Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

Last fall, I got an email from someone who claimed not to be a stalker. (Ha! That's what they all say! :P ) She had been reading my blog for a few months and my post about Burgerville, a hamburger chain in the Pacific Northwest, caught her attention. Might I be an Oregonian? So she started reading and reading and realized, she knows who I am!

She asked, are you chu (Vietnamese for younger male uncle on father's side) [my dad]'s daughter? If not, sorry for bothering you. If yes, "Why hello chi (Vietnamese for older female) [my real name]!" This is [dad's friend]'s daughter, or you might remember me as [dad's friend's daughter's real name].

Bwhaha! I thought I was pretty good at the incognito thing, but I guess if you know me in real life, even if it's been 20 years, I'm pretty easy to figure out. Seriously, I hadn't seen my dad's friend's daughter since she was 5 years old. Anyway, she found lil' sis via our oldest nephew's best friend and befriended her on Facebook. So I stalked her back and befriended her too.

And last month when she was in town and needed a place to stay, I offered up my home. After picking her up from Long Beach airport, I took her to Ngu Binh Restaurant in Westminster for lunch. The last time I was here was nearly four years ago. I told you I don't go down to Little Saigon as often as I used to!

That's it! That's the whole menu! It's really not even 18 dishes, half that, as the specials are just larger sizes or they're combos of various dishes.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 2

I ordered a tray of banh beo chen (Vietnamese steamed rice discs with minced shrimp), 10 for $5.75. If you order the plate, banh beo dia, you'll get the smaller version with the dumplings already spooned out of the bowls. You want the bowls. Trust me.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 3

Freshly steamed and soft. Served traditionally with fried pork rinds. Just spoon some Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce) on top and spoon them out of the bowls to eat.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 4

I ordered a combo plate of banh bot loc (Vietnamese clear tapioca shrimp dumplings) and banh nam (Vietnamese steamed flat dumplings with pork and shrimp) for $5.75. The banh nam were too soft for my liking, and well, they just didn't taste the way my grandma made them. But the banh bot loc were perfectly chewy and delicious.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 5

Yummy! Yummy! Dad's friend's daughter liked the banh bot loc a lot and we contemplated getting another order, but we had more food coming.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 6

Small bowl of Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) for $5.75. The broth and seasonings were great, but the cha Hue (Vietnamese steamed pork) was super salty.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 7

The accompanying Vietnamese herb platter with sliced banana blossoms.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 8

With only a few dishes ordered, I wanted to go back so I could blog about Ngu Binh. It was easy enough to convince Tony of SinoSoul to come with me a few weeks later when I told him they had mi quang (Vietnamese turmeric noodles with shrimp and pork) for $5.75. He asked if we needed to invite more people so I could cover the menu. Umm, it's a one-page menu. He thought that was hilariously cool.

The mi quang here was excellent. One of the best versions I've had in a long time.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 9

This time, I knew to order just a plate of the banh bot loc for $5.75. Sooo sooo goood! I had to text dad's friend's daughter to rub it in that I was eating a whole plateful of banh bot loc all by myself. :P Well, I let Tony have one to try, but he was content with his mi quang so this was all for me.

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 10

I also ordered bun mit mam nem (Vietnamese green jackfruit noodles with fermented anchovy sauce) for $5.75. This was really quite good, but I was stuffed from the dumplings so I got it to-go and asked for a container of the Mam Nem (Vietnamese Fermented Anchovy Sauce). I ate the noodles later for dinner, with lots of the mam nem poured on top. Too pungent for most people, but I love this stuff!

Ngu Binh Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 11

I asked about the banh canh (Vietnamese crab and shrimp noodles), but the owner says she doesn't make her own noodles, so I didn't bother. Of course, if your family doesn't make their own noodles, then you probably wouldn't feel so biased.

I also skipped the banh it kep banh ram (Vietnamese rice dumplings with mung beans, pork, and shrimp wrapped in a fried dumpling) because I don't like how the crispy, chewy fried banh ram sticks to my teeth.

Ngu Binh has just a short menu of some of my favorite Central Vietnamese dumplings and noodles, but that's all I need. You really can't go wrong with whatever you order here since the brief menu means they only serve what they do best.

Other Central Vietnamese restaurants:
Quan Mien Trung Vietnamese Cuisine - Rosemead
Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Vietnamese Restaurant - Alhambra
Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa Vietnamese Restaurant - Rosemead
Quan Hy Vietnamese Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Quan Vy Da Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Ngu Binh Restaurant
14072 Magnolia St., Ste. 116 and 117
Westminster, CA 92683
Closed Mondays

1 year ago today, souvenir from my brother Costa Rican guava and passionfruit chocolates.
2 years ago today, Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana Redux (Tasting Menu) - Monterey Park.
3 years ago today, Saigon Bistro redux.


  1. Oh yum! I'm loving the photos. It all looks so good I really want some Vietnamese food now. Happy Easter.

  2. Hi,
    This restaurant was written up in the LA Times a couple of weeks ago. I was wondering if you found it crowded? I've been meaning to go but I hear the wait can be an hour long! Yikes.

    Love your blog. You come accross very sweet, especially with your family...

  3. This is the first time I've heard of bun mit mam nem. Mit instead of meat, huh? :-P Pretty clever!

  4. Ooh, yum. Sucks that it's all the way in Westminster.

  5. I had bun mit mam nem and it was great! I really should stop by there more often; it's less than a 30 minute drive from where I am. It's funny because I've also been craving banh bot loc lately.

    btw it's me Diana. :)

  6. Hi from Chicago! Please FedEx the banh bot loc my way. (I understand where your Dad's friend's daughter is coming from - it's one of my favorites too!)

  7. Diva,
    Happy Easter to you too!

    Inside Avenue,
    This was before the LA Times' article. I tend to avoid restaurants for several months after they get written up just to avoid the crowds. But if you go during non-rush meal times, or at least at the tail end, it shouldn't be a problem. It's not really a place people linger so in and out. I've never had to wait for an hour and if I did, I'd just go to Quan Hy or Quan Vy Da to get my Central VNese food fix.

    Sweet? Ha! My family would find that hilarious. :P

    Bun mit and goi mit are pretty common. I guess they could try and be vegetarian but there's usually pork and shrimp added too. And mam nem is definitely not vegetarian. :P

    All the best Vietnamese restaurants are!

    I love banh bot loc. Well, actually, I would call these banh quai vac. In Vietnam, I could eat a little plate of them for 5 cents!

    Girl Feeds Boy,
    You know, come to think of it, I can't remember any of the restaurants on Argyle offering banh bo loc or banh beo and other banhs for that matter. :(

  8. Hi chi (Vietnamese for older female) [your real name]! ;D I feel famous! haha :) Still so glad you took me in and fed me so well! I'll be back soon.. next week soon! More banh bot loc! :) and I'm sticking to it -- I'm not a stalker! ha!


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