Binh Duong’s stir-fried large-stripped noodles. Photo by Sophinarath Cheang.
Most people in the community know about fast food chains, dine-in restaurants, and other places to eat. But they don’t realize that there are a lot of smaller, family-owned restaurants in our own backyards. Perhaps they’re not as recognizable as the fast food chains because they don’t have the luxury of corporate advertising dollars. These restaurants are located literally around the corner and, most recently, I got the chance to dine at a Vietnamese restaurant called Binh Doung in Cambodia Town.
Binh Duong is located on 2232 Anaheim Street, on the corner of Anaheim and Raymond. It’s a spacious restaurant that appears to be family-owned because of the age differences of the employees. Right when you enter, there is an altar, red with small statuettes, incense sticks, and (most likely) Vietnamese symbols on the back. The walls have large mirrors all around, giving the illusion of a bigger area to a space that is nice and cozy. All the tables there are for four or more people, so a family or large party is definitely welcomed. Binh Duong serves Vietnamese food but Khmer is spoken by the staff, so the food may be familiar to Cambodians as well.
I was joined by three other Voicewaves youth journalists and we ordered four main dishes, three boba drinks, and a Vietnamese-style iced coffee. All the dishes were topped off with cilantro which gives it an appealing look. Since I really don’t care for food of Asian origins, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the meal. But I found the experience to be a pleasant surprise.
The first dish I had was the noodle soup with beef balls. I liked the noodles. They were long, clear, and thin; they didn’t have much taste. It was the broth that gave the flavor. It was light and reminds me of a soup I would eat at a Thai restaurant. I found out that the broth was made from stewed cow and pig bones, green onions, and salt. The beef balls were balls of meat that were beef-flavored. These fit well in the soup, making it altogether gratifying.
The stir-fried large-stripped noodles with broccoli, carrots, bean sprouts, and bok choy was one of my favorites. It included vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, beans sprouts, and bok choy. I could taste the natural flavors of the vegetables, a hint of ginger, and the sauce is light enough that it doesn’t overpower the vegetables. I’m not a big fan of stir-fried vegetables but I really did enjoy this dish. I should mention that I ate it with hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce is a tangy, dark-colored sauce with a thick consistency. It has a kick to it but it’s not necessarily spicy. It blends very well with the food, making it very delicious.
Binh Duong’s chicken fried rice comes with a broth. Photo by Sophinarath Cheang.
The chicken fried rice was another one of my favorites. It has peas and carrots along with brown, red, and green onions. The chicken was chopped and probably sautéed with the rice. You can definitely taste the flavor of the three onions and they merge together creating a light but fulfilling taste. I don’t even like rice but this was good because of how it tastes homemade. It isn’t super greasy, unlike the other fried rice I’ve had.
The deep-fried chicken and rice was my least favorite dish. It’s deep fried chicken with rice and tasted similar to the chicken fried rice. The difference was that the chicken and rice were separate. It was probably the same recipe for the rice because it tasted the same but instead of cooking the chicken with the rice, they cooked it separately. I don’t think the chicken itself had much specialty to it. It was simple, so simple that I believe you could make it on your own and spice it up yourself.
The three bobas were coffee boba, thai tea boba, and milk tea boba. Boba are drinks with little beads of a jelly-like substance. They originate from Taiwan, I believe. All of them were cold, iced drinks. The coffee was made Vietnamese-style, using condensed milk and brewed much stronger than your everyday coffee. It’s not as sweet as a Starbucks coffee but it was a good pick me up for the morning. The milk tea boba is just basically milk and tea! It’s very sweet with a milky consistency. The Thai tea boba tastes like a Thai iced tea with bobas in it, nothing too special. Bobas in a drink make the drink more fun and interesting by combining liquid and gelatinous textures.
The service was pleasant and so was the restaurant but there was strong suspicion and distrust when I tried asking questions. I wanted to ask unassuming things like where they got the recipes from, how the place was established, and so on. When asked, they denied all access to any information. They seemed very startled by questions, so I left it at that.
All I know is that the name, Binh Doung, is a city in Vietnam. Most of the food offered at our local Binh Duong is similar, mainly by having noodles, rice, and vegetables — all of it is tasty. If you decide to go to Binh Duong, you’ll find that menus are printed in Vietnamese with brief English descriptions. Although the words are plain and unassuming, Binh Duong turns their humble ingredients into food and dishes that are flavorful and distinctive.