement' and how many times the NY Times has used it when referring to food."


"and yet we completely UNDERSTAND what you were saying"

Just doing my part to corrupt the English language, one food blog post at a time! ;-)

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for point out the misuse in the NY Times as I have taken the time to email the editor with my newest pet peeve.

I remember when PRIORITY used to be a noun......

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous mbot565 said...

O, that purply stuff is a watery version of shrimp paste. It's their version of anchovy paste, either you like it or you don't kinda thing.

It's supposed to be flavor enhancer. Although don't know how something that smells like sweaty feet is supposed to enhance anything, but hey it worked!

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous mbot565 said...

elmomonster, am I glad to find your blog. I've been searching for good Indonesian restaurants, stumbled upon your page & got so much more.
Just got back from Janti Noodle restaurant at West Covina (Hong Kong Plaza) on Sunday, drove all the way there from San Diego. I love that place & their authentic bakmie ayam jamur really took care of my craving. Just checked Warung Pojok's page & they're temporarily closed until June 24th. I guess I'll give them a try in July.

Thanks again for sharing all these wonderful eateries for me to try.

At 11:06 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Cheap! That is even less than wonton noodle soup in my area. Even food court pho (no, not at a big fancy mall but rather a small strip mall) costs more than your bowl of bun rieu. And it looks like a really big serving.

BTW, I also went to A&J this weekend in Irvine- it was okay but not too good either!

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Christine D. said...

Ah! I used to live down the street from this place. Some days it's good and some days it's bad...which is why we usually drive all the way up to little saigon, haha. But at least it's close to home!

Whenever you review a familiar place in Tustin, I get all excited. haha. Have you tried the cafe inside Ivy's Bridge yet (near Honda-Ya)? I used to eat there a lot until they kept jacking up the price and annoyed me. :P

At 6:52 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Go get 'em tiger! Show those Pulitzer Prize-winning professionals what for!


There are a lot of stinky-sock smelling substances out there aren't there! Every South East Asian country seems to have their own. But this is probably the strongest, and you put it in directly into the soup, raw! Intense.

Since you drove up to check out Janty Noodle (they're awesome BTW), be sure to check out Pondok Kaki Lima at the Duarte Inn on Saturday mornings. If you haven't, you need to. It will change your life!


I'd like more cheap eateries around here like you guys enjoy in SGV. Wonton soup. Mmm. No one does a good wonton soup that's reasonably priced here.

Yeah, A&J is okay. I haven't written about it because I had a really disappointing XLB there (though everything else was fine).


Ivy's Bridge?! Whaaaa? I've never even heard of it before. I need to investigate! So far, initial Google search seems to indicate it is a health food store. Intriguing!

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Bill said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Bill said...

I think I use about a finger tip amount I don't think my wife would appreciate it too much. Then again she is the worst offender she use it as a dip for the snails in her buon rieu.

At 11:46 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...


What is even funnier is that we also ordered XLB. It ended up being very thick dough (same dough as potstickers) with very little juice. At least the meat tasted like meat and didn't have a off texture like some places.

We meant to go to China Garden at first but it was full. We also wanted to visit Brodard but that was a long way away from our destination which we had already arrived at by the time.

At 3:56 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

"Crab toe jam." Niiiice. LOL One of many weird facts about me, though, I like all kinds of stinky foods. You know my love of durian.

I want some bun rieu now. Lucky for me I have easy access to Vietnamese food.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - Bun Rieu sounds like the perfect antidote for the weather we're having.

One thing in the comments struck me as funny....if you're going to pose as the grammar police, why would you write something like this: "Thank you for point out the misuse in the NY Times"

"He who lives in a glass house......"

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous miam miam said...

Thanks KirkK for pointing out Anon's grammatical error! That made me laugh out loud. :o)

Mmm . . . bun rieu. Yummy pics and description . . . well, except for that crab toe jam part. Made me wrinkle my nose.

I think I need to leave work now for an early lunch. Thanks for yet another great find, Elmo!

At 9:33 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I just had this soup again the other night. I added the equivalent of a pea, and it was almost too much!


Yeah those XLBs tasted like they were recently defrosted. And most of them were already torn, which dashed any no hopes of soup. They were just sad.


I should coin a phrase a la Andrew Zimmern: "if it smells bad, eat it!"


You said it (on both counts!)

Miam Miam,

I hope you read my previous post on Kim Huong (and the comments) and weren't surprised that they charge 50-cents for water when you eat in (if you asked for it). Still, the price of this noodle soup is unbeatable!!!

At 3:25 PM, Blogger zhulander said...

just picked this up -- to go! -- per your suggestion, and am enjoying/devouring it for lunch right now. delicious, and everything you said it would be! thanks for always pointing me in the right gastronomical direction :)

At 4:15 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Went to the local Vietnamese place last night, and guess what I had for dinner. :-)

At 12:18 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

contingenciestoo and Juliet,

You have succumbed to my powers of suggestion!!

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

hey elmo, if you like thai, u should try thai ritz cuisine at the diamond jamboree. it also serves gelato :)

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Ravenous Couple said...

great lists of reviews! if you like bun rieu, try the canh bun at quan bun ban mai at magnolia and bolsa.


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