“Trust me, you don’t want that,” says a cheerful (presumptuous!) waiter inside Eden Center’s Huong Viet. Not only do we want #8, but it’s the Best Thing on the Menu. Cue Iggy Azalea because #8, or “BÁNH CỐNG,” translates to “fancy fried shrimp cake.” Three billiards-sized balls arrive at the table with what looks like fossilized shrimp skeletons on top. Is this what he thought would freak us out? Puh-lease. One bite of fish funnel cake and we were smitten.
As with most dishes at Huong Viet, the appetizer comes with the holy trinity of Vietnamese cuisine: Mint, cilantro and fish sauce. Lettuce is also provided so you can tear off bite-sized fried fragments and wrap them up like Christmas presents you can’t wait for your significant other to open. The black bits are mung beans, which add a touch of sweetness.
We got no inquiries or protest upon ordering #71 or “BÚN THỊT NƯỚNG CHÃ GIÒ.” That’s because other than PHỞ and BÁNH MÌ, BÚN is one of the most commonly consumed Vietnamese dishes by Americans on ethnic eating adventures.
Silky rice vermicelli noodles rest on lettuce and fresh herbs. On top, super smoky grilled pork dances with grated carrots, scallions, crushed peanuts and spring rolls. Obviously, the dish requires a generous drizzle of fish sauce pre-consumption. But remember, the only thing worse than spilling fish sauce on your clothes is locking your keys in your car at an amusement park while babysitting eight-year-old twin boys.
After dining at Huong Viet, or one of the many Vietnamese eateries in Eden Center (Virginia), be sure to pop into some bakeries and delis to load up on treats to take home. Just about anything with sticky rice will do.
#8 not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.