In a non-descript strip mall in Westminster lies Binh Dan Restaurant. The specialties at Binh Dan (Vietnamese for commoner) are mon nhau (Vietnamese for drink-friendly food) and de 7 mon (Vietnamese goat in 7 courses). Nothing fancy here. Basic working-class food.
Goat can be an acquired taste for many people. At Binh Dan, the goat is locally sourced, coming from the owners' father's farm in Riverside County. The cooks are known for removing the gamey taste from the meat. I've been curious to try this restaurant ever since reading Kirk of Mmm-yoso's visit. With Foodbuzz's 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Posts to foot the bill, I invited a few of my more adventurous eating friends - kevinEats, Pepsi Monster, Danny of Kung Food Panda, and Aaron of Destination Eats, who specifically said he likes gamey meats. I told them the 7 courses of goat was on the menu, with perhaps a side order of de vu nuong (Vietnamese grilled goat breast/udder).
My main concern when introducing others to unfamiliar dishes or cuisine is that the person doesn't balk at trying anything, including udders. I said it! Well, technically breast is a correct translation too, but if they're game when I utter "udder" and "blood pudding" then they can hang with me. ;)
What I hadn't counted on was Kevin's fine dining bias.
"Is there a corkage fee?" Kevin asked, unimpressed with their selection of Heineken, Michelob, and Budweiser beers.
So I called and asked, but the person who answered the phone kept insisting they had plenty of their own beers, and for only $2.
Sigh. I know, but my friend wants to bring outside beer. I offered to pay. After a bit of back and forth, I was told $1 for corkage, but wasn't sure if, when we got there, outside drinks would be allowed. Sure enough they weren't, but the waiter nicely let us just this once, for free. I added extra at the end for corkage anyway.
"I thought you took care of this?" Kevin asked.
Duude! It's Little Saigon. There are no reservations. Corkage? What's that? And cash only please.
That little technicality out of the way, what was more nerve-wracking were three sets of SLRs snapping away at the food. Geez! Haven't you guys heard of being discreet? And I specifically said no fancy cameras! Which they all swore they didn't remember me saying. I didn't want to get kicked out and we might not have been noticed in a larger restaurant, but this place is tiny. I mean tiiiny. I forgot to take a picture of the inside while it was empty, and didn't feel comfortable doing so when other customers came in. So imagine my apprehension. Fortunately, no one bothered us.
I ordered two sets of 7 courses, which were $16.50 each, and grilled goat breast and de luc lac (Vietnamese "shaking" goat), think of Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) but with goat.
Frosty mugs for our beers. What's that you see at the bottom?
Frozen blocks of ice.
My people. We are clever. Sure we got a bucket of ice on the side, but these already had the ice frozen inside the mugs.
Plates of basil, sawtooth, and cilantro, lemon and chili peppers.
Tiet canh de (Vietnamese goat blood pudding). Oh man, remember when I wrote my 100 Vietnamese foods to try post and said I was too freaked out to eat it?
Tiet canh is chopped meat in congealed blood pudding with slices of liver and peanuts. It's so, well, bloody. But the main difference with my eating habits after having a food blog is that I'm game for anything.
So I grabbed a piece of banh trang me (Vietnamese toasted sesame rice paper) and scooped out a portion of tiet canh. And it actually wasn't half-bad. Not something I'd crave, but nothing to fear. It just tasted like a softer version of blood sausage, sans casing.
De xao lan (Vietnamese goat stir-fried with curry powder). Curry tends to pair well with goat to help disguise the gameyness. The meat wasn't gamey at all though, and a dry curry stir-fry was a very fragrant new-to-me method of cooking. The turmeric and cumin in Ca Ri Ni An Do (Vietnamese Indian Madras Curry Powder) were enhanced by the fresh cumin notes of ngo om (Vietnamese paddy herb).
De nuong (Vietnamese grilled goat) and de nuong la lot mo chai (Vietnamese grilled goat with wild betel leaves in caul fat). The grilled goat with sesame seeds was excellent. Toasty and flavorful, with slight crispy/chewy parts from the skin.
