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How to do a Vietnamese food crawl in the San Fernando Valley



#Vietnamese #meals #crawl #San #Fernando #Valley

Jeannie Mai Jenkins orders meals like she’s giving a TED Discuss, with whole authority, confidence and gumption. Sitting at a desk at Pho So 1, a bare-bones restaurant in a strip mall in Van Nuys, she grips the laminated menu and factors excitedly to a bowl of pho.

Jenkins, finest often known as one of many Emmy-winning co-hosts of the daytime speak present “The Real” — which ended its eight-season run earlier this yr — has made numerous appearances as an brisk red-carpet trend knowledgeable on the Golden Globes and the American Music Awards. However meals, she says, is at all times central to what she does.
She at all times needed her personal meals present, and not too long ago landed her dream job internet hosting “America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation,” a cooking competitors collection now streaming on Amazon Freevee.

“I’ve been ravenous for a possibility like this,” she says. “To really be within the realm of meals now makes me really feel like a dream has lastly been achieved.”

10:37 a.m. Pho So 1

The Van Nuys department of Pho So 1 restaurant, Jenkins’ first vacation spot on a three-stop Vietnamese meals crawl, is dwelling to her favourite bowl of pho in addition to her mom’s.

“Once I moved to L.A.,” she says, “the 2 houses I may afford on the time, one was 25 miles away from this restaurant and one was 5 miles. I picked the nearer one instantly.”

In Vietnamese, Jenkins asks the server for a bowl of Dac Biet Xe Lua, a mixture pho with uncommon slices of steak, flank, tendon, tripe and rice noodles. She needs the slices of uncooked beef on a plate on the aspect somewhat than served within the soup so she will management the cooking time. And she or he needs additional tripe in a bowl with sizzling broth. She would really like the accompanying bean sprouts warmed in order that they don’t settle down the soup. And she or he needs a bowl of nước béo, the fats and oil they skim off the highest of the soup whereas cooking, which they use to marinate diced inexperienced onions.

That is simply the directions for the pho.

She then factors to a photograph of crisp spring rolls and asks for an additional cup of nước chấm . She turns the menu over and peruses the rice dishes. Not discovering precisely what she needs, she builds her personal plate, requesting a charbroiled pork chop with a slice of meatloaf, shredded pork skins and a fried egg. Oh, and a few additional nước chấm with that too.

Our server furiously writes in his notepad, then hurries to the kitchen.

Jenkins is the primary to confess she’s not a meals knowledgeable. However for her, “Vietnamese meals is life,” she says. Through the years, she’s made it her mission to turn out to be a form of culinary ambassador, introducing her meals and tradition to everybody she encounters.

A woman in sunglasses, a green top and a yellow head scarf smiles outside a restaurant.

Jeannie Mai Jenkins waits exterior the restaurant Bun Me for her banh mi sandwiches.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Occasions)

In her YouTube collection, “Hello Hunnay,” pronounced in order that the “nay” drags right into a character all its personal, she cooks, or somewhat watches her mom, Olivia Tutram (a.ok.a. Mama Mai), prepare dinner, and extols the virtues of Vietnamese meals.

Whereas we watch for our order, she offers me her ideas for selecting a “legit” Vietnamese restaurant, ideas she shared with greater than 1 million viewers in a YouTube video that went viral two years in the past.

“No. 1, at all times go together with a restaurant that has a quantity after it,” she says. “It simply signifies that they go the old-school means, so that you’ve received some grandmas and grandpas and a few uncles within the kitchen.”

No. 2, search for a laminated menu. Then search for Vietnamese writing and plenty of photos.

“I don’t wish to see ‘noodle bone broth soup.’ I wish to see numbers and Vietnamese writing,” she says. “And preserve your Instagram-perfect pictures to your self. I wish to see uncle capturing these together with his little previous Canon.”

If Jenkins is explicit about the best way the pho is ordered, she’s equally explicit about the way it must be eaten. She reaches for a caddy of condiments stocked with the holy trinity of pho seasoning: hoisin sauce, sambal and sriracha. She takes a small ramekin on the desk and pours me some hoisin sauce, then attracts a cheerful face with some sriracha.

After a couple of minutes, a parade of plates lands on the desk. Jenkins instantly pulls out her telephone.

