Its pretty hard for a Vietnamese restaurant to stand out in the very crowded San Jose Vietnamese food scene when the city has so many restaurants serving food from several broad categories- pho, bun bo hue, com tam, banh mi, lau. What caught my eye about Vit Dong Que was the fact that they specialize in duck (vit), and its a restaurant serving food from Huế, in Central Vietnam.
Their menu is divided into a few sections- a page for duck- noodles, porridge, salad, hotpot; a page for chicken- noodles, porridge, salad, rice plates, a section for Hue specialties like bun bo hue and banh beo.
I tried the bun mang vit (A1), duck and bamboo shoot with vermicelli noodle. Pretty good noodle with a good flavored broth.
The duck is served on the side. Plainly poached, though ducks’ flavor is generally deeper than chickens’, with rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) for seasoning.
Chao goi vit (A9)- duck porridge with duck salad. The porridge had a flavorful base with some fried garlic and shredded herbs sprinkled on top. It had the innards of the duck underneath- kidney, gizzard. Pretty good.
Humongous duck salad came with rau ram, poached duck, fried garlic, purple/ green cabbage, banana blossom and a sweet sour spicy dressing. Not a big fan of raw cabbage in general. The dressing was pretty spicy.
Bun bo hue. The restaurant wasn’t very busy during the weekday lunch. So I had a chance to talk with the owner about their bun bo hue. He said that he simmered the bones for 12 hours to obtain the broth. He said that he’s from Hue and recreated the proper flavor profile of a Bun Bo Hue. I mentioned the popular and nearby An Nam. He responded that the owners of An Nam were from southern Vietnam and their bun bo hue was not a rendition that reflected how bun bo hue was done in Hue. He proceeded to also discuss how different herbs were used in different Vietnamese noodle soup to create a flavor and heat balance. Duck (a warming meat)- rau ram (a cool herb). Use the ‘wrong’ herb, and the noodle soup would not taste right. The concept of heat balance is common in Asian cooking, though it can be a rather foreign concept in Western cooking. He also said pho used basil. Bun bo hue used mint, etc. Though sometimes I notice a number of these are used in a single bowl of pho.
The bun bo hue at Vit Dong Que definitely tasted different, and came with crab/ shrimp ball, beef tendon, blood cubes, beef, etc. and plenty of mint, cabbage to stir into the soup. The broth tasted slightly hot and a more herbal/ floral. To this eater from outside of Hue, I prefer the An Nam version.
Side effect- drank water all afternoon…