There is no better way to learn about the cuisine of a neighborhood than to get the perspective of a local. Jen Luong grew up in San Jose and generously shares the following Vietnamese dishes of her upbringing and where you can taste them.
After the Vietnam War, a large population of Vietnamese people immigrated to the United States. With them, they brought great food and amazing culture. According to recent counts, San Jose, CA has the largest population of Vietnamese folks within the United States. So, if you’re looking for Vietnamese food, San Jose is the place to be!
Two of these San Jose Vietnam immigrants include my parents. I grew up in San Jose and explored all the amazing options around me. Our family would find ourselves going back to our favorites regularly. Whenever we had a craving for something, we knew which restaurant to go to. A lot of people know Vietnamese food for phở, but there’s a lot more to try.
If you’re exploring Vietnamese food, these are some key dishes you have to try — and the Luong family’s go-to spots. Of course, there's the staple pho recommendation, but there’s a whole lot more!
Pho is Vietnamese Soup made from beef or chicken stock. Often served with rice noodles and cuts of meat. (Editor’s note: To learn more, check out our Pho Origin Story)
Pho Y #1 is my family’s go-to pho restaurant. I grew up eating here. We started coming here because we heard from family friends—word of mouth. As we patronized it more, we even got to know the owner. This is still my favorite pho spot. Perfect for a cold day or when I’m sick.
Special Combo, Pho Y #1 Noodle House
This is my favorite. Eye of round steak, brisket, flank, fat brisket, tendon, meatballs.
This is made from thin, wide sheet of rice batter and then is filled with a mixture of meat, mushroom and vegetables. It’s poured and spread onto a hot griddle. Often comes with sides such as Vietnamese pork sausage, sliced cucumber, and bean sprouts. You dip it into fish sauce, a Vietnamese staple. I love the variety of textures, flavors and temperatures. This is good delivery option that travels well.
Bánh Tôm Chiên Khoai, Banh Cuon Tay Ho
Yam tempura with deep-fried shrimp on top served with special fish sauce and vegetables. Like shrimp and fries, but better!
Broken rice plates are a great starter dish for people trying Vietnamese for the first time. I usually recommend this to my uninitiated friends. It’s a pretty simple flavor profile. barbeque meats over broken—less-sticky—rice. My family usually doesn’t order this when we’re dining out. We can cook this at home.
Com Suon Nuong, Pho Tick Tock
They feature a full range of Vietnamese dishes, including a pretty cool deconstructed pho. This is the restaurant’s most popular rice dish, grilled pork chops over broken rice.
Many Vietnamese items have French influences and it’s obvious in the Banh Mi. Vietnamese sandwich famously made using french baguettes. For me, I alway get the special combinations that include pate. I love the overall combination of tastes and textures—a little oily, a little salty, a little peppery. The bread really matters—Crisp crunch outside, soft, warm insides.
Deluxe combination, Duc Huong Gio Cha
Come in a small and large size. Small costs $2.75! Small sandwiches are great for feeding groups.
This is beef stew served with choice of bread, rice, egg noodle, or fat noodle. This is one of my favorite dishes. I always get the french bread with the stew. I love dipping the bread into the stew. Soup is savory, with sweet carrots, super tender beef. Then I get the crunch of the bread. It’s very comforting.
Bo Kho (Banh Mi, Hu Tieu Hay Mi), Paloma Cafe
5-spice-marinated beef stew with sweet carrots, topped with basil, and onion, served hot with French bread, rice noodle or egg noodle. Find this dish under the Sandwiches & Bread section of the menu.
This is a dry noodle dish, no soup. It’s primarily seafood—shrimp in this case—with dried Vietnamese pork. This is more of a soy-based sauce, not fish sauce. Comes with a bowl of soup on the side. I get the flat noodles.
Hủ Tiếu Mi Dai Kho, Phu Hu Tieu Nam Vang Nem Lai Vung Dac Biet
Shrimp, pork and eggs and clear noodles without soup.
Garlic Noodles are a classic element in Vietnamese cuisine. Sizzle Spot features garlic noodles with a modern twist: they fuse Hong Kong, pan-Asian influences such as the sizzle plate and sweet corn with Garlic Noodles. I would add Parmesan Loaded Cheese Fries for an indulgent meal.
Beef Garlic Noodles, Sizzle Spot
Sliced premium beef served with garlic noodles and sizzle basics
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