“Wait, maintain on,” she says. “I have to take a selfie.”

She holds her telephone with an outstretched arm at a downward angle and makes use of her different hand to slip her excessive ponytail to 1 aspect. She straightens her Gucci headband and flashes a megawatt smile. Her completely manicured fingers snap a number of pictures.

“I take a selfie each time I eat as a result of I simply get so excited,” she says. “OK, now we are able to eat.”

Our pho bowls are crowded with slippery rice noodles, chunks of tendon and ribbons of tripe. Jenkins encourages me to attempt the soup earlier than including condiments. It’s intense and complicated with that first hit of star anise within the meaty broth. I’d be completely satisfied to slurp it by itself, however she suggests a squeeze of lime, a handful of recent herbs and a scoop of the hoisin and sriracha completely satisfied face.

A person uses chopsticks to eat from a bowl of pho.

Jeannie Mai Jenkins demonstrates find out how to eat a bowl of pho on the restaurant Pho So 1.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Occasions)

Pho was a staple meal for Jenkins rising up in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom San Jose home, which was at all times filled with brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Many have been kinfolk whom her mother and father sponsored for visas when the prolonged household — on her mom’s aspect within the south and her father’s within the north — hadn’t been in a position to depart Vietnam on their very own. f With so many kinfolk round, there was at all times one thing cooking on the range.

We attempt the bubbly, golden fried spring rolls, lined up like logs on the plate subsequent to lettuce leaves, recent herbs, pickled radish and carrot. She takes a lettuce leaf and begins constructing a wrap with one of many rolls and among the pickles. She provides a squeeze of sambal to her nước chấm , dunks her roll and takes a giant chunk.

We end the meal with Jenkins’ bespoke rice plate. In a single nook sits a big pork chop atop a pile of shredded pork skins so long as noodles. Subsequent to the pores and skin is a slab of meatloaf. There’s a mound of rice within the center, some pickled cabbage, sliced tomato and cucumber and two fried eggs with crisp edges. Jenkins will get to work slicing away from totally different parts on the plate, crafting particular combos on her spoon.

“The nice, superb factor about Vietnamese dishes is that each chunk is totally different,” she says. “There’s by no means a dish that tastes the identical with every chunk.”

12:37 p.m. Bun Me

Our subsequent cease is Northridge’s Bun Me, about 18 minutes north in one other buying heart with slim parking areas. It’s time for banh mi, a mode of sandwich Jenkins ate virtually every day in San Jose as a snack after faculty or at any time when she was in want of a fast meal.

On the subject of banh mi, she has excessive, particular expectations. She needs a toasted baguette that’s not too arduous — it must be a pleasant, tender cushion for the filling. The bread additionally must be slender. She doesn’t like vast baguettes. She needs pork roll, loads of pickled greens (carrots and radish), and she or he wants the yellow-tinted mayonnaise. (“Not from Kraft.”)

“I at all times get the one with all the pieces in it,” she says.

We order the Bun Me deli particular and the Particular Bun Me of the month. The primary is what Jenkins would think about the one with all the pieces in it, a toasted baguette unfold with mayonnaise and pâté, full of slices of pork roll, a heap of barbecue pork, pickled carrot and radish sticks that spill out from the bread together with a tangle of recent cilantro, sliced cucumber and jalapeño. The latter sandwich swaps the pâté, pork roll and barbecue for charbroiled pork.

“Once I open it, I’ll know immediately if you’re the actual deal,” she says. “I’m anticipating actual baguette bread, not one thing from Erewhon however a straight-up French baguette frivolously toasted, unfold with mayo.”

She unwraps the Bun Me deli particular and begins nodding her head enthusiastically, her ponytail bobbing wildly behind her.

A person holds a sandwich.

Jeannie Mai Jenkins digs right into a banh mi on the restaurant Bun Me in Northridge.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Occasions)

“OK, OK, OK, OK, OK,” she says, her pleasure constructing with every OK. “I’m supplying you with, on seems to be to this point, I’m giving it a 9.”

She goes to take a chunk after which abruptly drops the sandwich.

“I forgot to take a selfie,” she says.

Click on.

“That’s good,” she beams, crumbs sticking to her lip gloss. “That’s actually good. I give it a 9.5 as a result of the flavors hit, the crunch, the freshness, the tart of the pickles, and it’s tremendous porky.”

