One of my favorite things about Southern California (and I’m completely biased) is the sheer density of food choices in a small radius. The area has quite a few established ethnic enclaves, one of them being the largest Vietnamese community outside of that country, centered right here in Westminster, California. This weekend I went to check out the most underrated summer food festival in Orange County–the Little Saigon Night Market.
The Little Saigon Night Market is hosted every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at the Asian Garden Mall, on the corner of Bolsa Avenue and Magnolia Street. The 2016 series runs through the weekends of June 17 to September 4, from 7 pm to 11 pm. Vendors and food stalls cover the entire front parking lot of the mall, while an entertainment stage keeps the mood going with performances from featured guests. The mall’s food court also stays open during this time, which provides even more food choices for the hungry. From the main cross-streets, it’s hard to miss the market–the lights, sounds, and delicious smells of barbecued meats are enough to make a pedestrian (and sometimes quite a few drivers) pause and redirect into the parking lot.
Now that I’ve sufficiently conveyed the pertinent information, time to move on to the food:
The grills operate non-stop, constantly refreshed with choice cuts from land, sea, or air.
You will want to make a slow circuit of the food stalls to check out who’s offering what, or ask people milling about where they got their food items.
There’s also a stall that does modern market favorites. Below are some ramen “buns” being toasted for a ramen burger.
But I think the strength of the market lies in the unique street food offerings from Vietnamese cuisine:
I really enjoyed the grilled snails and the somewhat controversial/exciting (?) chicken embryo (balut in Tagalog, trung vit lon or hot vit lon in Vietnamese.)
The snails were served with a spicy green oil; the balut with salt and pepper. Both plates came with a sprig of rau ram, or Vietnamese mint. These snails required a fork or chopstick to dig them out, and I had fun trying to drink the sauce out of the shells. The eggs were quite good on their own. I had a lot of fun experiencing these foods; I’ve had balut before, but the snails are an exciting new dish that I’d like to return to very soon.
My friends also bought some other Vietnamese snacks that were very good:
Left: banh khot, savory mini-pancakes (rice cake) with shrimp. Top right: bot chien, fried rice flour cakes with scrambled eggs. Bottom right: spicy pork sung (shredded dried pork) banh mi
This stall alone sold: fried pig tail, grilled sticky rice, grilled bananas, deep fried quail, grilled intestine, and that’s just what I see/remember/can identify here on this shot.
Desserts ranged from fruit cups, frozen coconut milk/fruit cubes, and the standard milk teas, boba, and jelly drinks. Up above is a coconut pandan waffle, and some plain taiyaki fish to be filled with a choice of sweet paste or ice cream.
Piece de resistance of the weekend is a taiyaki churro ice cream (mashed together by yours truly.)
The Little Saigon Night Market runs for two more weekends until September 4 this year. Come and try something new, celebrate the last few late nights of the year, and eat well! #repOC