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Restaurant of the Week: Banh Cuon Tan Dinh

For the new year, dare to eat different
by: KATIE HARTLEY, Banh beo, steamed rice cakes with shredded shrimp and lime chili sauce, are another tasty reason to visit the Fubonn Shopping Center.

Rather than making a hopeless New Year's resolution to eat less, why not resolve to try new things?

The Vietnamese restaurant Banh Cuon Tan Dinh, which celebrated its second birthday on Christmas, makes a fine place to start a year of culinary exploration.

Located in the buzzing Asian emporium called the Fubonn Shopping Center, Banh Cuon Tan Dinh doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside it's an expansive space with creative flavors to match.

You've probably already done pho (noodle soup) and bun (noodles with grilled meats), but here you can try banh cuon - rice flour packets filled with ground pork and chopped mushrooms and served with an array of accouterments.

Banh cuon dac biet, the house specialty, brings a few of those tasty packets covered with a mound of toppings like hunks of fried mung bean cake, slices of ham and a lacy pancake of yams and shrimp along with fresh mint, basil, cilantro and sprouts and a lime chili fish sauce for dipping.

The tart, salty sauce (not very spicy, but hot sauces on the table can turn up the heat) is nearly ubiquitous here; in fact, this isn't really a place to share entrees because they're primarily tasty variations on the same themes and sauces.

The com tam dishes feature 'broken' steamed rice, small bits of fluffy jasmine rice, topped with various combinations of shredded pork, barbecue pork, pork chop and egg loaf.

Bun or noodle dishes offer similar flavorings with the addition of crushed peanuts and scallions.

There are big bowls of soup and a half-dozen types of appetizer rolls (the Saigon-style ones unusually feature grainy bits of shredded pork skin).

For something more extraordinary, if complicated, try one of the banh hoi dishes. These come with a plate of hard rice flour wrappers.

The extremely friendly and helpful waiter will explain how to slip the wrappers into the bowl of hot water to soften them before filling them with a square of rice noodles, a serving of meat (try the tender grilled sausages wrapped in banana leaves), and a selection of leaves from the enormous pile of Asian greens.

Wrap the whole thing burrito style and dip in more of the fish chili sauce.

Working so hard for your supper must burn a few calories, right?

- Audrey Van Buskirk

2850 S.E. 82nd Ave., Suite 11, 503-445-6807, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Monday, $5-$8.50