Just as Inception explores the idea of a dream within a dream, this gem of a dish is a study of a mochi within a mochi. Savory dried shrimps are wrapped within a chewy steamed mochi before stuffed inside another steamed, then deep fried mochi. This double-decker creation is then topped with a fragrant blend of green onions, fried shallots and savory dried grounded shrimp.
Once you take a bite, your taste buds will travel to a dream state of flavors and textures. There’s the shatteringly crunchy exterior that tastes of caramelized toasted rice—similar to the crispy rice bits stuck to the bottom of Bibimbap stone bowls or Paella pans. The mochi then gives way to its hot, elastic steamed interior flavored with shrimp. To take it to the next dream level, dip the creation into the provided nuoc mam spicy fish sauce. Chew, chew and repeat.
The only thing that will bring you back to the present is the kick—the realization that you have ran out of Banh It Kep Banh Ram.
Fortunately, there are other dreamy dishes offered by Ngự Bình. Since they feature Central Vietnamese cuisine, you won’t find the usual suspects of pho or springs rolls.
Instead, give the Mit Xuc Banh Trang a try, which is a warm jackfruit salad topped with herbs, crushed peanuts and slices of pork sausage, to be eaten with rice and sesame crackers. This dish also plays with your perception as this is the complete opposite of a sweet dish. The jackfruit is savory and tastes not unlike a hybrid of bamboo and mushrooms.
There’s also the Banh Beo, the little saucers of tender steam rice cakes topped with chicharon, ground shrimp and green onions. Spoon a little sweet nuoc mam and enjoy.
While the two previous dishes are ethereal, the Mi Quang is bold and in-your-face with flavor. Golden colored turmeric noodles are showered with crunchy rice crackers, plump shrimps, pork, herbs and banana flowers before bathed with a spicy pork based broth. Have a glass of iced water close by—you’ll thank me later.
A big thank you to The Ravenous Couple for introducing me to this new world of Vietnamese cuisine and the Gastronomer and Astronomer as my fellow explorers. Without you all, this gastronomic meal would not have happened.
Ngự Bình Restaurant
14072 Magnolia Street
Westminster, CA 92683
Phone: (714) 903-6000