Tet, also known as the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, falls on January 23 this year. Our own area’s Little Saigon is home to the nation’s largest Tet Festival. But during the rest of the year, the area is rife with incredible experiences and attractions that are poised to fill your soul with delight, intrigue, and really, really good eats.
Since Little Saigon is such a large, sprawling area – it encompasses portions of Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Fountain Valley– the thought of exploring its breadth can be a little intimidating; one may feel it rather difficult to figure out just where to begin. If you fall into this category, fear not. We have put together an itinerary for you. The following places and events serve as the perfect primer for you to discover and revel in this most enchanting section of Southern California.
January 27 – January 29
If you want to want to see the full pageantry of Vietnamese culture at its apex, you are in luck. Tet, also known as the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, falls on January 23 this year. This annual occurrence is the most popular and important holiday in Little Saigon, and they certainly know how to ring it in properly. This three day festival, sponsored by the Union of Vietnamese Student Association, will boast live music, various arts and crafts contest, games, food, and shopping kiosks to enjoy as you join the community in celebrating the Year of the Dragon with great revelry.
January 27: 3:00 PM – 10:00 PM
January 28: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
January 29: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Children (under 4 ft): $4:00
February 4 – February 5
For those Angelenos who want to enjoy Tet without having to make the trek all the way down to Little Saigon, have no fear. The city of South El Monte puts on its own two-day festival in conjunction with A Plus Education Center. Visitors can enjoy traditional dances, a fashion show, live entertainment, and a beauty pageant, as well as carnival rides and the wonders of traditional food.
February 4 – February 5: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
It may be easy to forget that Vietnamese culture contains a distinctive French influence, but it does indeed exist; a product of the 200 year connection between the two countries. No better is this influence more prominent than in the world of baked goods, where the art behind a perfect croissant and coffee pairing is of the essence. This Garden Grove bakery, nestled in the midst of a strip mall like so many businesses in the area, is the ideal destination to bear witness to the community’s very visible French connection.
The best way to get to know a culture is through their food. By that rationale, this bustling grocery store provides you with a wealth of essential information. Everything you can possibly imagine that you need in order to replicate Vietnamese cuisine at home can be found within the massive market’s walls, along with food items you may never knew existed. If you know how to turn on a stove, this place is not to be missed.
Don’t have time to explore all corners of Little Saigon? This large two-story mall that lay at the heart of the community essentially provides you with the Cliff’s Notes version of what the area has to offer. Jewelry stores abound in this location, offering a host of bling that ranges from watches to diamonds. On a related note, Valentine’s Day is less than a month away. Just sayin.’
There are two things you need to know about pho. First, it rhymes with “duh.” Secondly, it is the quintessential Vietnamese dish; a piping hot bowl of goodness consisting of broth, vegetables, and any combination of a protein, tofu, or rice noodles. In Little Saigon, this humble little establishment is considered by many to be the place to get a bowl of this simple comfort food staple.
So you’ve done the croissants and coffee thing for breakfast. You couldn’t inhale the delicious contents of that bowl of pho fast enough during lunch. Why not complete the trifecta of edible Vietnamese delights by stopping by this critically acclaimed venue? Chef Haley Nguyen’s menu is filled with modern gourmet Vietnamese dishes and traditional favorites, allowing guests to indulge in the wide scope of flavor that generates from this exquisite cuisine.
Rich Manning is a writer in Orange County. See more of his work at OC Executive.