Thien An: Tussling with 7 Courses of Beef in Little Saigon

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Vietnamese Restaurant Orange County

Thien An touts a plain exterior, but bombards diners with flavorful beef.

Neon musical notes on worn walls don’t typically inspire confidence, but design is an afterthought in Little Saigon, a wide swath of Orange County that’s home to a quarter-million Vietnamese-Americans and some of the most inspired Asian cuisine in the country. One of the region’s specialties: Bo 7 Mon, seven courses of beef. Thien An didn’t offer my first run-in with Bo 7 Mon, but it was slightly better.

Thien An offered a staggering amount of Bo 7 Mon for only $14.99, easily feeding two people. It was also good to learn that the courses of beef vary from restaurant to restaurant.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Thien An started us with Goi Bo Tom Thien An – Thien An special beef and shrimp salad – combining strips of beef, firm shrimp, crispy bits of onion, mint leaves, julienned carrots and chewy white tripe bits that really helped to balance the texture.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Next up: Bo Nhung Dam – beef fondue. We dropped rosy slices of beef tenderloin into the bubbling vinegar broth. The thin, lean beef cooked quickly, turning brown in the water. Stay attentive so you don’t overcook your tenderloin.

We dipped dry rice paper sheets in hot water to moisten them. This allowed us to build tacos of sorts, loading on greens, mint and basil, ladling on fish sauce and piling on raw vegetables for crunch, including sprouts and fibrous unripe bananas. We also had marinated carrots and cucumbers at our disposal.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Another interactive course: Bo Nuong Vi. We received raw, marinated beef slices.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Marinated beef layered with minced lemongrass seared in an instant on the griddle.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

We received a sampler platter of three different ground beef options.

Bo Nuong La Lop had to be the plate’s highlight. This preparation was similar to Greek dolma (stuffed grape leaves), but with zero rice filler. Instead, the heavily spiced beef was wrapped in an aromatic Hawaiian “la lot” leaves and grilled.

Thien An described Bo Nuong Mo Chai as “grilled jelly ground beef sausage mixture with spices and charbroiled.” These well-seasoned sausages were wrapped in a thin layer of hog fat that caramelized and melted into the sausage, keeping it nice and juicy. The fat itself was a little off-putting, but it definitely added flavor.

Bo Cha Dum was a steamed, loosely packed meatball studded with nuts, mushrooms, spices and glass noodles. On top: plenty of scallions and cilantro. This mild option was a surprisingly satisfying, especially when piling the crumbly fall-apart beef on a crisp shrimp cracker.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

We finished with Chao Bo – a “special beef and rice soup” loaded with thin-shaved onions and scallions. The peppery porridge contained very little minced beef, but the flavor was detectable.

Vietnamese Food Orange County

Aside from sausages, Thien An’s food was inherently mild, so they provided plenty of condiments: ground peanuts, lemongrass squiggles, red chile sauce and a pitcher of fish sauce.

So far, my experiences with Bo 7 Mon have led to a nearly unrivaled success rate. Two meals, two posts. There clearly needs to be a third attempt in Little Saigon.

Thien An: Tussling with 7 Courses of Beef in Little Saigon


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

i heart 7 course beef! I wonder how this place compares with vietnam house and vietnam restaurant which are closer to home. I’ve found favorite courses here and there but still don’t have a favorite place for 7 course beef that’s top notch all 7 courses. the steamed meatball is my faaaav 🙂 I would love to try this place!

I had a good first experience at Vietnam Restaurant, but didn’t try their Bo 7 Mon. Sounds like a return trip is in order.

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