It’s that special time of year that hits close to home for many people close to Chinese or Vietnamese culture. I grew up in Orange County, California–the home of Little Saigon, where the famous Tet festival is held every year. Now, I’m 3,000 miles away on the other side of the country in Miami, Florida where the closest thing I can get to an ethnic community is Little Havana. It’s lovely, but I’m certainly not going to see any red envelopes in that neck of the woods. With the Lunar New year coming up on Monday, Feb 8, 2015, my little Vietnamese heart aches for home, and as a local (until recently), I am the perfect trip planner for Orange County. You’re going to want my advice especially, because LIttle Saigon will not even be hosting the Tet festival this year!
Chinese New Year is the Lunar New Year is Tet
It was painful to hear that my hometown would not be hosting the Tet festival for this Lunar New year. It ranks up there amongst the Orange County fair with carnival rides, games, and delicious food. Women and children would dress up in their best Áo Dài(traditional Vietnamese dress) to get in for a discounted price. But alas, OC fairgrounds is not having the Tet Festival, so where to go and what to do?
OC Noodles for Longevity
In the Chinese culture, it’s lucky to eat noodles for the new year to represent longevity. The longer the noodle, the better. Hence, this Lunar New Year post is all about some of my top noodle places in Orange County. It’s not the traditional Tet festival fried fair, but the food quality will be much better.
A Great Pho Restaurant Does Not A Great Eggroll Place Make
Did you know that when it comes to Vietnamese food, you have to have the specific dish in mind that you want to eat and then choose the restaurant accordingly? What do I mean? I mean if you want Pho, you need to go to a Pho place. If you want Cơm tấm(broken rice dish), you have to go to different place that specializes in it. My family has a go-to restaurant that has decent Pho and other dishes, but I would never go there for the eggrolls. Sure, it may end up on the menu, but unless the restaurant specializes in it, the dish just won’t taste as good. So, get your group to pick a dish down below and I promise it’ll be the best noodles to bring in the New Year!
Pho Pho Pho. You’re wondering where to get Pho.
Honestly guys, there are a lot of other Vietnamese dishes to rock your socks. But since I know you want to know, the best places to get Pho in Little Saigon is either Pho 45 or Pho 79. Just make sure you don’t pronounce it like “foe”. It rhymes with “duh.” Duh.
I’m not talking about the Chinese spring rolls that are fried. Why not? It’s their holiday, you say. Well, it’s ours too.
These are Vietnamese spring rolls which are bigger, fresher, and lower in calorie. 😉 I am including this in the noodle post because the vermicelli noodles are wrapped up inside the rice paper along with the rest of the ingredients. Many Vietnamese families will host a Tet feast with spring rolls amongst the many dishes. The most famous place to get Gỏi cuốn (spring roll usually with shrimp and pork) and Nem Nướng̣ (roll with sausage and fried center) is Brodard’s.
Whole Baked Catfish
It’s also considered to be auspicious to have fish for the new year! Make sure it’s whole, and have the head of the fish facing the eldest members. The best place to get that plus your noodles is Cali Huong Viet. Don’t be alarmed by their few ratings on Yelp. This place is the best to get Cá Nướng (a whole Catfish). It’s baked instead of fried, they give lots of side dishes, and the owners try their best to make everyone happy. You eat this dish by filling up the rice paper with the noodles, veggies, and fish like a spring roll.
Egg Noodles with Duck
This dish is probably somewhere both in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. You get chewy eggs noodles swimming in a flavorful broth and a roasted duck leg. The broth at Mi La Cay is savory and slightly sweet with a fried onion flavor.
So if you are not in the mood for Chinese or Vietnamese noodles, you should still get your noodles in by having the best Pad Thai I’ve had in Orange County. I highly recommend Thai Nakorn because their sticky, saucy Pad Thai will definitely please Pad Thai lovers. In addition, if you are vegetarian like my sister, their dish will still please the same palate senses. They are able to still make flavorful, sticky, sweet pad thai without using fish sauce. It’s a big win right here.
So there you have it. You don’t need the Tet Festival to get your Lunar New Year grub. Fill the year of the monkey with good fortune and longevity by eating delicious noodles while you are around the Orange County area. I’m happy to have given you my local tips and where to get the best food near Little Saigon. If you want more insider tips from a trip organizer, click here to see our trips happening right now!
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Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!