Nestled in a humble strip mall, just at the border of San Jose’s Little Saigon neighborhood, sits a truly unique cultural gem, Nam Vang Restaurant. Walking into Nam Vang, you will feel seamlessly transported from South-East San Jose to South-East Asia.
Cash only…as is to be expected with this sort of joint. I didn’t have enough to fit the bill, so the waiter directed me to the “coffee shop” at the other end of the strip mall. Like in the Netherlands, “coffee shop” is code for something entirely different in Vietnamese-American culture. I’ll let your imagination do the rest; but, let’s just say it was a very unique trip to the ATM
We ordered the Cambodian Rice Noodles — a dish that Nam Vang is known for. The original Cambodian Rice Noodles have some “bizarre” food components. The standard noodle dish (Item #1) comes with seasoned noodles, shrimp, pork, pork liver, pork heart, and pork bone boiled in the soap base which was served DIY style. The heart and liver weren’t all that bad — and that is coming from someone who hasn’t touched anything beyond a pork broth in at least a decade.
I ordered the seafood version of the soup which was basically the same thing without the pork and, in it’s place, a few extra varieties of seafood added in. We received a complimentary plate of “chinese donuts” which tasted like a cross between a croissant and a bread crust. These were delicious on their own but also served as a great dipper for soaking up the left over soup broth (which you will probably have very little of by the time you are done).
For a solid taste of Cambodia in California, it’s hard to go wrong at Nam Vang. While I am by no means an expert on Cambodian cuisine, nor am I truly learned on the Little Saigon scene, I have a strong inclination that one would be hard pressed to find a better Cambodian experience in the region.