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t ravelerf oodie.wordpress.comhttp://travelerfoodie.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/experience-vietnam-without-leaving-orlando-at-da-lan-vietnamese-cuisine/Experience Vietnam without leaving Orlando at Da LanVietnamese Cuisineby Traveler FoodieIf you were around in the late 80s and is an action movie junkie, then you would have seen a host of D-ratedactors in a daring ef f ort to see who can spill more blood and f ire f aster in movies depicting the Vietnam War. Iwas captivated by every sight of people hovering over a bowl of steaming rice or liquid. I always wondered whatwere they slurping. Lucky f or me as the years went by I discovered there are actual restaurants that servedthese same f oods.Most major US cities has some sort of Chinatown or a splattering of Asian eateries. If you live in Orlando, weare lucky to have the delectable Mills 50 area which has seen a surge of restaurant growth. Amongst the new,there are still places that are tucked into tiny blocks and through passageways. I am yet to discover all of theselittle gems. But one such place with a sign that says “Vietnam Cuisine” recently caught my attention.Storef rontVIEW SLIDE SHOW DOWNLOAD ALLThe block that sits south along Colonial Dr. between Mills Ave. and Shine Ave. is especially interesting to me.Along Colonial Dr. there are unassuming storef ronts with entrances. If you were to go one block south andmake a turn onto Hillcrest St. there are parking spaces that lead to several passageways. Most of thesepassageways eventually lead back onto Colonial Dr. But along these passageways are shops, hair dressingsalons, tax accountants, caf es and restaurants.
PassagewayVIEW SLIDE SHOW DOWNLOAD ALLLook f or the sign that says “Vietnam Cuisine” hanging over a door. Walk in, turn lef t, f ollow this passageway tothe end. Pull open the door, there are a couple of tables there, walk f urther and to the lef t you are in the actualdining room with a counter. If you entered f rom Colonial Dr. you would be standing in the dining room.I keep ref erring to this place as “Vietnam Cuisine” but the name is actually Da Lan Vietnamese Cuisine as seenon the menu. Take a pick what you want to call it. I took my Sages along and they attested to the f ood’sauthenticity. For the record, the elder Sage and a younger Sage were born in Vietnam and knows the cuisinevery well. The younger Sage is f irst generation Vietnamese born in the US and is very f amiliar with the f lavors.It is very interesting to hear their comparisons.
The space itself is very small. There is a charming table f or two that sits in f ront along Colonial Dr. The otherf our top tables can be assembled f or small groups. There are also tables that can be set up along the backpassageway. The open kitchen window allows a view into the operation’s heart. To one wall is a ref lectivemirror that makes the small space appear larger and less clusterphobic.
Name: Spicy Hue Beef Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue)Description: One of the best Vietnamese noodle soups with origin f rom the Central town Hue. Spicy as mostHue dishes are, the dish has several variances. Da Lan serves the Southern version which adds blood custard,pork f eet, and beef tripe.Sage Opinion 1.0: My wif e’s f avorites.Sage Opinion 2.0: You get to add a touch of that ‘shrimp paste’ to the broth.Sage Opinion 3.0: It’s spicy f or me!TF: This dish was a burst of spicy goodness. The texture of blood custard is sof t and silky, pork f eet has it’srichness of chewy skin and tissues, while beef tripe has a chewy sof t mouth f eel.
Name: HerbsDescription: These herbs accompany the Beef Noodle Soup. One unique ingredient is the shredded bananaf lower.TF: Fresh and crisp
Name: Crab Spring Rolls (Cha Gio Cua Be)Description: Crispy Vietnamese Spring rolls with crabmeatSage Opinion 1.0: I wish dinners can see what is inside.Sage Opinion 2.0: It’s really crispy.Sage Opinion 3.0: It’s special with crabmeat because we usually see spring rolls with chicken or pork only.TF: Crisp on the outside, f ull of crab texture on the inside.
Name: Fish Cake and Dill (Cha Ca Thang Long)Description: Fish cake and f illet served with dills and shrimp paste. This is one of a must-try specialties ofNorthern Vietnamese cuisine.Sage Opinion 1.0: I am af raid the shrimp paste has a strong aroma.Sage Opinion 2.0: Maybe that makes this dish special.Sage Opinion 3.0: Yum! I love this shrimp paste though its smell might trick you.TF: This is a spectacle on the eyes and nose as it comes out on a sizzling skillet. The cake is tender andspongy with semi f irm texture.