As she finishes the primary sandwich, she pops the highest on a pastel-colored can she’s introduced together with her to lunch. It’s a boozy glowing tea drink referred to as Owl’s Brew, a current addition to her rising arsenal of foods and drinks initiatives. Jenkins signed on as chief model officer for the drink model in February 2021.

A woman in sunglasses smiles while holding a drink.

Jeannie Mai Jenkins sits exterior Bun Me restaurant in Northridge.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Occasions)

“It’s made with pure botanicals and brewed tea,” she says, “so I can drink it and never really feel like I’m paying for it later.”

She digs into the charbroiled pork sandwich, nods, then presents some corrective criticism.

“It wants extra acid or one thing tangy,” she says.

Although she says she didn’t do any meals analysis or prep work for her internet hosting gig on the “ATK” present (“my ardour for meals was all I wanted”), she does say she realized so much on the job.

“The factor I realized from capturing ‘ATK’ is how a lot meals has to have a yin and a yang, like candy, bitter, salty,” she says. “This has umami nevertheless it’s lacking its yang. Perhaps a little bit drizzle of rice vinegar.”

1:08 p.m. Vinh Loi Tofu

After we attain our remaining cease, Vinh Loi Tofu in Reseda, tucked into the nook of our third buying heart, proprietor Kevin Tran greets Jenkins with a hug and a “Howdy, sister.”

Tran tells us to sit down down, asks how hungry we’re, then disappears into the kitchen.

Jenkins began frequenting the restaurant about 5 years in the past. She’s extra relaxed than she was on the first two stops, and she or he sits down with none requests or directions.

“I often don’t order after I come right here,” Jenkins says. “Kevin is aware of what I like.”

As we watch for our thriller dishes, Jenkins explains what drew her to the brand new cooking present. The premise is 11 contestants vying to be the subsequent forged member of “America’s Check Kitchen.” After a collection of challenges, the winner earns a spot on the present, $100,000 and a cookbook deal.

With so many culinary-based competitors collection on the air, Jenkins believes it’s the variety of the contestants, and the truth that she is among the few Vietnamese American personalities on tv, that set “ATK” aside.

“The very first thing I seen about ‘ATK’ is the variety,” she says. “I noticed so many several types of folks and tales and cultures that I haven’t seen on a cooking present earlier than. Illustration is so vital relating to sharing your delicacies in order that when folks consider American staples, they consider tamales, banh mi and pho and so many different issues.”

A bowl of soup.

Kevin No. 1, a vegan soup on the restaurant Vinh Loi Tofu within the San Fernando Valley.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Occasions)

Tran emerges from the kitchen carrying a steaming bowl of soup he merely calls “Kevin No. 1.” Squares of tofu bob round within the broth alongside sliced mushrooms and bean sprouts.
“I get this each time,” she says. “It’s all of your favourite issues about Vietnamese meals in a single soup and you’ll solely get it via him.”

It’s a tackle considered one of her favourite dishes, bún riêu, a seafood soup sometimes made with tomato and crab. Tran’s broth tastes just like a traditional tom yum soup, with a salty, bitter spine and plenty of citrus.

Then Tran brings out a plate of deep-fried vegetable dumplings smothered in a candy barbecue sauce; a plate overflowing with a combination of stir-fried noodles and rice that he says is considered one of Jenkins’ brother’s favorites; spring rolls crammed with tofu; and a plate of chilly vermicelli noodles dressed with sliced tempeh and a plant-based nước chấm-like dressing made with a candy canned coconut drink, soy sauce and sambal.

Barbecue fried dumplings on a white plate.

Barbecue fried dumplings on the restaurant Vinh Loi Tofu within the San Fernando Valley.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Occasions)

Click on. Jenkins takes her compulsory selfie, then reaches for a spoon.

“I assume we’re not going to wish dessert,” she says with fun.

We didn’t.

Two halves of an unwrapped sandwich.

A banh mi on the restaurant Bun Me in Northridge.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Occasions)

Eating places featured on The Crawl: Pho

Pho So 1, 6450 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 989-6377,

Bun Me, 9420 Reseda Blvd., #5, Northridge, (818) 993-0438

Vinh Loi Tofu, 18625 Sherman Manner, #101, Reseda, (818) 996-9779,