I was confused about not seeing the wild betel leaves on the rolls though...
...until I cut one in half and realized the betel leaves were on the inside. The caul fat helped give it a light sausage-like casing. And honestly, if I didn't know I was eating goat meat, I'd think I was eating Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves). The wild betel leaves on the inside gave it a subtle hint of that lovely fragrance. I personally would have liked more, but that's because I love la lot.
De ca ri (Vietnamese goat curry). Again, curry helps disguise gameyness. And again, it really wasn't needed. The curry was rich and flavorful. If you like Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry), you'll like this.
De nhua man (Vietnamese goat stew). I couldn't find a proper translation of this dish and the waiter only said it was a stew. I called my mom, who had no idea. She asked my dad, who said it meant prepared in the style of dog meat. Hmm. Well, I've never eaten dog meat so I have no idea how it's supposed to be served.
The stew was tasty but I was hard-pressed to identify its flavors. It sort of reminded me of goat hot pot that I've eaten in Vietnam, but that was too long ago to recall. I think the strips were taro? There was some tendon and more gelatinous cuts.
I flipped through my copy of "Am Thuc Viet Nam (Vietnamese Gastronomy Guidebook)," which described a dog dish with saffron and galangal, but I'm not sure that's correct either since the dish described in the book was rather elaborate. None of the 10 goat dishes listed in the book gave me any clue either. Anyone know?
De tiem thuoc bac (Vietnamese goat with Chinese medicinal herbs). Tender spare rib pieces. This tasted more of the Chinese medicine than anything else.
On the table was also a plate of rice noodles, Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste), and Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce) for dipping. That's the last of the seven courses set. Usually with Vietnamese seven courses of beef, one order is more than enough for two people. The portions here were pretty small. Everything pictured above was two orders. In this case, one order really is meant for one person.
I also ordered Vietnamese "shaking" goat for $8.50. I wanted to try the goat meat without any other type of special preparation. This came out similar to cubed steak, as a salad with a bowl of salt, ground black pepper, and lemon. Compared to the other dishes, especially the grilled goat with sesame seeds and wild betel leaf, I found the cubed goat rather bland.
Now we get the special menu item that was written on the wall. De vu nuong (Vietnamese grilled goat breast/udder) for $8.95. It was lightly seasoned with curry, but that couldn't disguise its slight gameyness. I was actually surprised because this was really the only dish that was gamey. The meat was tougher, more chewy. Other than that, it wasn't nearly as exotic as the sound of eating goat udders would make you think.
My favorite goat dishes were the stir-fry, grilled with sesame seeds, grilled with wild betel leaf, curry, and stew. If you've been too intimidated to try goat meat, I would highly recommend Binh Dan because with the exception of the goat udders, the meat was not gamey at all.
We probably could have eaten more, but I was still full from the 32-oz freshly squeezed sugarcane juice I got at C&C Express (C&C Food Co.) for only $3.50! We also started talking of other Little Saigon eateries and decided to have a second dinner at Brodard Restaurant for their Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Salad Rolls) and Banh Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp and Yam Fritters).
Thanks again Foodbuzz for sponsoring this dinner and for allowing me to showcase Vietnamese cuisine.
Who else ate at Binh Dan Restaurant?
Kirk of Mmm-yoso's original post inspired this visit.
My Little Saigon post gives an overview of Vietnamese American history and Little Saigon.
Other Little Saigon restaurants:
Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)
Brodard Restaurant - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)
C&C Express (C&C Food Co.) - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Da Nang Com Tam Tran Quy Cap - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Le Croissant Dore - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Lien Hoa - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Pho Thang Long Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Pho Thanh Lich - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Quan Hy Vietnamese Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Regent West Restaurant (Wedding Banquet) - Santa Ana (Little Saigon)
Rockin' Crawfish - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Saigon Bistro - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Thach Che Hien Khanh - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Top Baguette - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Vien Dong Restaurant - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)
Binh Dan Restaurant
10040 McFadden Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
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