Virginia – 20133 Miles Driven.
The Eden Center located in the western Virginia just outside of Washington D.C., is a place that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s a 200,000 sq. ft. Vietnamese strip mall, that made me feel as close to being back in Vietnam as I ever have since visiting there.
Built as a place to serve the surrounding Vietnamese-American community, there are restaurants, banks, grocery stores, travel agents, and even Vietnamese street signs in the car park. As I found on a number of occasions the people who work there don’t necessarily speak English, and tourists are welcomed but not worshipped.
Thanh Trúc is a small, relatively non-descript restaurant, situated in the part of the mall known as Saigon West. The inside of the open plan restaurant is painted in the same turquoise colour as the outside. About half of the dozen or so tables were occupied, and the only two people working there were a Hispanic waiter who didn’t appear to speak much English and an elderly Vietnamese lady, Tot Vo, who didn’t speak any. Tot Vo, whose daughter Truc Tran owns the restaurant, was in charge of the cooking. Sensing that I was struggling to make a decision on what to eat, Tot Vo helpfully pointed to number 3 on the menu, Com Tam Bi Suon Cha Trung. Decision made.
Thanh Trúc is known for its broken rice dishes, and I ordered mine served with grilled and shredded pork, meatloaf, and egg. I knew my food was ready when I heard the familiar sound of an egg being fried, and sure enough minutes later a giant and very colourful plate of food was presented to me. The thinly sliced grilled pork chop was sweet and sticky, compared to the drier shredded pork. What I thought to be some sort of rice noodle, mushroom, and egg pancake like concoction, was actually the meatloaf. I guess there was pork in that too, and it definitely tasted better than perhaps it sounds. Another helpful diner ordered for me a bowl of the beef broth, lighter and more fragrant than pho, and synonymous with the southern Vietnam where Tot Vo’s family are from.
An exasperated Tot Vo must have finally got fed up with my many questions; she ended up telephoning her English-speaking daughter to serve as a translator. At least I was able to pass on the message that I loved her cooking.
Thanh Trúc is located at; Eden Center, 6795 Wilson Blvd #29, Falls Church, VA 22044. Telephone; + 1 (703) 534-6988.