Best friends, great memories, stellar food – that’s how we celebrate the New Year! The old gang is together again, this time we take A Trip To Little Saigon & cook a NYE Repas du Soir together! My old dear friends, dating back to our restaurant days in the 80’s, are visiting for the holidays.
It was Tori’s idea to spend the day in Little Saigon. Eating lunch, laughing, taking photos, getting massages, and shopping. It was her idea that led to the inspiration to cook French/Vietnamese for dinner. We picked up authentic ingredients for our repas du soir and returned to my home in LA in the late afternoon to drink Champagne and create a six-course meal together.
The dinner table was pre-set in a casually elegant Southeast Asian style with orchids, bamboo, and the color red to symbolize wealth and prosperity. We cranked up the holiday music and started cooking; everyone participated in the creation, photography, prep, and execution of the menu. We had a blast!
I had no intention of submitting this outing for the Foodbuzz 24X24 event until I read that the folks over at Foodbuzz were interested to see how Featured Publishers would be spending the last day of 2011. We had terrific culinary/cultural plans that turned out to be a fantastic way to ring in the New Year.
Extending a very special thank you to my friends FA, Al, Kirk, Tori, and Tom for your love & friendship and sense of humor & adventure! Thank you to Foodbuzz for choosing A Trip to Little Saigon & The NYE Repas du Soir as a participant in December’s 24×24 event. Foodbuzz 24×24 showcases posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers, highlighting unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period.
Little Saigon, Orange County, California
There are several Little Saigon’s in the US but none as old or large as the one in Orange County, California.
After a pit stop at Tapioca Express for Bubble Tea, we were ready for our massage. Bubble (or Boba) tea is a unique drink which originated in Taiwan, with gummy balls made of sweet potato, cassava root and brown sugar. The balls settle at the bottom of the hot or cold tea, or smoothie and are slurped up with an over-sized straw. Flavor choices range from fruity to exotic, sweet, and even sour.
9922 Bolsa Ave. Westminster, California
We all give kudos and thanks to Tori and Tom for arranging our one-hour massage. The rest of us had never experienced this type of massage. It is a fully-clothed full-body massage. We were all in the same room together, a terrific group event. And we were all relaxed, happy, and a bit sore (in a good way) when were were handed our tiny cup of tea at the end. Ready to greet the New Year!
9950 Bolsa Ave. Westminster, California
Vietnamese Lunch in Little Saigon
Luc Dinh Ky
9812 Bolsa Ave. Westminster, California
Theresa, the delightful owner of the Olala Reflexology recommended that we have lunch at Luc Dinh Ky, and gave us her list of top dishes. We took her advice 100% and were pleasantly surprised. Meat & Shrimp Soup with Rice Noodles, Hot Pot Rice with Salmon, House Special Chow Fun, Chinese Vegetable with Beef, Deep Fried Tofu, House Special Fried Rice…
In addition to the great food, being restaurant alumni, we were also super-impressed with the service. This has got to be the fastest service we have ever had. No sooner that we finished ordering the last dish, the first dish was practically on the table.
We had tea to accompany our meal…Champagne and terrific wines to come later in the evening.
After the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975, a huge wave of Vietnamese refugees settled in the United States with the largest concentration in Westminster, California. Little Saigon evolved when many refugees were airlifted to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, stayed and settled in the area because of the climate and the prospect of reunions with friends. But many lacked American job skills and command of the language, and had few options to make a living. Except, many could cook! And they did. Opening hundreds of successful restaurants in Westminster and Garden Grove since the mid 1970’s.
Shopping in Little Saigon
This three-square-mile area is the home of more than 4000 Vietnamese-American businesses. Huge shopping centers and strip malls offer a range of ethnic boutiques, orchid florists, bakeries, cafés, Phở shops and high-end restaurants, fresh handmade tofu stores, jewelry stores, and large and small food markets, and more.
We, or course, love the supermarkets where the selection of herbs is unparalleled.
The Little Saigon Cookbook by Ann Le
Westminster Chamber of Commerce
The New Year’s Eve Repas du Soir
Banh Mi Canapés
Hot Rock Soup
Black Cod en Papillote
Vol-au-Vent, Coconut Sorbet
When it was time to sit down to dinner, Kirk lit a fire in the fireplace and moved the huge cymbidium orchids to the coffee table.
Course #1 Appetizer
Banh Mi Canapés
Banh Mi Canapés were the perfect introduction to our meal – blend of French and Vietnamese cuisines. The French introduced the baguette during colonization. Here we take the popular Banh Mi sandwich and serve it as a canapé.
The beef and pork meatloaf is flavored with fish sauce, cinnamon, sugar and black pepper.
