Viet Noms probably has the best name for a Vietnamese restaurant. Vietnamese food + internet humor? Yes, please! Viet Noms has a small menu, but a wide variety of dishes, which run the gamut from salads to pho to syrupy-sweet desserts like che 3 mau. On a quiet Monday afternoon, I went to interview Chen and Yuan Tang, the owners of Viet Noms, to get the lowdown on their new restaurant.
Sarah Browne: How did you decide to start Viet Noms?
Chen Tang: We’ve always wanted to do it… we are actually the owners of Canton Village as well. Ten years ago, we were wanting to open a Vietnamese restaurant. Our parents are Chinese from Vietnam, so at home probably half the food we eat is Vietnamese, and we always felt that Livermore could use an introduction of Vietnamese food.
SB: Where did the name come from?
CT: It was actually our brother who came up with it. It’s like a play off of “noms”, right? Originally, he said Viet NomNoms and we cut it to be Viet Noms.
SB: Is your cuisine from a certain region of Vietnam?
CT: I would say more from the south, but as the menu expands and we get more established, we’ll be adding things from other regions as well.
SB: What would you say are some of the signature flavors and ingredients of Vietnamese cuisine?
CT: I guess with Vietnamese food there’s a lot of fresh herbs, so a lot of mint, basil, cilantro, lemongrass, garlic. There’s a lot of sweet and sour palettes and grilled meats.
SB: What are some of your favorite Vietnamese dishes?
CT: There’s the classic pho. Pho is probably the most well known (we have very good versions of it here). We also have the kettle cakes—that is a little more unique. It’s a crispy rice cake with shrimp inside topped with scallion oil.
CT: [to Yuan] What do you like?
Yuan Tang: I like the spicy beef noodle soup.
CT: That’s the bun bo hue. And the salads! Honestly, I think our whole menu is solid. Whenever we have new customers coming in asking what’s good, I just tell them to kind of look through it and see what they like, see what speaks to them. We have a limited menu, and we try to execute everything really well.
SB: What makes a good bowl of pho?
CT: I would have to say, balance. There’s probably six or seven spices that go into it, so the level of balance there between the spices, the onion, and the ginger. The amount of time you cook the bones is important too. We cook our bones for 24 hours to extract the flavor. The key is to be really gentle with it.
YT: Same thing for the vegetable pho. It’s not just the beef broth, but the vegetables.
CT: We actually make four different phos here: the beef, the chicken, a vegetarian, and a seafood. The seafood one we use our chicken broth as the base for it, but I guess overall, what makes a good bowl would be the balance.
YT: What’s in the vegetarian one?
CT: There’s mushrooms… actually there’s a lot of different vegetables in there! Cabbage, mushrooms, jicama, chayote, did I say carrots?
CT: Carrots, onion, ginger, daikon radish, salted turnips.
SB: What’s a chayote?
CT: Chayote is like a small green vegetable, I guess it’s a fruit. It has kind of an oblong shape, you could probably pull up a picture.
YT: How do you spell it?
CT: C-h-a-y-o-t-e. I guess that’s actually the Spanish word for it when you go to the market.
*CT shows me a picture of chayote on YT’s phone*
CT: That’s a chayote.
SB: Oh! So it’s a gourd? Oh, like a melon…
CT: Yeah, I think it is a gourd.
SB: Is it sweet or is it kind of bitter?
CT: It’s actually really mild in flavor, uh, there’s a light sweetness to it, yeah.
SB: Ah, okay… yeah. So that takes care of my questions! Thanks for interviewing with me!
CT: All right, sure!
Whether you’ve had Vietnamese food before or this is your first time, Viet Noms is a great place to try! The restaurant has a clean, relaxed atmosphere that feels a little bit like a diner or family restaurant. Its interior decoration is very much like Canton Village, the Tang brothers’ Chinese restaurant a couple of doors down.