Great vegetarian at Chùa Giác Minh, Buddhist temple, East Palo Alto

I got there Saturday at around 2pm. There was still a big lunch crowd and people were milling outside the temple. I didn’t see the pandan coconut waffle. There were juice squeezing of sugar canes. I bought a soup with bittermelon wrapped around tofu with daikon. It was a great soup eaten both warm (in the winter) or chilled (in the summer if they have it). The broth was infused with the light sweetness of the daikon and a very mild and pleasing bitterness from the bittermelon. The daikon was very fresh. It was soothing and delicious. The tofu, as usual, was good and fresh.

This was the only item that I got because there was a big crowd surrounding the for-sale food table. Not speaking the language, and didn’t want to be very pushy on New Year’s day, I just pointed to this one item and settled on that.

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Yes, this past Sunday there were Buddhist temple pilgrimage organized tours. Giac Minh pagoda, our temple is the first temple out of the 10 temples that’s part of the organized tour.

Yeh…the pandan waffles probably ran out by 2 pm on Saturday. I was manning the sugar cane booth with my brother. My baby sister was the cashier/helper with the pandan waffle booth.

We were intending to offer the fresh squeezed sugar cane juice again on Sunday but I couldn’t purchase the fresh sugar cane. The Asian market that carried it closed during lunar new year. If the weather is warm and cooperating, I will most likely purchase the fresh sugar canes and have it on offer again.

As far as the handwritten special noodle soup of the day, I can try to decipher it phonetically for non-Viet speaking visitor :slight_smile:

  1. Vegan “boon hway”
  2. Vegan “boon mank jool” aka sweet and sour bamboo shoot noodle soup
  3. Vegan “boon mank kol” aka sweet and sour dried bamboo shoot noodle soup.

I thank current and prospective visitors in visiting our temple and if you see me around, do try to say hello. I usually wear either the red or jean apron :slight_smile: I typically try my very best to introduce or explain about the food to non Viet so you can be confidence and try our awesome offering.



What do you call that soup with bitter melon and daikon?

Will do now that I know how to look for you. I think you were quite busy handling the crowds seeking cane juices on Saturday!

Ha…thanks God you didn’t take a front shot of me. I’m extremely photo shy. The bitter melon soup is called bitter melon soup aka “kanh koh wah” in Vietnamese. The daikon is filler for the soup as we also cook our own vegetable broth.

Oh…yeh…the lady in the red jacket at the waffle station is also my friend, lol. Ok…I know most of the volunteers at the temple. Now that I’ve returned to working full time, besides major holidays, my usual volunteer day is Sunday, except when it’s Serve The Homeless day, which is on a Saturday.

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I visited the temple a few weeks ago as part of a small HO down. I forgot to post immediately, so specifics on some the dishes are hazy right now, but all were well prepared and delicious. A strong motivator to go there is that everything tastes to fresh— it’s so much better than what’s been sitting in the fridge forever at restaurants or at Sogu Tofu. The volunteers were friendly and helpful, and I look forward to returning soon!

My favorite dish was described by @sck in the original post as a sauteed/braised tofu dish. I believe the large planks were made up of layers or tofu skin, a Vietnamese counterpart to Chinese “vegetarian goose.” I loved how the aromatic broth was intense, but didn’t hide the flavor of the tofu skin.


Late report from me.

I hadn’t eaten that burrito looking tofu thing in your picture for a long time but was quite glad that I got reacquainted with it. Tofu infused with dill. Herbaceous, aromatic and homey.

I also liked the mango salad better this time around. Apparently the key was to dunk a much larger amount of sauce/ fish sauce into the salad, as a volunteer showed the way. I didn’t add enough the first time and so the salad tasted bland. This time the salad was more brightly flavored thanks to the additional sauce.

After the meal, a participant bought a bunch more of the food to take home. Glad the food was enjoyable.

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Great basil monk fruit okra soup. A little sour, a little sweet, and just a tiny bit of heat. The soup contains puffed tofu, pineapple, tomato, basil, pea sprout, monk fruit and okra. Great eaten cool or cold. Even though the days are still cool, it is very refreshing. The monks and volunteers got skills in making soups.

