Pho 79 Restaurant – Westminster, CA

Food Adventures, Orange County

Born and raised in Garden Grove just on the outskirts of the ever-growing Vietnamese enclave, I never really paid attention to all of the changes in Little Saigon until I left the OC and moved to Westwood for undergrad. Visiting every weekend at best, maybe less than once a month at my busiest, I finally took notice of the constant construction, the rotation of new trendy restaurants replacing older storefronts, the evolution of the city itself as its northern borders encroached on The Korean District, and the influx of traffic from local residents and out-of-town visitors alike. Many of my favorite restaurants I dined at while growing up had either closed up shop, changed owners, or hired new chefs. But not Pho 79. I could always count on Pho 79 to bring to my table a piping hot bowl of pho just the way I remembered it when I was a little girl earnestly chowing down on the tô nhỏ (literally translated as “small bowl”) with extra gân (beef tendon) while my parents withheld the toy that would accompany the kids meal until I first finished my food. (That’s right – we were eating offal before offal was cool.)

Beautiful bowl of pho!

Beautiful bowl of pho!

Though we’ve graduated from the college town and moved on to other Westside neighborhoods, I still do not visit home as often as I would like (and certainly not as often as my parents would like), but on those rare occasions, Pho 79 is a beloved part of my dining-out rotation. This Little Saigon icon, situated in a humble standalone building just behind a liquor store, has remained largely unchanged throughout the past 20-something years that I have frequented it. Who knows – maybe it has even stayed more or less the same since it first opened in 1979 (hence the namesake) to serve the immigrant post-war families looking for a bit of familiarity. Even the menus have seen better days and I swear they are the same exact ones that my little 3-year-old hands would thumb through, looking for the soda xí muội (salted plum soda) on the last page.

Vietnamese drip-style coffee

Vietnamese drip-style coffee

Nowadays, my beverage of choice is the cà phê sữa đá, or Vietnamese iced coffee. I take it for granted that everyone here in LA always has somewhere else to be, so the slow-dripping French-style cà phê phin is just not a feasible option for the few Vietnamese restaurants on the Westside. Here at Pho 79 we can slow our pace, just for a bit, and let the dark roast steep at its leisure through the filter and into a mug ready and waiting with a dollop of sữa đặc (sweetened condensed milk).

My bowl (Martin's is MIA due to having been devoured)

My bowl (Martin’s is MIA due to having been devoured)

Martin always gets the phở tái sách, tô xe lửa – the largest bowl (literally translated as “train bowl”) with rare steak slices and tripe. I was unable to snap a photo before he dove right in. This is his standard order and he always looks very content while slurping away, strands of rice noodles hanging askew off the edge of his bowl, so just take our word for it – it’s good.

The condiments for pho

The condiments for pho

I like to go a teeny bit fancier with my pho. I will usually order the phở tái gân bò viên, tái để riêng, tô thường – a so-called “regular” sized bowl loaded with beef tendon and beef meatballs served with rare steak slices on the side. I learned this trick from my dad. See, the broth is always so hot that by the time the chef ladles it into the bowl and the server brings the bowl to my table, the beef has overcooked. Having them bring the beef separately allows me to control the process and enjoy the beef when it has just turned a nice pale pink, cooked by the broth’s residual heat. Yum. I also go crazy with the bean sprouts, mint/herbs (traditionally ngò gai, the one that looks like a long serrated blade, and rau quê, commonly known as Thai basil) and a generous squeeze of a fresh lime wedge. In a separate dish, I will also portion out some hoisin sauce (known affectionately as tương ăn phở, or literally, “sauce to eat with pho”) and Huy Fong Foods sriracha, everyone’s favorite hot sauce. At long last, I’m all set… and Martin’s probably halfway through his train bowl at this point.

Ready to drink - ca phe sua da!

Ready to drink – ca phe sua da!

By the time we are close to finishing our meals, the coffee is ready to be stirred and poured over the tall glasses of ice. Mmm… sweet, creamy heaven with a very strong coffee essence. Starbucks lattes ain’t got nothin’ on this!

If you find yourself in Orange County and craving a hot bowl of comforting soup, I definitely recommend stopping by Pho 79. Don’t be intimidated by the alley-side driveway entrance, and don’t be deterred by the apparent lack of parking – the turnover is excellent even during lunch or dinner rush, so sooner or later, someone will be leaving and you can snag their precious parking space. Sign your name on the clipboard hanging on the door or tell a friendly waiter how many people are in your party (holding up the number on your fingers is A-OK too). Then sit back, relax, and prepare for beefy goodness that will transport you to the real streets of Saigon… or (if you’re lucky) blissful memories of your mom’s kitchen.

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Check out Pho 79 Restaurant: pho79.com

9941 Hazard Ave
Garden Grove, CA 92844

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Roasted Bone Marrow

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes, Side Dishes

Roasted bone marrow has to be one of my all-time favorite comforting meat-treats. One Sunday as Martin and I were strolling through our local Mar Vista Farmer’s Market, we stumbled upon Dey Dey Farms, now our go-to vendor for grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chickens. The vendor stall lists their many products on a whiteboard and two words caught my eye — marrow bones. “DIY marrow?” I asked Martin. He was game (haha – no pun intended) and we selected a pound, approximately 4 cross-sections of the cow’s femur. The man behind the table told us that marrow is best consumed raw to really take advantage of its nutritional content, but I just could not resist the thought of gelatinous, rich marrow spread over toast.

Roasted Bone Marrow

Roasted Bone Marrow

Do-it-yourself roasted bone marrow is actually quite easy, and I wish I had learned that sooner. To me, this is the perfect hearty dish for a cold winter’s night.

Ingredients:

Marrow *

Sea salt & pepper

Dried parsley flakes

* For a light dinner or appetizer, we allotted a half pound per person.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Clean the marrow bones. Some people like to soak the bones to extract the blood but I haven’t had issues with roasting them as-is. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both of the cut sides of the bones. Top with some dried parsley and roast for about 20 minutes or until the marrow middles break down into a glistening gelatin.

Hot out of the oven!

Hot out of the oven

Serve with a nice, crusty bread au naturale or slice a baguette into crostinis. Use a marrow spoon or just any small spoon to dig out the gelatinous bits and spread them on the bread for a heavenly bite.

You could also whip up a lemon-dressed parsley salad, the traditional accompaniment for roasted bone marrow. For further decadence, serve a bone (or two) alongside a succulent steak!

Stunning

Stunning.

Bon appetit~!

our-growing-edge-badgeI almost always order roasted bone marrow if I see it offered on a menu, but this was my first time making it at home so I thought it would be perfect for this month’s example of my growing edge – the part of me that yearns to keep learning and trying new things and meeting new challenges. Thanks to Bunny Eats Design for inviting us to participate in the monthly blogging event for Our Growing Edge. :3