Banh Beo at New Tu Do
Since we hadn't been back to Chinatown Vietnamese restaurant Pho Tu Do since it moved across the street and became New Tu Do, we stopped by today for lunch. We were happy to see that the place's enthusiasm for colored lights and sparkly things is unchanged, and ordered a handful of dishes.
Unfortunately, crab with rice vermacelli in shrimp paste soup has a broth that tastes of nothing at all, much less shrimp paste. Steamed rice crepes stuffed with wood-ear mushrooms and ground pork (banh cuon) are fine once doused in fish sauce and sprinkled with Vietnamese basil. But without doctoring, the crepes are thick and gummy and the filling improbably bland.
Thank goodness, then, for the banh beo, which are tasty and cheap ($5.95 for a large platter). The steamed rice cakes are topped with mashed mung beans, ground dried shrimp, scallions sizzled in oil, and fried shallots. A dash of fish sauce brings it all together, the combination of jiggly and mild, crunchy and pungent, sweet and salty making a wonderful mouthful.