Vietnamese restaurants in the Westminster/Garden Grove area comprise one of the richest pockets of ethnic cuisine in the United States. There is no single best Vietnamese restaurant in Orange County, only places that do certain dishes better. “Food to go” type places are popular in American-Vietnamese communities because they offer a Saran-wrapped simulation of street food as well as quick, filling meals for the overworked and underpaid immigrant.
Phuc Loc Food to Go specializes in that most familiar and comforting Asian-American snack: the egg roll. That is not to say that Phuc Loc is limited to Americanized Vietnamese food. Most customers coming through the door are Vietnamese expats picking up more authentic regional snacks. You might be in line behind someone stocking up on chao long, an innards-based rice porridge that is a taste of home. As for us, well, we grew up eating egg rolls.
Phuc Loc egg rolls are the best around, stuffed with a firm, peppery filling of pork. What makes them stand out is their crunch. The hard, brittle shell flakes off as you bite. These rolls beckon you to reach back in the bag, much like potato chips. They are little, two bite affairs, so if you order fewer than five per person, you will just be torturing yourself. If you’re really hungry, double that number. They’ll hand you a paper bag full. Don’t delay eating them. Allowing them to steam in the bag diminishes their crunch.
Besides the famed egg rolls, Phuc Loc always has a few tempting traditional Vietnamese snacks wrapped by the register. They make for easy parking-lot picnics. The spring rolls are refreshing, especially the simple, quite herbal, roast pork spring rolls that come with a tangy fish sauce dip instead of the sweeter brown sauce served with most other snacks.
Grilled meatballs are quite tasty, and have a cartoonish cartilaginous bounce to them. We thought lotus stem salad, a jumble of shrimp, pork, celery, and herbs, would be a fresh choice, but alas, it was wilted and quite messy to eat on the road, so we ended up focusing on other items.
A word of caution: avoid the coffee. Nearly every storefront in Orange County sells Vietnamese Coffee, and most brew a better cup than what Phuc Loc serves. In fact, the sandwich shop in the same shopping center a few doors down makes a much better cup.
Other than egg rolls, our favorite thing to get at Phuc Loc Food to Go are the multi-colored arrays of sweet sticky rice or xoi dua. This colorful, gummy snack is a huge, festive improvement over the tasteless cotton candy sold at the nearby parks. When you combine a plate of the sweet glutinous rice with shatteringly crunchy egg rolls you have a sort of Vietnamese carnival snack — a fitting representation of Orange County. After all, theme parks and Vietnamese flavored strip malls are attract most out-of-towners.