As Little Saigon refurbishes itself—as new, hip, non-Vietnamese restaurants run by the second generation open and landlords spruce up tired storefronts and replace aging marquees—places such as BBQ World are comforting, even historical. No need here for advertising, gimmicky two-for-one deals or fads-of-the-month: The barbecued ducks hanging from hooks under heat lamps at the store’s entrance are all the marketing it requires. Oh, and the plastic bags, with illustrations of a plucked duck and chicken flanking a gigantic pig on a tray.
BBQ World is one of the few butcher-only shops in Little Saigon, a place where you pick up meat and virtually nothing else, where most orders are by the pound. You can get a simple lunch of two choices of meat and rice for a bit less than $7. (The resulting mounds can feed an office drone through a workweek.) But do order by the pound. A menu translates most of its offerings, but take someone versed in Vietnamese or Chinese to decipher all the treasures. You can order birds merely chopped up, but it’s better to have faith in BBQ World’s creations. Salted chicken puckers lips; steamed chicken goes down as smooth as porridge. Heated trays show off the day’s specialties: You might find furiously spiced spare ribs or dozens of duck or chicken feet sitting in vats of soy sauce. Whatever you choose, someone will chop it up for every order. BBQ World even stocks barbecued quail and turkeys, for those whose poultry palate extends beyond hens and ducks. And though its chefs don’t bake them, it also features racks of fine baguettes, banh hoi (the rice-noodle cakes customarily eaten with barbecued meats) and massive bánh da tom, the sesame-seed crackers that are more pork rind than anything bread-based.
But start with the pork. Slabs of fried skin sit behind the food counter; a glimpse inside the kitchen finds fresh hog carcasses in the refrigerated area, awaiting cleavers. Even more appealing, however, is the fully prepared pig usually sitting in a pink box near the window, a new order ready for pick-up; if one isn’t there, the owners keep large pictures of the same scene taped to the wall, much like bakers keep albums of their best birthday cakes. I’ve yet to try the whole hog at BBQ World, so I can only describe its different manifestations: crunchy skin, sweetly herbed meatballs, pork barbecued to a ruby-red skin, spicy sausage, velvety blood. Hog heaven, indeed.
BBQ World, 13918 Brookhurst St., Ste. A, Garden Grove, (714) 590-9394.
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This column appeared in print as "Meat, Meat, Meat, Meat."