I lied in a column last week when I compared Indian puri to the fried elephant ears you get at Disneyland. Turns out that they don’t even sell elephant ears at Disneyland. I wasn’t lying maliciously, though—I’m just ignorant. I found out because an incensed friend yelled at me for implying that Disneyland would stoop so low as to sell elephant ears: The main fried-food-that-you-will-regret-eating option at Disneyland is actually a churro.
What does that have to do with this column? Well, that same friend goes to Disneyland regularly, but she wants to eat something a little more substantial than churros, however appetizing they may look. Here are a couple options for a pre-Disneyland (or post-Disneyland) food stop:
1. Little Saigon (Quan Vy Da)
Some of America’s best Vietnamese food is lined up—literally—10 to 15 minutes from Disneyland in Westminster. I haven’t had the chance to actually go through the hundreds of restaurants in the area, but my new favorite Vietnamese sub-cuisine is food from the Hue province (central Vietnam) that was actually eaten in the Vietnamese imperial court. The concept of Hue food is a little similar to the idea of Chinese dim sum–the meal is composed of a series of small dishes. Today, snack food is sold on the streets of Hue, but you can still safely say you’re eating like a Vietnamese emperor.
There are a few options if you want to go out for Hue food, but the restaurant I happily wound up eating at is called Quan Vy Da. Even if you’re somewhat knowledgeable about Vietnamese food, you’ll have trouble navigating its menu.
The snack options range from cool to weird. The coolest order was the bánh bèo, steamed rice cakes with dried shrimp flakes, scallions, crispy pork skin, and fish sauce served on a bunch of tiny, individual plates. The tastiest order was bánh ram, fried sticky rice cakes with caramelized shrimp. The weird and tasty orders were the bánh lọc, steamed shrimp dumplings wrapped in banana leaves that left a confused but somewhat wonderful feeling in my stomach, and the banh nậm, long strips of steamed rice noodles that are hidden in folded banana leaves and served with pork and shrimp.
You should also order the bún bò Huế, a spicy lemongrass soup that has a cult following among Vietnamese food fans. While phở has received all the fame as the mainstream Vietnamese noodle soup, bún bò Huế is the soup that is actually used to judge a restaurant in Little Saigon. Quan Vy Da’s version is not the best, but it’s certainly good. Its mì quảng—yellow rice noodles served with pork chops, quail eggs, and shrimp with fresh herbs and some light broth—could be even better, though.
2. JINYA Ramen
Authentic ramen is difficult to get, even in Southern California. Ramen fanatics actually got so fed up with the American ramen shortage that they decided to import Japanese chefs once a year to Torrance for a weekend noodle fair.
But one of the few places to get the real stuff is at JINYA, a small chain with a few locations around Los Angeles. One of those locations is in Costa Mesa, around 10 minutes from Disneyland. JINYA’s ramen soups are delicious—handmade noodles with a garlicky, oily broth that’s been simmered in pork for hours. You can’t go wrong with any ramen order here, but the tonkatsu black ramen is more than worth it. JINYA also has a very tasty ramen version of Sichuan’s dandan noodle.
Quan Vy Da. 9950 Bolsa Ave. Westminster, CA 92683. (714) 531-2905
JINYA. 1450 Baker St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626. (714) 424-0377