Even by the somewhat ephemeral nature of the pop-up kitchen, Het Say can prove especially elusive. However, those who seek out the work of husband-wife duo Duyan and Hieu Le will be rewarded with a menu that combines seasonal California ingredients with flavors plucked straight from the Mekong Delta.

Open only during a short window on Sundays, Het Say is located in an East Side strip mall at the corner of Lucretia Avenue and Story Road. The shopping center is home to a gas station, a liquor store and a place called Fast Fresh Pizza.

While many pop-ups feel like food trucks, Het Say feels more like a restaurant—because they literally take over the Than Lan sandwich shop from 10am-2pm every Sunday.

The menu is compact, featuring four entrees, two desserts—an excellent sweet potato pie ($6) and their addictive sugar cookies ($2 each)—and several beverages. It is elegantly designed and printed on thick card stock. Unlike many pop-ups, Het Say serves food on actual ceramic dishes, or in some cases, in small metal bowls, which double as the dish’s cooking vessel. The selection changes seasonally and has recently transitioned from a fall menu to a winter one.

I started off with a cup of coffee. They offer a strong Vietnamese coffee—either hot or cold—served with a small chunk of very dark organic chocolate. The coffee is rich and sweet, and pairs well with the bitter cacao.

Feeling bold? Het Say also serves something they call a salted lemonade ($6). I was informed that this unique drink is made with lemons that have been aging for 14 years. The lemons are salted then stacked in earthenware pots in a process that is similar to the way fish sauce is made. The lemons are then drained and candied, creating an eclectic mix of sweet, sour and salty. The salted lemonade’s deft balancing act serves as an apt metaphor for the way Duyan and Hieu find balance in their dishes.

Everything that comes out of the kitchen seems to be produced in-house, including the ingredients used to season the food. Take their pork sausage: it is ground and stuffed by hand, then left to air-dry until it reaches desired consistency. Its sweet flavor comes courtesy of a homemade spiced wine. The wine is fermented by the couple for no less than three years and contains herbs and spices grown in their backyard. The sausage is showcased in a variety of ways and takes center stage in the banh mi lap xuong tudi, or spiced wine pork sausage sandwich ($12).

The sandwich feels more like the kind you would eat at a ballgame. Charred and served whole, it is plump and juicy with a sweet and spicy flavor that lies somewhere between authentic linguica and Chinese sausage. It is accompanied by some spicy pickled vegetables (made in-house, of course), some strong French Dijon mustard and a salad of bitter greens, which act as a palette cleanser.

While the sandwich was delightful, I was most impressed by the salad. It featured a dazzling array of herbs and lettuces. Each bite contained a multitude of flavors: minty effervescence mingles with the sweet floral notes of fennel, flanked by a pungent peppery kick of watercress. All of it worked in synergy with the acidic Chao dressing.

The oyster congee arrives steaming hot, with a deep ocean smell rising from the bowl. Garnished with deep-fried French bread, charred-onion kimchi and seaweed, it’s a beautiful dish to behold. Digging into the creamy rice, I discovered the plump Pacific oysters, which helped season the dish from the inside out. The bread is light and crispy; the kimchee is smokey and savory, with a bright acidic quality that helps cut through the congee’s rich flavor profile. The vegetarian version features juicy king trumpet mushrooms and roasted root vegetables in place of the briny bivalves.

The standout dish, by far, was the eggs and duck liver pate ($16). Served in the same pan in which it was cooked, it was another beautifully plated dish. A mound of intensely rich pate rested on the side of the pan, where it slowly caramelized before my eyes. Chunks of pickled daikon, along with the bright orange salmon roe, sit on top of the over-easy duck egg. Slices of grilled rustic toast and a curling pile of pork sausage round out the dish. Each bite was an explosion of flavor and texture. The pate was deep with a vibrant minerality that paired perfectly with the salty and fishy salmon eggs. The cubes of daikon were sweet and pungent, the yolk of the duck egg truly decadent.

Het Say
1130 Lucretia Ave, Ste G, San Jose
Open Sundays, 10am-2pm