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.
This Post Has 31 Comments
Looks like a great option for something a little different Viet wise :-). I like the banh mi best at Kim Chau too.
Hi Grayelf: Good to see you back in action. 🙂 Hope you give this Mi Quang a try and let us know what you think. Ben
It’s on the list. Still recovering from our gastro-fest in San Francisco! But just back from Kim Chau, where the daughter told me that Chau Veggie Express is owned by her godmother, not affiliated with Kim Chau. She hasn’t been yet, LOL!
On a related note, Kim Chau has tubs with the gear to make your own pandan jelly drink at home. I tried it today and it is excellent, with enough stuff for two drinks. I think it was $3 and comes with a largish packet of the jelly, a smaller packet of coconut milk and a packet of sugar syrup. Just add ice and voila. Great with the banh mi I brought home.
Gastro-fest in SF? Hope to read about your adventure on vanchow. You don’t carry a camera around do you? If you do, pix will paint a thousand word. 🙂 OK interesting to know that Chau Veggie Express is not affiliated with Kim Chau. I wonder if they are really affiliated with Chau Kitchen and Bar on Robson. This is because Chau Veggie Express did put up a URL link to Chau Kitchen and Bar on their poster. Pandan Jelly drink? That I gotta check out!
Ben, if I remember correctly, you an get the pre-packaged pandan jelly (chendol) at Cheong Lee Market (the 22nd Ave store), but they sell this at Heng Long Market in Surrey for sure. Have you been to Heng Long Market before? It is located @ 14357 – 104 Ave & sells lots of SE Asian goodies.
Hi HM: We had been to Cheong Lee on 22nd Ave but we had never been to Heng Long Market in Surrey. Surrey is just too far away from home and we rarely had a reason to make our way there. We heard a lot of Heng Long a lot for sure. Ben
I posted the links today to reports on Chowhound, complete with pix. I do carry a camera but my photos are just taken with available light so…
I’m not surprised the URLs are they, I mean, it’s the owner of Kim Chau’s daughter’s godmother :-).
I guess you could make your own Viet style pandan jelly drink using the chendol, but what I liked about the Kim Chau “kit” is the convenience. And it really was tasty. Do give it a try next time you go for banh mi.
BTW we hit up Hoi An tonight and it was great. We had the #1, the #2, the shrimp spring rolls, the popcorn chicken (!), the salad roll and the weekend special, #19, which is rice cake with an umami laden pork and shrimp concoction on top. Will deffo be back, especially because by the end of the meal we figured out the family that runs Hoi An used to own our favourite Viet resto which was on Kingsway just west of Ba Le on the south side (it was were that strange new Western-style resto is now). Thanks a ton for the heads up.
Hi Grayelf: We noticed the weekend special too but too bad we were there on a weekday. I love the description “umami laden …” bit. 🙂 Ben
I love all these little steamed rice dealies that come in separate tiny plates. I’ve had a similar one at Green Lettuce but I don’t think it is on the regular menu, just lucky that day. Be sure to add the fish sauce they bring with it (of course I know you would anyway) as it brightens the dish. Forgot to mention they had very nice Viet lemonade at Hoi An too, not overly sweet but very limey (I wonder why they call it lemonade when it is usually made with lime?)
Haha…..Ben, I too stumbled upon this restaurant when I went to DQ to get ice-cream for Mother’s Day. Now, I will surely give this place a try. Hmmmmm….interesting noodle!
Hi HM: From the outside, Hoi An is so unassuming isn’t it? I am hoping that someone on chowtimes who knows more about Hoi An steps up and tell us more about this dish or the region. I have never heard of Hoi An before I went to this restaurant. Ben
Meo too! I’ve not heard of this region until now, so something to read up on!
I was so excited to see this dish on your site! I studied abroad in Vietnam last summer, and we spent one of our weekend trips in Hoi An. I had Mi Quang not in Hoi An, but in the nearby city of Da Nang. Our version of the dish had shredded green mango and the broth was very thick and orange (more like a sauce). Try it with a mug of fresh sugar cane juice and sprinkle bits of fried pork fat in it…absolutely delicious! Here’s a picture:
Hoi An is located along the coast of central Vietnam, and is nowadays, a bustling tourist town filled with shops. As a port city back in the day, the town was separated into Japanese and Chinese districts, which were separated by a bridge (still there today). It’s quite a pretty town, and famous for its tailors. Wonderful to see other regions of Vietnam and Vietnamese cuisine featured as you explore.
Hi Kai: Thanks for the pix. The one you had does not look the same and to my untrained eye would not have thought it is the same. The same ingredients are there though. The peanuts in Vietnam is whole while the ones in Hoi An Cafe is crushed. There is the prawn cracker too which in the Hoi Ann Cafe is sesame seed infused. Ben
I appreciate all the work that Ben and Suanne put into their blog…….
*love the message in your scrolling header*
🙂 Trying to infuse some positiveness in the world. There are a lot more things that are good and beautiful and at times we all need a bit of a reminder to be thankful for these things.
Awesome, Ben! I visited Hoi An last fall and had the Cao Lau. Never got around to the Mi Quang…thought I’d have to go back for it!
Great to see it finally being served here! I noticed they aren’t offering White Rose, another Hoi An specialty. Can’t wait to pay this place a visit. Thanks for the heads up!!
No Awesone YOU, Karl. You should go to the An Hoi Cafe and write a post about it in relation to the trip you took to the real An Hoi. You even had this picture below that says “Mi Quang” and “Mi Cao Lau”!
So, Hoi An is not a sleepy town after all as described by the waitress. I might visit Vietnam this summer, will definitely check out some of the “touristy” place too.
Hi Angie: Sorry, maybe I am not catching on what is being discussed. What makes you say that Hoi An is not a sleepy town after all? Hope to hear about your summer trip to Vietnam. 🙂 Ben
I assumed it’s a sleepy town from your write-up:D “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.”
Ah … I don’t see … but never mind. 🙂 Hope to hear of your trip to Vietnam this summer! Ben
What a find! What a double find! ;p
These dishes sound really intriguing. I dined with colleagues at a vegetarian Vietnamese place in LA, and loved it. Looking for a Vancouver replacement.
Thanks for sharing!
Hi Jessica: I hope you get the time to check them out and write about them too. Would love to hear what you think. I know sometimes what I find really intriguing like this one could just be ho-hum by others. To each their own, I guess. Oh, talking about the vegetarian place, Chau opened a new Vietnamese Vegetarian resto a few doors away. I am wondering if it could be anything like what you had in LA. The food looked quite common though from initial reports I read. Ben
Hi Ben and Suanne,
Thanks for sharing.
I went to the place today and tried no.1 while my less adventurous friend ordered pho. I love it, especially their herb plate, which made the whole bowl even spring and colorful.
Their pho tastes very different from other pho we had before. Maybe lighter with meat stew and more with herb seasoning (I guess, I’m not sure though).
We also had pork spring roll and ice coffee. Those two taste good and similar to those in normal pho restaurants.
Glad you like Hoi An, brownsugar. I almost wanted to go there for lunch today too but decided otherwise. Instead, I went across the street and bought 2 pounds of pork skin. Awesome stuff! Ben
At Hoi An waiting for my Mi Quang!
And the verdict, Karl?
Very nice! The flavors aren’t as bold as in Vietnam but great, nonetheless. Very good portion. I’ll be back for the Bun Bo Tai Quang Nam and the Cao Lau. Great little spot.
Hi Karl: Looking forward to reading your review! Ben
Chau Veggiexpress opened on May 9, wrote a quick report here: http://www.forumvancouver.com/threads/chau-veggiexpress.1151/