Pickled daikon/cucumber/carrot, fresh jalapeño, and cilantro are placed atop the meatloaf. This canapé was fabulous – colorful, spicy, exotic. UPDATE: Full recipe now posted here.
Course #2 Salad
For our fresh salad-y course we all make our own summer rolls in the family room. We’ve set out all the ingredients, and six plates with (a non-traditional) soy dipping sauce made with soy sauce, chili oil, sesame oil, seasoned rice wine vinegar. I’m fortunate to have 2 large dining tables. The one in the family room was used to prep this meal and is where we composed the summer and spring rolls.
- Spring Roll Wrappers/Water to Soften/ Clean Dish Towels
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Cellophane Noodles
- Shopped Peanuts
- Julienne Carrot, Cucumber, & Scallion
- Mung Bean Sprouts
- Cilantro, Mint, Rau Que (basil), Rau Ram (Vietnamese coriander)
Course #3 “Fried” Salad
The next course is spring rolls which we deep-fried in the little fryer out on the patio. The ingredients are similar to the summer rolls but we add the main ingredient, a pork-shrimp mixture. Cooked minced pork/shrimp is seasoned with the ginger/garlic/chili coconut sauce (recipe follows).
The traditional Nuoc Cham sauce was served with the spring rolls. Combine 1/2 c. warm water with 2 T. sugar, 1 minced garlic clove, 3 T. fish sauce and 2 T. fresh lime juice. The fried roll is then nestled in a large lettuce leaf with fresh herbs – mint, cilantro, rau que, and rau ram and dipped in nuoc cham.
Course #4 Soup
Hot Rock Soup with Rib-Eye, Aromatic Broth
I had been wanting to make a variation of Hot Rock soup for months. I sent the river rocks through the dishwasher several times just to be safe! Our idea was to combine an aromatic lemongrass-ginger chicken stock with light vegetables, and a small piece of prime thin-sliced rib-eye cooked on a hot rock in the middle of the bowl of soup.
Heat rocks in a 400° oven. Drape a piece of rib-eye over each rock. Place rock in a heat-proof soup bowl and scatter with vegetables such as mushrooms, julienne carrots and zucchini.
The beef is cooking on the rock, and the rock is keeping the soup hot. By the time the soup bowls hit the table the beef is perfectly cooked. Garnish with fresh herbs. This soup made a light and whimsical course.
Course #5 Fish
Black Cod in Papillote, Ginger Garlic Chile Coconut Sauce, Fresh Herbs
We made the ginger/garlic/chili coconut sauce to top the fish and also as a seasoning for the spring rolls pork/shrimp mixture. Combine minced ginger, garlic, and green chili in a mortar, grind with pestle. Add fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Use the pestle again to grind all the ingredients together into a rough paste. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in coconut milk.
Cut parchment paper into large hearts. Place fresh herbs, such as cilantro, mint, rau ram, and rau que, in the center of each half heart. Top with a 6 oz. fresh black cod fillet. Place a couple tablespoons of the coconut sauce over the fish. Dust with a pinch of ground star anise.
Bake at 400°F on baking sheets until cooked through. I didn’t realize it until I saw this photo, but the fish course was ready to serve exactly at 11:00 PM, perfect timing for our NYE celebration!!
Serve the Cod en Papillote with steamed white rice and fresh herbs.
Course #6 Dessert
Vol-Au-Vent with Coconut Sorbet, Fresh Fruit, Chiffonade of Shiso
Fill pastry shell with coconut sorbet. Serve with assorted colorful fruits and a chiffonade of shiso.
Happy New Year! Bonne année et bonne santé! Chúc Mừng Nǎm Mới
New Year’s Day Fabulous Leftovers Brunch
Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne
Banh Mi Canapés (again, yay)
Fresh Fruit (leftover from dessert course)
Panini (bacon, saint andré, cambozola)
Fried Rice (made with leftover rice, rib-eye, and mushrooms)
Krug Grande Cuvée – intense and complex. This is the Champagne to drink with brunch on New Year’s Day! Golden in color with a creamy texture, slightly fruity, with flavors and aromas of hazelnuts and toast.
“Happy New Year to you, our dear friends, who manage to remain so close to our hearts over the space of time, distance and life changes.”
“Thank you for a wonderful visit, as always. You have comfy accommodations and the best of everything!”
“So, in this new year we send you our love and thanks for your long and valued friendship, and our hopes that your new year brings all of what you wish for and nothing unwanted.”
“Thanks again for your warm hospitality!”
“Thanks for sharing your lovely, warm and beautiful home with us. What fun it was to spend time cooking, eating, and sharing with such wonderful life-long friends. Your gracious hospitality made it a very special time and the memories and pictures will continue to warm my heart and soul for a long time. Happy New Year!”
Wishing you all a Delicious and Dazzling 2012!