When eating at Ngu Binh restaurant in Westminster, the question isn’t what to order but rather, simply, “Large or small?”
There is one reason and one reason only this restaurant is packed day and night: bun bo Hue. It’s that hearty beef noodle soup made with a red chili broth and amplified with cubes of jelly made from beef blood, plus meatballs and pork knuckles.
In most other Vietnamese restaurants, the spiciness of this soup is left up to the customer. The base level is usually very mild. But at Ngu Binh, on a scale of 1 to 10, the base level registers somewhere around 5 or 6. If you want it even hotter than that, there are jars of red chili sauce and whole bird’s-eye chilies on every table. Help yourself.
If you can’t handle spice, this probably isn’t the soup for you. And if that’s the case, I feel sad for you. This is a remarkable bowl of soup. It comes with the requisite mound of fresh mint and assorted herbs, plus shaved banana blossoms and sprouts for you to employ, or not, as you see fit.
This is now officially the bun bo Hue to beat in O.C.’s Little Saigon.
Ngu Binh, 14092 Magnolia St., Westminster; 714-903-6000
A version of this article originally appeared in the Orange County Register. To view more of my work for the Register, check out the archives. For more dining and travel inspiration, I invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.