A Trip to Little Saigon & The NYE Repas du Soir

southeast asian table setting
A Trip to Little Saigon
The New Year’s Eve Repas du Soir
New Year’s Day Fabulous Leftovers Brunch

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.

southeast asian table setting

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.

Tapioca Express
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!

Olala Reflexology
9950 Bolsa Ave. Westminster, California

 Vietnamese Lunch in Little Saigon

Luc Dinh Ky
9812 Bolsa Ave. Westminster, California

#24 House Special Meat & Shrimp Soup, Rice Noodle

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…

#38 House Special Chow Fun

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.

Historic Sources:
The Little Saigon Cookbook by Ann Le
Westminster Chamber of Commerce

The New Year’s Eve Repas du Soir

vietnamese table setting
Le Menu

Banh Mi Canapés
Summer Rolls
Spring Rolls
Hot Rock Soup
Black Cod en Papillote
Vol-au-Vent, Coconut Sorbet

southeast asia table setting
cymbidium orchid
There are more than 700 orchid species found in Vietnam. Cymbidiums thrive in cooler areas and some of the Northern provinces.

new years eve dinner party

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.

Cinnamon Meatloaf

The beef and pork meatloaf is flavored with fish sauce, cinnamon, sugar and black pepper.

Al spread chili aioli on toasted baguette then topped it with a couple slices of super-thinly sliced cinnamon meatloaf.

banh mi canapes
Banh Mi Canapés

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
Summer Rolls

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)

Vietnamese Summer Rolls
Summer Rolls, Spicy Soy Dipping Sauce

Course #3 “Fried” Salad
Spring Rolls

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).

Everyone created their rolls then took them outside on the patio to fry.

spring roll, imperial roll
Spring Rolls, Rau Ram, Nuoc Cham

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.

Ladle broth around the rock.

hot rock soup
Hot Rock Soup: Rib-eye, Lemongrass-Ginger Broth

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!!

black cod en papillote
Black Cod en Papillote - Ginger, Garlic, Chile, Coconut Sauce

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

puff pastry
Cut puff pastry into rounds with cookie-cutter. Use a smaller cutter to cut half-way through the pastry to make a hat. Bake until golden brown.

vol-au-vent, coconut sorbet
Vol-Au-Vent, Coconut Sorbet, Fruit, 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


Le Menu

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!”

 Thank you!
Wishing you all a Delicious and Dazzling 2012!

25 thoughts on “A Trip to Little Saigon & The NYE Repas du Soir”

  1. Absolutely wonderful post…and visually warm as usual. Kudos to you and your friends for ringing in the new year in style and good taste! All the best in 2012!

  2. A day and meals like that, I’d think I had died and gone to heaven, incredible!
    Love everything, and your “leftovers” would be a feast in anyone’s book, I’d say.

    Much to my delight, there are a few Vietnamese places around here. Hanoi Express is small, but the food is authentic (http://www.hanoiexpress.at/). I love their summer rolls and the papaya salad.

    I suppose you know the movie “Scent of Green Papaya”, do you?

    May it be a wonderful year, filled with love and happiness and great food every day,

  3. First I thought the day spent in Little Saigon was fantastic – but the meal you prepared and served was beyond the pale. Loved it all – especially the hot rock soup – what a novel idea. Do you have room for me next year?

  4. Stunning! The thought and preparation you put into a meal with good friends is incredible! Thank you for letting us peek into your feast and Happy New Year!

  5. Culinary delights are always bountiful in your presence; the mastery of your touch with food is remarkable. To use rocks in a food preparation is simple genius. That presentation was great on the eyes and wonderful in the tummy. The entire day was a gift to friendship, from the massage, to the lunch, to the act of creating a wonderful multi-course dinner with dear friends. Ringing in the New Year with great tasting food that smells like heaven, looks great and tastes wonderful, along with the sweet friends you love has created memories that are sure to remain forever embossed in the pathways of my brain. Thank you Lori Lynn, FA, Al, Kirk, wife Tori…for all being my best friends. Bon Appetite!

  6. I’m so glad allison posted this link on her Facebook page. It’s sounds like it was a fabulous day of friends and food.

  7. Wow, what an adventure and amazing dining experience. There was so much work/play involved and it was all done beautifully. You deserve another hour long massage. Congratulations on your 24×24!

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