A popular Vietnamese restaurants in the San Gabriel neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to wait for up to half and hour for a table at Nha Hang Vietnam. In addition to the wonderful food, I suspect that prices play a big factor in drawing in customers. A big bowl of Pho runs $4.50 and Cha Gio is only $1.60 for two crisp & savory hot rolls.
Tonight I opted for a dish I don’t typically order because it is much more expensive than pho…and well, I’m cheap. But here, the Bun Bo Hue is only $4.95! (This is in comparison to the $8 bowls you find in Hawaii). An attractive serving of tender cooked beef and pork leg is presented atop mounds of rice vermicelli in a richly spiced soup. The soup comes steaming hot with little bubbles of red oil, spicy indeed! It was not as rich in beef flavor this particular visit and I tasted sheer spicyness more than anything, but we’ll just pray that it was an “off” day. The beef has a nice meat-to-far ratio, soft and melt in your mouth wonderful with paper thin slices of onions. The pork leg is…well, pork leg. Lots of chewy skin. I don’t love it or hate it, it’s just kind of there for me. The same garnishes that accompany pho, also come with the Bun Bo Hue, minus the ngo gai.
The Bun Cha Gio & Bi ($4.95) is a bowl of cold thin rice vermicelli beneath a variation of chopped vegetables and herbs, such as lettuce, cucumbers and mint. There are numerous variations on this dish, you simply choose the “toppings” you prefer. We opted for the Cha Gio and Bi. Bi is…er…lots of good stuff mixed together! No, I’ll try do better than that. It’s shredded pork and pig skin with other meats, tossed in a savory roasted rice powder called Thom Ngon Dac Biet. We often mix it with a bowl of broken rice and nuoc nam for a simple dinner. (PS. My grandma makes the best Bi in the world). How do you eat this dish? Break apart your chopsticks and begin mixing (the Cha Gio is precut into bite sized pieces for your convenience). Pour in the bowl of nuoc nam they give on the side and you’re go to go.
We ordered Bun Chao Tom & Bo Nuong ($5.50). The same based, only topped with two slices of grilled shrimp paste and charbroiled pork. The pork is similar to bulgogi, only more on the dry side. Finger like sticks of shrimp paste is made of ground shrimp mixed with some wondrous Vietnamese spices and secrets, steamed and then grilled crispy. It’s slightly chewy like beef balls only not as chewy. The smokey chargrilled flavor really compliments the mellow, subtle taste of the shrimp. I think this would go well in a banh mi! Just mix and eat.
Our entire dinner amounted to less than $20 and this includes pretty efficient service and no rushing despite the growing crowds of people waiting outside. Don’t expect to be blown away by the best Vietnamese food but know that it’s high quality, with every dish imaginable from Vietnamese curry with French bread to Caom Cha Suon, pork chops and baked eggs over steamed rice. And with such low prices, what more can you ask for?
Nha Hang Vietnam
815 W. Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776