Fermented cranberries, ginger, and one other fruit. Interesting dessert.

Salad with noodles.

Precision in making the raw sesame balls. Look at that scale on the table.

Also saw fried egg roll with, I was told, banana in it.

A relaxing day at the temple, with the entire Bay Area somewhere else for Mother Day’s brunch.

Told by a volunteer that next week they were celebrating ‘middle of July’ and there will be free food. These folks are so kind and gentle.

I looked up the lunar calendar and I guess they might be referring to Aug 15 of the lunar calendar- mid autumn festival.


The latest refreshing summer soup, with tofu chunks, strips of tofu, mushrooms, veggie-pork skins and a thickened broth.

Imitation beef soup

Tofu dessert with ginger cane sugar. Tasted just right, not too sweet, and totally homemade.

Freshly squeeze cane juice. This was the machine that squeezed the juice:

These were the sugar canes planted on-site. Super-fresh:

They also had some other squash like vegetable planted:

And chiles:


Not sure what these were:


Their sliced ‘pork belly’ was pretty realistic, with both fatty and lean layers. They got the texture of the fatty layers pretty close too. The vegetarians next to our table said that this type of fake meat is not available in other veggie places.

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Had this sweet banana leaf wrapped dessert with sticky rice and what seemed like mushed red beans. It was fabulous and would make my dessert of the year list just behind Dyafa’s kenafeh.

Mildly sweet. Not really smoky but tasted a tiny bit so with the sugar used. Very quickly finished.

This fried sesame bread was hollow in the center, very well fried and barely oily and plenty fragrant.

‘Chicken’ pieces and noodle of the day.

Next sunday-8/19 is going to be birthday of Buddha’s mom. Told there would be many varieties of food. Should be a big crowd for those who are interested.

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10am today and the crowd hasn’t quite descended on the temple yet on the day of a birthday of Buddha’s mother. Lots of varieties of food.

I will write more later. The drink was refreshing and the fried sticky rice was great.

It all looks wonderful! Do they have little signs telling what various dishes are for those of us who are not familiar with the food?

Not really. The food is most cooked for the Vietnamese buddhist population. And they probably all know what the food is.

But usually the volunteers who runs the food station speaks good to some English, and they are so nice that one can ask them about each item and they are more than happy to explain to you what’s in it. Don’t let the lack of signs deter you from going.

I’ve gone there enough times that I don’t run into new stuff much any more. And everything I have come across is probably already described at some point during this discussion. So you wouldn’t be completely surprised if you go.

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3 recent meals at Giac Minh.

I needed to do a lighter meatless meal after a really heavy meal so I went to Giac Minh. Some dishes that I haven’t seen before on a recent visit:

Noodle of the day was a curry-based noodle soup. Mildly sweet curry with lemongrass.

Pickled vegetables.

Imitation crab meat soup in a thick gelatinous broth. Mildly sweet. Lots of cilantros. Since I like cilantros its a soup to detox the body.

Don’t remember what this was but I think they said its a potato dish.

The pandan waffle. I am not a waffle kind of guy. The very friendly volunteers / nuns offered me a small piece to try. Its pretty good.

Another meal had the pho. This was the first time I had a pho here. Every other time it was the round noodle. The pho was excellent. The veggie broth had a lot of umami.

The sugar cane drink, this time with kumquats:


The making of the pho:

Some dessert with coconut flesh, taro, seaweed, and i think coconut milk:

Fried dessert:

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A variation of the coconut milk curry noodle soup, but made with winter root vegetables- carrots, taro, sweet potatoes. Comforting.

This is a new to me item at Giac Minh. Basically tofu skins wrapped in a roll with some sweetish soy sauce based sauce, I believe. I didn’t buy it but someone got me a small bite to taste.

This is a new-to-me item. The griddled rice ‘bun’ was absolutely fantastic. The rice was a little cruncy, and the filling was a mix of mushroom and tofu and was a umami bomb. I got two, and had to go back to get 3 more.

What’s this?

Fried banana:

Gentleman making cane juice and pandan waffle.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold