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The feast I’ve been waiting for: beef 7 ways

All beef, all Mama Le — Pig and the Lady’s bringing back a classic

Posted May 19, 2013 by Mari Taketa

Before I knew where Vietnam was, before I knew I would live there, I knew what bo bay mon was. And if you remember a Vietnamese restaurant at the corner of Maunakea and Pauahi called A Little Bit of Saigon, you might know too. They had this, they were the only ones in town, and since that bit of Saigon closed in the ’90s I haven’t seen it at all.

Bo bay mon is beef seven ways, and I mean ways you’ve never seen. I remember sitting in that sunny restaurant and marveling at all the ways you got it: grilled, poached, minced and rolled in smoky leaves, rolled in fresh leaves alive with herbs, floating in savory congee. When I got to Saigon in 1996, this was the first meal I asked for — and nobody knew what it was. Over four years in that city, I saw those three words together maybe once, so really, it’s been nearly 20 years.

You see why I’m excited? Pig and the Lady’s founding inspiration, Mama Le herself, is bringing back beef seven ways at a two-night pop-up this Saturday and Sunday. I wasn’t invited to the trial run last month, a meal from which her son Alex Le had the gall to send me pics, after which I cornered Mama Le for the menu:

  • Goi bo — beef salad; I have no idea how Mama Le makes this but it’ll have lots of fresh leafy herbs
  • Bo nhung dam — as I understand it, you take thin sheets of raw beef, shabu shabu it in beer, eat
  • Bo la lot — minced beef, garlic and spices, rolled in betel leaves and grilled into steaming, juicy bundles (see above)
  • Bo nuong mo chai — beef rolled in caul fat and grilled
  • Bo nuong hanh la — beef rolled around stalks of green onion and grilled (also above)
  • Cha dum — steamed spicy beef sausage all minced up and served on fresh-fried shrimp chips (at right)
  • Chao bo — congee or jook with minced beef, a homey coda

This pop-up is all Mama Le. No contemporary experiments with flavors and textures, no riffs on gnocchi or bruschetta, which Pig and the Lady chef Andrew Le has been reveling in. This one hews strictly to tradition, except for the beer shabu shabu thing, which I think Mama Le made up. “This is what my family ate in Vietnam, and every time we had it, we had 10, 15 people at the table,” she says. “Everybody does it their own way. This is my family way.”

This bo bay mon will also be served family-style. And it’s all locally raised Kulana beef from the Big Island, by the way, so yes! We’re eating local. It’s $59, BYOB, and starts at 7 p.m. at Taste, 667 Auahi St. in Kakaako. If you love beef, if you’re a Pig and the Lady addict or you remember with nostalgia this seven-course dinner from A Little Bit of Saigon, clear Saturday or Sunday night on your calendar. Here’s the full story and menu, with a link to the ticket page at the bottom.


You can read all of Mari’s blogs at Follow Mari on Twitter @NonStopMari or email at

  1. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 7:29 am

    EO:  I take it Bo is Beef?  Did not realize there is a cattle industry in Vietnam or is the beef from cows that are no longer useful as beasts of burden or milkers?

  2. Melissa808
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I remember a Little Bit of Saigon. Back in the early 90s when I worked downtown, my friend Kimmie Nguyen took me there and taught me how to eat the do-it-yourself rolls (sorry I don’t know the name). Good times.

  3. nonstopmari
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    @Annoddah_Dave haven’t u heard of pho?? major beef going on there, plus butter, cheese since the french occupation … ok, idk where any of it comes from, but it’s there :)
    and yes, bo = beef, so pho bo = beef pho

  4. nonstopmari
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    @Melissa808 yeah those rolls always need an introductory lesson, but after that it’s like spreading things on bread, u just learn to instinctively wrap when u see all those greens

  5. konaish
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I don’t remember A Little Bit of Saigon, but I suppose I qualify as a Pig and the Lady addict/fan, so I’ll
    be there. Sounds like a great adventure!

  6. nonstopmari
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    @konaish haven’t u eaten there 3x/week? u qualify

  7. Soos808
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I know I’ll need several doggie bags for this much food! Which night are you ladies going to – @nonstopmari & @konaish ? I enjoyed eating at A Little Bit of Saigon, and remember eating the cold noodles with spring rolls – goi cuon.

  8. nonstopmari
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 12:30 am

    @Soos808 sunday! Are u going soos?

  9. nonstopmari
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 12:30 am

    @Soos808 sunday! Are u going soos?

  10. Soos808
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    @nonstopmari  2 for Saturday, so I don’t know if we’ll get in. Do you have your 4 minimum?

  11. nonstopmari
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    @Soos808 yup. i heard satdy is sold out. have u tried sunday?

  12. Soos808
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 4:10 am

    @nonstopmari Confirmed 2 for Saturday w/the bad boy smokers!


About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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