Dec 29 2012
Walking the streets of downtown Saigon, you may notice the street food can seem to get a little repetitive. Street carts selling soup are a dime a dozen, but they mostly sell either pho, bun bo hue or hu tieu. If you’re interested in sampling something a bit more unique, you’ll have to leave the comforts of District 1 and head to the outer districts of the city. And that’s where you’ll find mi quang.
Mi quang is one of the more famous dishes from central Vietnam Quang Nam province. Commonly served at family gatherings, or to show the depths of eternal love, mi quang is typically served for lunch or dinner. The soup gets its name from its noodles; a thicker, yellow coloured noodle made from rice and turmeric. The broth is a thicker, meat-bone base seasoned with fish sauce, black pepper and garlic. Traditionally, mi quang is served with only a little broth but in HCMC they prefer a lighter stock so you’ll get more. Like most soups in Vietnam, with mi quang you’ll have several options for what goes into the bowl. The most popular meats are chicken and pork but you’ll also be able to find bowls with fish or shrimp; you may even find a stall that serves all of them together in one bowl.
Don’t dig in immediately when your bowl arrives on the table; you’ve got some work to do to make your mi quang perfect. You’ll be given a big plate of veggies to add to your soup — probably more mint and lettuce than what you may be used to. You’ll also be given a scoop of peanuts, which may be added to the bowl for you, and, most importantly, you’ll get a big rice cracker, or banh trang, which should be broken into small pieces and added to the soup.
While it’s not impossible to find a street cart in District 1 selling mi quang, it’s a rarity. Your best bet is to look for soup carts that offer multiple versions of multiple soups, found most commonly around markets. Still, purists will tell you that the mi quang here is sub-par and to get a quality bowl you’ll have to venture deep into the outer districts, the best being in Tan Binh district, roughly a 40-minute taxi from Pham Ngu Lao — here it isn’t uncommon to find stalls selling nothing but mi quang. Do note that stalls in the outer districts often follow stricter traditions, so if you venture out during a full moon, for instance, you may only be able to find vegetarian bowls.
Since it is a bit more of a specialty downtown, expect to pay around 30,000 VND for a bowl; if you make it out to Tan Binh you’ll pay less, with bowls as low as 15,000 VND.
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