Tuesday, May 5, 2009
De 7 Mon: Seven Courses of...Goat?
Westminster--ground zero for Little Saigon. Forget the filet mignon pho, when I'm here, I want the gritty cheap food. I want the restaurant that doesn't have English translations for its dishes. I want to be served a bucket of ice and frozen mugs when I bring in my own beer. What I want is Seven Courses of Goat at Binh Dan.
After my clumsy introduction into Seven Courses of anything Vietnamese with my Bo 7 Mon dinner, I was enthusiastic when Wandering Chopsticks offered me a chance to eat with a Vietnamese professional. Most people have heard of the Seven Courses of Beef or the slightly rarer Seven Courses of Fish, but I've never encountered goat prepared so many ways. However, Binh Dan specializes in goat and mon nhau dishes, simple food meant to be eaten with alcohol. They also source their goat locally from a ranch (farm?) in Riverside.
1. Tiet Canh - Congealed goat blood with liver and peanuts
While the first course was certainly not shocking to me, I wasn't thrilled by it. Contrary to my barbarian instincts, I don't typically like the taste of blood. It generally has that overwhelming iron taste, similar to liver, that I can do without. This plate of blood, eaten with banh trang me, toasted sesame rice paper, had hardly any flavor at all. Given the lack of taste, I could do without the crimson Jell-O.
2-3. De Nuong/De Nuong la lot mo chai - Grilled goat/Goat wrapped in betel leaves and caul fat
These two courses served together were more familiar to me than some of the other dishes. The grilled goat had similar flavors to the common grilled pork chop found in most Vietnamese restaurants. The wrapped goat was similar to one of the Bo 7 Mon courses, though Binh Dan dried out the meat by overcooking it.
4. De ca ri - Goat curry
According to WC, Vietnam has only one type of curry. Go figure. Goat seems to go naturally with curry, probably so the sauce can cut into the gaminess of the animal. I've seen curried goat in a few West Indian cuisines too, notably Jamaican. We ate the curry with plain rice noodles, though I would've preferred rice instead. Picking at the tendons in the bones of the goat in the stew was particularly satisfying.
5. De nhua man - Goat stew
I swear this is not the same dish as the last one. It certainly took me awhile to deduce that I had not accidentally photographed one bowl twice. WC couldn't identify what was in this stew, but I certainly didn't taste the heavy curry of the last dish. The soup was thinner, meant to be drunk, unlike the curry.
6. De tiem thuoc bac - Goat with Chinese herbs
I can't remember this dish too clearly. I'm not a fan of Chinese medicines so I probably didn't have that much of this bowl. It certainly smelled like a Chinese herbal store.
7. De xao lan - Stir-fried goat
As I mentioned before, I think goat is commonly paired with curry to cut down the gaminess; however, the goat at Binh Dan didn't have any strong flavors that would need the curry pairing. This stir-fry preparation reminded me of the dog I ate in China years before I started blogging. Both goat and dog are similar in flavor to pork.
De luc lac - Shaking goat
Done with the seven courses, we nonetheless ordered two more supplemental goat dishes to get even more variety in our meal. I was actually surprised that so many of the 7 courses preparation were soup based. This is a common Vietnamese dish generally made with beef. It's termed "shaking beef" due to the agitation of the wok during the frying process. Served with a saucer of lemon juice, salt and pepper, this was simple and delicious.
De vu nuong - Stir-fried goat udders
At this point I was slightly disappointed that the meat wasn't nearly flavorful enough to stand out as anything besides a half-step above lamb. I wanted something gamey as hell and hearty. Something that couldn't be interchanged with beef and be near indistinguishable. I got my wish with the goat udders. Intensely "goaty" and chewy, I enjoyed picking at this plate. The slightly charred edges gave a pleasant crispy texture while the meat was tough enough to promote proper mastication, but not so much to tire your jaw. Certainly the first time I had goat udders, but knowing how delicious it is, I might just have to search out other animal udders too.
Overall, a unique experience that I could only get in LA/OC. Well, that and Vietnam, where I'm actually planning to go in June. Hopefully, I'll get enough Vietnamese in me by then that I won't be gastronomically lost going from Saigon to Hanoi.
Thanks to WC for inviting me. Check out her experience here.
See what Kevin had to say here.
10040 McFadden Ave
They aren't too amiable to non-Vietnamese, so it might be hard to navigate without an interpreter.
$16.50 pp for 7 courses of goat