In this latest episode of “Off Menu,” Food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson visits Orange County chef Shawn Pham, formerly of the restaurants Simbal and Fiona, for some of the best Vietnamese food in the country. Shawn, who grew up in Orange County, takes Lucas to Bien Hen in Westminster for some classic Vietnamese drinking food — razor clams, spotted escargot and an enormous grilled catfish. They also go to Banh Cuon Luu Luyen in Garden Grove, where Delena Ta runs a small family-owned operation that specializes in banh cuon, or Vietnamese rice sheets.
The guys chat about eating and drinking culture in Vietnam, growing up Asian American and appropriation in food, and eventually end up in Seal Beach with Shawn’s family. He makes — not without some trepidation — some modern, Vietnamese-inspired dishes that his parents are trying for the very first time.
Everything you need to know about banh cuon, Vietnamese rice sheets
If you’ve been to Tokyo, you know that finding a restaurant can be even harder than wrangling a reservation to one, even if you have an exact street address, even if you’re with a friend who knows the neighborhood fairly well.