I recently moved to Westminster, CA, in an area also known as “Little Saigon,” nicknamed after one of the biggest cities in Vietnam. I hadn’t heard of Little Saigon until I made the move and now I’m right in the middle of it, just a block away from Bolsa st, which is filled with hundreds of businesses owned by Vietnamese-Americans. While I don’t speak the language and when I go to a nearby store or restaurant, I see things I’ve never even heard of, I can feel how special the city is. So, as with anything new to me, I wanted to find out more.
More than one-third of the 130,000 Vietnamese refugees that were accepted into the US after Saigon fell in 1975 flocked to Southern California(as the weather mimicked their homeland) and the rent was most affordable in Westminster than in other nearby cities in Orange County. During that time, Westminster also offered a large amount of undervalued and available commercial property. Today there are over 4000 businesses in the three square miles that make up Little Saigon, and they are owned and run by the Vietnamese-Americans who now call Westminster home.
One of my favorite places to go near me is the Asian Garden Mall. It has everything from bakeries and food vendors, jewelry stores, and knickknacks. There are nightly markets where food vendors get together to serve Vietnamese favorites, and there are often live performers.
Pho is something Little Saigon has in abundance in addition to tofu, fish, and candies. Many of those 4000 plus businesses are restaurants and markets, after all. One market I’ve visited is A Dong Supermarket. I’ve never been to Vietnam but I imagine the experience is exactly what I encountered. It was crowded, the prices were crazy(I bought a stainless steel pot for $2.99!), and the grocery selection is made up of durian, persimmons, bitter melons, tamarind, sugarcane. Next on my list is to finally muster up the courage to visit one of the meat markets and see what they have to offer.
I love to try new things and living in Little Saigon has given me many an opportunity to do so. I hope to soon become an expert in the area. The road to becoming one, I believe, involves a lot of pho and a lot of shopping; I’m down.