If you go to Golden Flower Veggie during the lunch rush, be prepared for a bit of a wait. The tables are impeccably clean and primed for seating people quickly, arranged in neat rows with numbered cards sticking out from condiment caddies like white flags. Today, I’ve arrived when most folks are clocking out and resigning their fate for the next hour or so to the 405. So, it’s just me, two surly men in a corner, and a Buddhist monk drinking hot tea.
As with many Vietnamese restaurants in Westminster, Golden Flower Veggie offers a stunning amount of vegetarian fare. The menu adheres to Buddhist cuisine, and you’ll often see monks in dusty saffron robes dining here. There’s also a generous hot-food bar and to-go items such as bánh tét chay and bánh giò, banana leaf-wrapped cylinders and pyramids with sticky rice and delicious, savory fillings.
If you’re staying a while, you might start with the bánh xèo, a large, crispy, thin rice pancake embedded with sliced turnips and tinged with turmeric, then folded over a medley of mung bean sprouts, carrot strips, lettuce and mushrooms. The center is punctured with a large knife, and it comes with an enormous plate of fresh purple and green shiso, sheaths of lettuce, and kinh giói, saw-edged Vietnamese balm leaves with a minty aroma. Wrapped in a bundle of lettuce, the crispy pancake is immediately transformed, and the rough texture of the shiso and crunchy bean sprouts paired with the cool balm and spicy-salty nuoc cham sauce creates the most satisfying bite. You can also get the bánh xèo cuón, which is essentially the former lovingly wrapped in slightly chewy rice paper.
The bôt chiên, a street-food favorite of students in Vietnam, is done exceptionally well here. The turnip cake is cut into rectangular chunks and fried into addictive golden-crusted pillows with custardy insides. It’s enveloped by a scrambled egg with sliced green onions; served on the side is a pile of cool, shaved papaya and a vinegar-soy sauce.
You’ll find a list of noteworthy drinks here, too. There’s Thai milk tea, of course, but also peanut butter milk, mungbean pandan and rau má—a dark viridescent juice made from delicate pennywort leaves. The corn milk, which comes in a plastic bottle alongside a small glass of ice, is sugary and mild, thin, yet magically creamy.
If I could call a soup home, it would be the bún riêu. Silky vermicelli noodles, tender chunks of tofu and ground “crab” act as vessels for the rich, sour broth. Biting into the soft tomatoes floating to the surface releases such a cascade of tangy, juicy sweetness that you’ll find yourself fishing for those shiny red fruits. It just might be the dish worth driving through 405 traffic for.
Golden Flower Veggie, 14942 Bushard St., Westminster, (657) 266-0388; goldenflowerveggie.com.
Charisma can usually be found eating cake with a cup of hot coffee for breakfast or walking around the OC with Toto, her awesome corgi-chihuahua.