Little Saigon has so many treasures to reveal. Often, it’s just a matter of timing and proximity. On my most recent visit to the Vietnamese culinary Mecca, I met Shaoyin Phung, who sets up Tuesday through Sunday starting at 9am in front of Ngu Binh. My favorite central Vietnamese restaurant in Little Saigon resides in a strip mall that’s owned by Phung’s good friend. He wakes up at 3 am and rolls two kinds of Glutinous Rice Balls ($2) by hand in the shape of ping pong balls. This dessert also goes by Banh Deo Nep in Vietnamese and mochi in Japanese. Fluffy orbs are ultra fresh and contain either peanut and black sesame or egg custard, both accented with sweet minced coconut. The peanut version is stained green with pandan.
Phung grew up in Hong Kong and worked at China Tang restaurant inside The Dorcester hotel in London. He’s also proud of his ability to roast meats. Phung is hoping to open a bakery in Little Saigon and understands that he may need to diversify from two types of mochi. He swears by his honey roast pork and may offer sandwiches. In the meantime, his fantastic glutinous rice balls are proving to be an easy sell by Ngu Binh.