Lunar New Year means it’s dragon dancing time at Wichita restaurants

Saigon owner Han Bui always dresses up -- and sometimes even shoots off fireworks -- during Lunar New Year.

Saigon owner Han Bui always dresses up — and sometimes even shoots off fireworks — during Lunar New Year.

It’ll be a festive weekend at many Asian restaurants in Wichita. The Lunar New Year begins on Friday, and several local Asian restaurants will be celebrating with dragon dancers and more. Among them:

1. Saigon, 1103 N. Broadway: This Vietnamese restaurant invites dragon dancers into the restaurant every year, and this year, the dancers will be performing over the lunch hour on Friday. The dancing starts at noon. The staff also will be passing out “lucky money” on Friday and Saturday.

2. Oh Yeah China Bistro, 3101 N. Rock Road: This east-side Chinese restaurant will have three dragon dancers performing at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

3. Pho Special, 2409 E Pawnee: This Vietnamese restaurant will have dragon dancers on site from noon to 12:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.

Know of any others? Let me know.

Dragon dancers will be at Saigon over the lunch hour on Friday.

Dragon dancers will be at Saigon over the lunch hour on Friday.

Lunar New Year: Time for dancing and dining

The Lunar New Year is nigh, and a couple of local Asian restaurants will be celebrating with colorful, dance-y displays. (It’s the year of the sssssssssssssnake, by the way.)

On Saturday, Oh Yeah! China Bistro at 3101 N. Rock Road will be putting on a traditional lion dance.

Traditional dancers at Saigon.

It’ll start at 1:30 p.m. and is believe to bring good luck and fortune to the business. Call 316-425-7700 for more information.

Also, popular local restaurant Saigon at 1103 N. Broadway, which specializes in Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant will have cultural dancers in the restaurant at 11:30 a.m. and again at 6:30 p.m on Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, call 316-262-8134.

New banh mi place will open soon

North Broadway is a good street to frequent if you love Vietnamese food.

In a few weeks, a new restaurant called Kimlan Banh Mi Sandwiches will open at 1035 N. Broadway in a former Pizza Hut building. It’s right next door to the fabulous Little Saigon restaurant at 1015 N. Broadway and right down the street from the legendary Saigon, which has operated for years at 1103 N. Broadway.

The business is owned by the former owners of Kim Huong, the Vietnamese restaurant that operated in the Little Saigon space until 2010. It will specialize in banh mi sandwiches, made with grilled Vietnamese meats on crusty French bread with crispy veggies and herbs.

Owners are busy each day working in the building, and several readers have asked about it. I’ll update the blog when the opening date draws near and the owners share the menu.

Three Vietnamese food headlines

My Tho's beef stew

Over the past year, I’ve realized something: My favorite food in Wichita is Vietnamese food.

I don’t know when it happened, but I think it was somewhere in between my discovery of the existence of banh mi sandwiches and my first bite of beef stew at My Tho. Now, I crave the fresh, basil-y, grilled meat fabulousness of Vietnamese food constantly. Lucky for me, there are plenty of places in Wichita to get it.

Today, I have three snippets of Vietnamese news to share.

1. My Tho update: A reader named Don wrote today to ask me when My Tho was ever going to reopen. The Vietnamese restaurant at 500 E. Central closed early this summer for remodeling, and although owners expected to have it reopen by June, they’re still working. They need about 10 more days, the owners’ son told me today. When they get back in, customers will find a repainted, refloored, rearranged restaurant with more room for seating. I’ll keep you updated.

The banh mi from Little Saigon

2. Little Saigon review: In case you missed it, Wichita Eagle Dining Panel member Sigrid Trombley this week reviewed one of my other very favorite Vietnamese restaurants: Little Saigon at 1015 N. Broadway. I finally got around to trying this place about a month ago, and now, it’s all I think about. The restaurant is big and bright and makes great food.

3. Saigon No. 49 recipe: A reader named Debbie wrote this week asking me to dig up the recipe we published for Saigon’s No. 49 back in 2004. Owner Hanh Bui provided the recipe for the dish, a favorite among Saigon’s customers, as part of a special holiday package in the paper. Here it is:

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into pieces about 1-inch by 1/2-inch by 1/4- inch thick
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 lb. rice vermicelli noodles
1 tablespoon oil
3 cups shredded lettuce

Saigon owner Hann Bui and his famous No. 49

2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup sliced green onion
4 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Sauce:
1/4cup lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 jalapeno, chopped
Shredded carrot, optional

DIRECTIONS
Mix hoisin sauce, soy sauce, garlic and pepper. Place chicken in marinade while preparing vegetables and sauce. Make sauce by mixing lime juice, fish sauce, water, vinegar, sugar, jalapeno and carrot, if using. When ready to cook, prepare noodles according to package directions. Heat oil in a skillet or wok. Pour chicken and marinade into the skillet and stir-fry until done.

