San Jose is a city that makes me feel nostalgic. It's also the "city with the most Vietnamese Americans in the United States and outside of Vietnam" as mentioned on Wikipedia. When I was a kid, I remember frequent trips to San Jose with my family to go grocery shopping and to visit specialty Vietnamese shops. Back in the late 80's and early 90's, Asian grocery stores were very limited in the East Bay and San Jose was the only place to find all the things you need in order to make an authentic Vietnamese meal.
Pretty much all the food places I went to as a kid, I still visit every few months to fulfill my Vietnamese food cravings. The best part is, all my favorite places are still in business (and the creepy/cool thing is I can see how much the store owners have aged since).
I've always loved trips to Lion Plaza, an area that contains all Vietnamese businesses along with some great bakeries and restaurants. Lots of good memories with my oldest sister who used to take me here almost every single weekend to get my coconut juice and sugarcane juice fix.
Last Saturday, Patrick and I were in the South Bay to visit our friends Jennifer and Patrick to meet their new cute baby. While we were in the area, we decided to make a stop over in San Jose for some delicious Vietnamese food. I can make tons of recommendations for great food places to visit but it would be impossible in one post, so I'll highlight the places from my last visit and save the rest for next time.
1824 Tully Rd. San Jose, CA 95122
There was a period of time for several years when we used to get the mocha cream cake at Van's for every celebratory occasion. I'm not sure why we stopped but I loved that cake - still do. In more recent years, I always make a stop over to Van's when I want to get baked sweets. I also love this place for their cheap prices (ie, a cream puff is only $0.60!). On this visit, Patrick and I were excited to see they started selling macarons with very unique flavors that we haven't seen anywhere else, so we ordered pandan, durian, and taro macarons. I also got my usual of two banh choux (cream puffs).
The durian and taro macarons were so delicious. The flavors were represented so nicely, not overwhelming. I wanted more! We both felt while the pandan macaron was good, it had an odd vegetable-like taste so we were not big fans of that. The cookie texture was a bit on the dense & chewy side, which I really liked.
The banh choux is a small basic cream puff that comes with a choice of vanilla or durian filling. The exterior is lightly crisp and the interior is soft and moist. The price of $0.60 for one is just unbeatable.
2895 Senter Rd. Ste 110. San Jose, CA 95111
Banh cuon is a flour sheet roll dish. It's usually filled with grounded dried shrimp or beef and woodear mushrooms. It's served with two types of sausage patties (the half moon looking things), banh cong (deep fried shrimp and mung bean bread), and nem chua (fermented beef), Garnished with fried shallots, garlic, cilantro, cucumber, and mint. Then you dip or pour your nuoc cham / fish dipping sauce and indulge! This is my favorite place to have banh cuon other than my mom's. I've tried a few of the other popular options and it just wasn't up to par to Tay Ho.
CD Bakery & Deli
1816 Tully Rd. Ste 198. San Jose, CA 95122
This is my absolute favorite place to visit in San Jose (and honestly, probably 90% of the reason I drive out that far) because I love their fresh sugarcane juice (nuoc mia). I have a routine for this place - I come in and order a half gallon of sugarcane juice for home along with a large cup to drink while I'm waiting. There are some times when I shop around and end up getting one of their delicious green waffles, pate chaud (beef patties), jumbo fluffy cupcake, egg tarts, and baked taro buns. The store has a great selection of snacks and deli items. I really love this store - the owners appear humble, sweet, and thankful for your business.