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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Vietnamese treasures of Boston Little Saigon

Patrons+shop+at+Banh+Mi+Ba+Le%2C+a+Vietnamese+bakery+located+in+Dorchester.+Photo+from+the+Mass+Media+Archives.
Patrons shop at Banh Mi Ba Le, a Vietnamese bakery located in Dorchester. Photo from the Mass Media Archives.

A little more than two miles away from the UMass Boston campus, in the heart of Dorchester, lies Fields Corner. However, to the residents of Dorchester, this district is more commonly known by its other name—Boston Little Saigon—home to a substantial Vietnamese-American community.

Hosting 75 percent of Boston’s Vietnamese-American population, Boston Little Saigon is steeped in Vietnamese culture, with a rich history and many generations of Vietnamese heritage cultivating the many different shops and restaurants that line one of Boston’s few officially recognized cultural districts. [1]

For food lovers, Boston Little Saigon is the perfect place to sample a taste of authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

Accessible by the Red Line, Fields Corner is just two stops away from JFK/UMass on the Ashmont train, and upon exiting the station, the neighborhood’s diverse, multicultural array of businesses is visible right away.

Not too far from the station is Saigon Seafood Restaurant, an eatery boasting an extensive menu of Vietnamese delicacies along with additional Thai dishes. From grilled fresh clams with scallions and peanuts to fruit smoothies and lime juice, this restaurant offers the best seafood experience for anyone craving a good plate of delicious Vietnamese-styled shellfish with flavorful drinks.

Dot Café—a small café that serves breakfast, lunch and drinks—is situated near the intersection of Adams Street and Dorchester Avenue, and its charming signage shows its likely Western influence. On the breakfast menu, breakfast sandwiches and western omelets show this influence even more clearly while the lunch menu displays a more traditional selection of Vietnamese dishes like Vietnamese udon noodle soup and fried rice cake. 

With Vietnamese coffee, taro milk tea and special concoctions of Red Bull offered on its drink menu, Dot Café is well-rounded in its selection of both Western and Vietnamese foods, a great pitstop for a lighter meal in Boston Little Saigon.

Of course, Vietnamese cuisine is not complete without the beloved traditional dish phở. Boston Little Saigon has many restaurants that serve phở, with several specializing in the noodle soup along with other meals.

Phở Hòa can be found further down Dorchester Avenue, easily recognizable by its distinct outdoor dining area and its signature dark green branding. Inside, the eatery is considerably more spacious than other restaurants in the area, and the lavish interior contributes to a sophisticated atmosphere. Like its name suggests, its phở is one of its main selling points, though with a wide variation of items such as vermicelli bowls and family-style chef specials, it isn’t the only dish that has earned its highly positive reputation. 

A tour of Boston Little Saigon’s food scene must include a trip to Ba Lẹ, a French-inspired Vietnamese bakery that sells the best bánh mì in Boston. With the freshly-baked homemade rice flour baguette and the generous surplus of cilantro and pickled daikon and carrots on top of mayonnaise and pâté, Ba Lẹ knows how to make quality bánh mì for a reasonable price.

Most popular among all of the Vietnamese sandwiches made there is the bánh mì đặc biệt, or a combination pork sandwich with cold cut slices of Vietnamese ham, pork shank and head cheese. 

With all the restaurants and bakeries scattered throughout Fields Corner, it might seem like food is all that it has to offer, but Boston Little Saigon’s show of Vietnamese culture doesn’t just stop with the exquisite cuisine.

The Boston Little Saigon Night Market is a one-night summer festival hosted annually in July, mimicking the night markets, or chợ đêm, found all across Vietnam. In a recreation of a nostalgic scene for anyone who has grown up or visited Vietnam, the entire neighborhood of Dorchester joins together for a celebration of Vietnamese culture and community. [2]

A home away from home for Vietnamese families living in Dorchester, Boston Little Saigon truly honors the spirit of Vietnam through its authentic Vietnamese cuisine and representation of traditional culture.

Sources:

[1] https://www.boston.gov/departments/arts-and-culture/boston-little-saigon-cultural-district

[2] https://www.bostonlittlesaigon.org/about-3