Among four bowls, divide lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro, noodles, onion and chicken. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and sauce and serve.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS.

Question of the week: Best restaurant products for home use?

Pat and Don and their amazing corner-cutting pizza crust.

At last night’s fun dinner at Pat and Don Hysko’s house, Pat shared her secret about buying Knolla’s pizza dough raw whenever she wanted to make homemade pizza. Her theory: If a restaurant can sell you something it takes a while to make (or that you can’t make any better) and it’s inexpensive and good quality, why NOT cut a corner when you can?

I realized that I do that with several things. If I make Pad Thai, for example, I purchase spring rolls from Saigon. You can’t make naan for your Indian meal better than Passage to India can. Buy it there! My friend, Kim, always has several bottles of Le Monde’s fattouch salad dressing in her fridge. And who doesn’t buy N&J’s pitas when serving a Mediterranean meal?

Are there any restaurant products that you like to buy to use when you’re cooking at home? Let me know what they are and why you like them so much.

Share your find in the comments section below.

Happy New Year

Here’s my friend Jaime Green’s annual video created from the colorful and noisy New Year’s celebration at Saigon, 1103 N. Broadway. Enjoy…

They’ll dance while you dine

If you click on this picture and blow it up, you will see my friend Nancy's head in the upper right hand corner. Jaime Green shot this last year at Saigon, 1103 N. Broadway.

A couple of local Asian restaurants will soon be offering traditional cultural dancing to entertain their diners.

One is Sit @ Thai Bistro, which has recently begun an every-Friday-night traditional dance show. From 6 to 7 p.m. at the restaurant’s west side location, 7603 W. 21st St., a professional Thai dancer from Bangkok performs.

Monday is the Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year, which is celebrated by many countries. It’s the Year of the Dragon, and local Vietnamese restaurant Saigon, 1103 N. Broadway, will celebrate as it does every year with traditional Dragon Dancers in the restaurant around noon. Check out the picture above if you doubt how well this spectacle accompanies a #45.

Sign gone at Saigon

And a new one is in its place.

Fans of Wichita’s flagship Vietnamese restaurant at 1103 N. Broadway may have noticed during the past several weeks that the place was sign-less. Some killer wind attacked a few weeks ago and did the old sign in.

But a new, yellow-er one is now in place. And it looks pretty wind resistant, doesn’t it?

Incidentally, I found out on a recent visit that Saigon owner Hanh Bui is the coach of a Vietnamese soccer team that’s apparently pretty talented. There he is, the official looking one in the front row.

Hanh Bui: Master of the No. 49 and of the soccer field.

Vietnamese coffee: An underappreciated summer treat

When I first moved to Wichita, the same smart people who introduced me to Vietnamese food also introduced me to Vietnamese coffee.

If you don’t know about it, you should. Although it’s a calorie bomb, it’s a decadent treat, and as my coworker Suzanne can attest after I shared mine with her yesterday, an instant energy booster.

Vietnamese coffee (ca phe sua da) , available in most Vietnamese restaurants around town, is made most often with a dark-roast coffee like Cafe Du Monde’s coffee and chicory. Servings are brewed individually in a metal French drip placed over a glass cup that contains a layer of sweetened condensed milk. Once all the coffee has dripped into the cup, it’s stirred, then poured over ice.

My friend Jill brought one to me at work yesterday that she purchased to-go from Tsunami, a favorite restaurant of hers at 6254 E 37th N. It was conveniently packaged in a plastic cup with a sealed cellophane. It was huge and only $2. I always have my Vietnamese coffee at Saigon, 1103 N. Broadway.

Anyone else out there a Vietnamese coffee lover?

Tacos have replaced pho on South Hillside

What once was at My Canh...

A reader named Ron sent in this question over the weekend:

“I drove by 2959 S. Hillside and found a Mexican food restaurant.  Is there another address for My Canh?”

Sadly, My Canh, a delicious Vietnamese restaurant I reviewed back in 2007, closed its doors about a year ago. Nhung Nguyen and Johnson Tran re-opened the restaurant at 2959 S. Hillside in 2007 after having closed, moved and reopened it twice before. (Maybe they will again? We can hope…)

The good news: The business that took over the space is called Restaurante Tienda Rochel. It’s a family-owned business that’s half grocery store, half restaurant. It specializes in breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes prepared by owner Rafaela Rochel and her sisters. Look for dishes such as heuvos rancheros, tortas, burritos, shrimp cocktail, and on weekends, a whole grilled chicken that’s been marinated overnight.

Meanwhile, Ron, if you need some suggestions on good Vietnamese restaurants to help you with your pho craving, I recommend My Tho, Pho Hot Bistro, and the classic Wichita Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon at 1103 N. Broadway.