Have you ever tried this noodle before?
I just stumbled upon this noodle just last week. It was a random find. I was on my way home when I decided to stop by a restaurant as I often do when I feel hungry. I tried it and I thought it was very good. It was so good that I went back two days later with Suanne in tow to check it out again.
This noodle is unlike ones you would have tried before. For one, it has a distinctive yellow color. Actually the yellowness is quite “neon-like” for the lack of a better word. Whatever it is, this restaurant I went to says that they are the only restaurant serving noodles from a historic small town somewhere in Asia.
It is not just this one dish. There is another one too.
OK, I’ll let you know what they are but please keep it between us OK? We cannot let too many people know about this. 🙂
Well, this dish is called … Mi Quang. This is $7.75 which is on par with the a decent bowl of noodles. This is a specialty from the town of Hoi An. The waitress told us that they are from that historic town. That town used to be the largest port way way back in the 1st century. Today, it is just a sleepy town … sleepy but historic.
The way they describe this is that it is special pork and shrimp broth served with wide yellow rice noodle, pork and shrimp and garnished with mixed green herbs.
Also, it is topped with crushed peanuts with gives the dish a decided crunch.
What is not mentioned is that there is also some sesame seeds crackers. We like it so much that we went to a Vietnamese grocery store to buy them and make it at home. It is called Banh Trang Me (I think).
We made this at home yesterday and Arkensen gobbled them up. This is like keropok except it has sesame seed that makes it a bit more fragrant.
In the bowl, there are freshly sliced onions and mixed green herbs. This gives every bite a certain freshness.
They called this “special pork” but it is just pork belly to us. They are thinly sliced but they looked beautiful, don’t they? To me the star of the dish is not this. This is a strong cast member but certainly not the star.
The shrimp. Wonder what made this so orangey in color. Probably dye?
Do you find it a delicious kind of color? Hehehe … I do. But it taste just like shrimp. Plump though.
Do I call this a dry noodle? Or do I call this a soup noodle?
You could barely see the soup. It is at the bottom part of the both. You gotta push stuff aside to see it. The broth is made with a mix of pork and shrimp. So you can’t really call this a soup noodle. But then there is broth … at least, there is SOME broth.
The yellow rice noodle intrigued me. We were wondering what gives it the distinctive yellow color. We thought it could be tumeric or something like that. We gotta ask. Guess what it was … it is made with “seasoning and dye”.
To me what makes this dish so good is the side dish above. This side dish and the broth.
This is nothing special. You would have seen this in many places in one form or another. It is just mint, basil and a few other greens. They call it Rau Thom which simply means herbs. They came with the Mi Quang.
If you want more, you can order it separately — at $2.50 a pop. I know now why people love this with Mi Quang and why they even charge $2.50. People does actually order more of this.
Yeah, a lot of Rau Thom with a bit of noodles … dunk into the pork+shrimp broth … brings out a great mouthful. Don’t know how to describe it better but I love it.
You should try it.
The Mi Quang is the #1 on their menu. Their menu is small. Size does not matter. Not when they have quite a bit to discover. A handful of good dishes is what makes or breaks a restaurant. I always say that it is all about the dishes, not about the restaurant.
You can click on the menu above. The left one is the one that matters really.
There is #1 and there is also #2.
The #2 is called Mi Cao Lau. Also $7.75. Same yellow noodles. This one is dry noodles. No broth under the noodles.
This has stronger flavour. Mostly from the pork sauce. Suanne likes this more.
Dry noodles as you can see. Suanne wish that there are more sauce. Would be great if they serve a side bowl of beef broth so that we can add to moist it up.
While they also serve the Rau Thom with this, it is not the same as with the Mi Quang. The Rau Thom with the Mi Quang has “more meaning” to me. Know what I mean?
We also got the Banh Bot Loc La Chuoi (10 pieces) for $6.50. We had this before in Pho Thuan An (see here).
It came with a shallot sweetish sauce. Pretty good.
Under the layers of banana leaf is a steamed pork & shrimp tapioca dumpling. Messy eating this because of all the leaves. Not a problem, just saying.
This place is small. Seats about 30 people. The place was packed when we first arrived. They told us that they had been very busy as more and more people found out about their specialty dishes.
I remarked that they should put in more tables seeing how much space they have. They can’t. They are only licensed for 30 people.
They are cash only.
Alright, the restaurant name is Hoi An Cafe. They are located on Victoria and East 34th. You can see the words “Mi Quang” on the signboard up front. That is the money dish.
Apparently they had been around for some time. They had reopened after a hiatus of 5 years. In their previous life, they were on Kingsway and Fraser for 10 years. The waitress said that they were known as “Mei Han” or something like that. We are not sure about that. That was before chowtimes and before our foodie days.
They had opened since mid-March. So they are not that new. A little under 2 months.
So shhh … promise to let this be between you and I? Don’t tell anyone OK?
On the way back to our car, we came across a pending opening of Chau Veggie Express. I think they have since opened for business.
It is backed by a good name — Kim Chau Deli on Kingsway, home of the “more crust, less dough” banh mi. Its is also backed by another well known name — Chau Kitchen and Bar on Robson, home of the “$11 spring rolls”.
Yeah, I get a lot of flak for saying that their spring rolls is $11. I did not make it up. It is $11. So says in their menu and on my receipt. So don’t challenge me like I told a lie or something. Thank God we live in a free country where we are able to express the truth.
For what it is worth, I also said that the Banh Mi from Kim Chau Deli rocks. I love their slender baguette, just like the ones you see in Vietnam. To me, banh mi is about the baguette, not the fillings as much.
Will talk more about banh mi later. But for now, PLEASE … keep this place (Hoi An) between us.