For more about Brodard, check out these reviews by Elmomonster and Wandering Chopsticks.)
One of Little Saigon's worst kept secrets is Brodard Nem Nuong Restaurant. It's also one of the best hidden. A bustling oasis for local Vietnamese food lovers, the restaurant is incredibly difficult for first-time visitors to find. Even Google Maps will lead you astray.
However, those who persevere in their search will find Brodard's signature dish, Nem Nuong Cuon (Pork Spring Rolls), well-worth the effort. A specialty of the house, these chewy tubes of grilled pork paste and herbs are *the* reason people flock to the restaurant.
The key to Brodard's Nem Nuong Cuon is the perfectly balanced ratio of each of the ingredients. Although the finely-minced pork paste sausage is undoubtedly the star, the additional ingredients are present in just the right proportions to complement and enhance. The result is an exquisite spring roll that can't be matched.
Surprisingly, Brodard's Bi Chay Cuon (Vegan Pork Skin Rolls) may be even better than their grilled pork counterparts. With nutty sweetness and an addictive crunch, they've managed to hold their own on the almost exclusively carnivorous menu.
Fried tofu shreds and lurid orange bean noodles are used to replace the traditional pork skin. A curled sheet of deep-fried tofu skin provides great sound effects while a healthy scattering of crushed peanuts and sugar add little explosions of flavor throughout.
To keep up with the demand, the restaurant employs an army of aunties whose deft fingers skillfully assemble each roll at an alarming pace. Their hands flit to and fro amidst their mise en place like those of skilled pianists. There's little wasted movement as they perform their culinary magic.
For those who need more than a few plates of rolls to satisfy them, Brodard offers a truly ambitious selection of entrees. While none of their dishes are as masterfully made as their rolls, most of them are quite good. The Mi Quang, a spicy soup of egg noodles, shrimp, fish cake, and deep-fried pork ribs, deserves an honorable mention. The broth gets its traffic cone color from turmeric, but is milder than it appears.
The Mi Kho Dac Biet (Special Dry Noodles) is another respectable dish. Egg noodles, BBQ pork, shrimp, quail eggs, chicken, and stewed pork offal are served at room temperature on top of a pool of savory garlic sauce. The ingredients are tossed together by the diner with a choice of fresh herbs before eating. A bowl of scalding hot broth is served on the side to be sipped between bites of noodles and meat.
My favorite entree is Brodard's Bun Cha Ha Noi, a bowl of grilled pork patties and pork belly swimming in a thick fish sauce flavored with lime, garlic, and chilies.
The flavor-packed meat is eaten with generous helpings of rice noodles, fresh herbs, and pickles.
The way that I was taught to eat Bun Cha Ha Noi, a delicious technique my Vietnamese friend admitted is considered a bit uncouth, is to line the bottom of a serving bowl a little bit of rice noodle. Tear some herb leaves and lettuce into small pieces and cover the noodles. Add some of the pork and a few papaya pickles, top with a generous spoonful of the garlic chili lime sauce, stir, and slurp. It's a noisy and a little messy, but damn good. Repeat as necessary.
Brodard Nem Nuong Restaurant - Their rolls make the search completely worthwhile. Start with a big plate of their Nem Nuong Cuon and work your way down the menu from there. A lot of people never make it past the rolls.
Nem Nuong Cuon (3) - 4.50
Bi Chay Cuon (3) - 6.00
Mi Quang - 6.50
Mi Kho Dac Biet - 6.25
Bun Cha Ha Noi - 6.95
Brodard Nem Nuong Restaurant
9892 Westminster Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92844
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