RESTAURANT SPOTLIGHT -Phong Dinh
Baked Whole Catfish, Kangaroo, Alligator, and other Exotic Meats
By: Kristie H.
San Gabriel Valley staple Phong Dinh has reopened and it’s almost as good as before! Usually almost is just not good enough, but in this case I’ll take what I can get.
Phong Dinh has been the pioneer of Vietnamese baked catfish in the San Gabriel Valley since the early ’90s. Unfortunately since their move the catfish seasoning has been a bit off, lacking the multiple layers of garlic, oranges, and onions that used to plentifully coat the tray. However, even Phong Dinh’s catfish on its worse day is still better than any of their other SGV competitors on their best day.
Ca nuong, aka baked catfish, is the signature dish. The whole catfish is steamed and broiled resulting in a crispy outer skin. There is plenty of sauce and green onion that accompanies the catfish along with the rice paper, sauce, fresh herbs, cucumbers, pickled veggies and fresh bean sprouts. It’s topped with fried garlic and scallions, with onions and orange slices.
A small catfish starts at $35, serves 2-3 people, and takes a bout 15 minutes to make.
How to eat Vietnamese baked catfish:
Lightly dip your rice paper/banh trang into the warm water.
Add some fish, veggies, herbs, and other sides onto the rice paper to make you own do-it-yourself spring rolls.
Roll it up like a tortilla and dip it into the tamarind sauce.
For those adventurous diners, Phong Dinh’s exotic meats are still on the menu. They have various renditions of frog, quail, venison, goat, ostrich, and alligator.
Other must-order dishes for bizarre food lovers:
Grilled Ostrich Fillet
Braised Rabbit in Red Wine
Charbroiled Goat Spare Ribs
Alligator with Lemongrass & Chili
Unfortunately on my most recent visit when I tried to order their sliced kangaroo, marinated in black pepper and red wine grilled tabletop, I was told that they did not have any in stock despite it being on the menu.
For those adventurous eaters and catfish lovers, make sure to visit the new restaurant location.
Phong Dinh is located at 107 East Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel,
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