Tay Ho brings authentic Vietnamese cuisine to San Gabriel
By Kamala Kirk
Pasadena Weekly Editor
Bborn into the restaurant industry, university senior Vivian Yenson followed in her family’s footsteps by recently opening Tay Ho Restaurant San Gabriel at the age of 20.
Yenson is the eldest granddaughter of Linda Tuyet Nguyen, the family business matriarch, and the eldest daughter of Jayce Yenson, CEO of Tay Ho Restaurants and Tay Ho Food Company. Tay Ho was established in 1986 as a traditional Vietnamese restaurant and has since spread throughout California.
“We decided to relaunch Tay Ho in the midst of the pandemic in June 2020 when we saw demand for food delivery skyrocket,” Yenson said. “The banh cuon (rice roll) is the perfect dish to eat either hot or cold which is perfect for delivery.”
Tay Ho takes its name from the Tay Ho district in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, which is home to the first banh cuon restaurant and where banh cuon was created.
“My grandparents chose this name for the restaurant, ‘Banh Cuon Tay Ho’, because they wanted to pay homage to our Vietnamese heritage and the story of the dish itself,” Yenson said. “The restaurant is now called Tay Ho only, because we serve several dishes other than banh cuon, but banh cuon will always be our specialty.”
The family worked together in tiny banh cuon shops where Nguyen became a trusted member of the community who people looked to for his excellent palate. Nguyen’s passion for Vietnamese cuisine, as well as the strong bonds she has created with her customers, have contributed to a larger vision where it all began.
When a data position opened up at Tay Ho, Yenson jumped at the chance to become more involved in the family business. It was then that her father discovered that she had a penchant for numbers.
During this time, she was inspired to bring the authentic Vietnamese street food of Tay Ho to the masses.
Tay Ho’s menu features dishes prepared using artisanal techniques, simmered broths and steamed vegetables.
Tay Ho’s signature banh cuon takes over five days to prepare, starting with the rice, which is ground with fresh water and then left to sit for 24 hours.
After the rice flour settles to the bottom of the water and a milky water rises to the top, the water and impurities are discarded to make the dough as clean as possible. The process is repeated for five days until the water runs clear, then the rice paste is carefully spread on a thin cotton cloth which is stretched over a pot of steaming water.
“The Tay Ho banh cuon set is our specialty, which includes pork and mushroom rolls, the shrimp stuffed roll and the classic rice pancake,” Yenson said. “It also comes with Vietnamese ham (cha lua), bean sprouts, cucumbers, herbs and vegetables, a crispy shrimp and sweet potato fritter and our homemade dip, which is the perfect combination for a well-balanced meal.
“Another house favorite is our Garlic Noodles with Steak, which has the perfect blend of the savory garlic flavor of the noodles with tender chunks of tenderloin that pays homage to a traditional Vietnamese dish called bo luc lake (shaken beef).”
Yenson created the Beyond roll with a Beyond meat filling because she wanted to have a vegetarian option without sacrificing the texture and flavors of the pork and mushroom roll.
“I’ll even choose to eat the Beyond roll sometimes instead of meat options because it’s so good,” Yenson said.
Vietnamese iced coffee is one of Yenson’s favorites and features on the menu she created.
“No Vietnamese restaurant is complete without a delicious cup of homemade coffee,” Yenson said. “During my free time on weekends, I experimented with various coffee blends and different ratios of condensed milk and cream for the perfect cup of Vietnamese coffee. When I found my perfect coffee combination, my parents l ‘ve tested and loved it so much that our household always had to have a liter of special house coffee on hand. Now customers sometimes come into the restaurant early when we open in the morning just for a coffee, and that makes my dad happy to see them enjoying a recipe that I spent so much time creating.
Other drinks on offer include lychee lemonade and teas in flavors such as Thai, Strawberry Black Peach, Green Lychee, and Taro Milk.
Tay Ho celebrated its official grand reopening on January 15 and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. Yenson looks forward to continuing to fulfill his family’s legacy.
“San Gabriel was the perfect place to relaunch Tay Ho because we used to have a very successful Tay Ho restaurant down the street from our current location on Valley Boulevard as well,” Yenson said.
“Unfortunately my great-uncle who ran the store passed away so this store was closed. However, it’s so crazy that customers will still come and tell us that they used to go to the restaurant all the time Tay Ho down the street and they were sad it was closed I’m so grateful to have started in San Gabriel as the first location with the relaunched version of Tay Ho as the SGV community has been so supportive and welcoming.
Tay Ho Restaurant
529 E. Valley Blvd., Suite 118B, San Gabriel