Name: Shrimp Paste (Mam Tom)Description: Compelling, pungent, and stinky are some of the terms used to describe this sauce used inSoutheast Asia. Though made in a similar manner as f ish sauce, shrimp paste is thick like toothpaste andpurplish in color. For Western palates, it’s probably the hardest Asian f ermented seaf ood product to accept.Shrimp paste is of ten blended into f oods or dipping sauces. It earns the nickname as the Southeast Asianspicy umami ketchup.TF: This paste reacts dif f erently with all f oods. Some it enhances, some it overpowers. It is high in the noseand can lead to f eelings of distaste f or the f aint of heart. Although, if braved, it is a very unique experience.Sage 3.0 added this to everything!
Name: Vietnamese Iced Cof f ee with Milk (Ca Phe Da)/ Iced Milk with Cof f ee (Bac Xiu Da)Description: One is made with thick cof f ee and condense milk; the other is milk with a f ew drops of cof f ee.Sage Opinion 1.0: Bac Xiu is f or those who do not like cof f ee much, but want a bit of it f or f lavor.Sage Opinion 2.0: Not f or me!Sage Opinion 3.0: This is an adult beverage, I think.TF: Strong, earthy, nutty, musky f lavors.
Name: Salted Lemonade (Chanh Muoi)TF: Very salty and ref reshing
Name: Sticky Rice Balls (Che Troi Nuoc)Description: Sticky rice balls with hearty mung bean f illing in gingered syrup.Sage Opinion 1.0: Sometimes I see this served with a dash of sesame seeds.Sage Opinion 2.0: Wonder if the small balls have mung bean f illing inside.Sage Opinion 3.0: I like this without the coconut milk.TF: Mushy outer shell encase rich nutty mung bean paste. When mixed with syrup makes and amazing treat.Name: Rolled Crepes (Banh Cuon)Description: Vietnamese Rice Crepes with Minced Pork, Pork Terrine and Woodear MushroomsSage Opinion 1.0: This is a ordinary street breakf ast in Vietnam. Usually, it is f reshly made right in f ront of thediners. Simply served with the Vietnamese f ish sauce called ‘nuoc cham’.Sage Opinion 2.0: This place has the bestSage Opinion 3.0: I noticed that the beansprouts are poached f or this dish.TF: Each component of this dish stand on it’s own. Together they are a melody of earthy, woodsy, crispy,gooey f lavors and textures that melt well together.
Name: Broken Rice Platter (Com Tam)Description: It is usually served with grilled pork (either ribs or shredded) plus the Vietnamese dish “bì”(thinlyshredded pork mixed with cooked and thinly shredded pork skin) over broken rice. The rice and meat are servedwith various greens and pickled vegetables, along with a prawn paste cake, steamed or f ried egg, and grilledprawns. The dish sometimes comes with egg meatloaf .Sage Opinion 1.0: The portion at da Lan is huge.Sage Opinion 2.0: No way that I can f inish this platter by myself .Sage Opinion 3.0: The crispy bean curd skin is delicious.TF: The pork in this platter was well marinated with sweet and slightly salted f lavor, well cooked to tenderperf ection.
Name: Ox Tail Noodle Soup (Pho Duoi Bo)Description: Regular Pho noodle soup with ox-tailSage Opinion 1.0: I suspect that the broth has a great deal of MSG, but the presentation looks good.Sage Opinion 2.0: The picture on the menu is dif f erent f rom what is served.Sage Opinion 3.0: I am not a f an of Pho; I stick with my pan-f ried noodles.TF: I’ll agree with the MSG overload, but the oxtail itself was well cooked and cold be taken apart in one verytender bite.
Name: Pan-f ried Noodles with Seaf ood (Pho Ap Chao hai San)Description: Pan-f ried yellow egg noodles with seaf ood.Sage Opinion 1.0: Don’t care too much.Sage Opinion 2.0: It seems like they use the instant noodles f or the dish.Sage Opinion 3.0: I like the sauce, but I do not like the noodles much.TF: Seaf ood was perf ectly cooked, noodles and sauce had a nice sweet smokey wok f lavor.Here is a little gem tucked away f rom the mainstream and welcoming to all. Every though this place may seemvery ethnic, the staf f makes an extra ef f ort to accommodate. They take the time to make eye contact,acknowledge and are very ef f icient. How wonderf ul that we don’t have to leave Orlando to f ully experienceanother f ood culture.More images on my Flickr.