Back in Southern California to visit family, I was reminded of how spoiled we are in this part of the country. The climate is ideal, with an abundance of herbs and fresh produce all year long. As we walked through the farmers’ market, Z remarked that Washington DC just doesn’t come close in terms of price or variety. Despite the incredible stone fruit in summer and the incomparably crisp and juicy apples we get in the fall, I have to agree with him. It’s hard not to get a little homesick for amazing avocadoes, meaty artichokes and the fresh cusine that California is so famous for.
Southern California is also home to Little Saigon, which boasts of the hands-down best Vietnamese food I’ve had outside of the country itself. When you get down to it Vietnamese food is as much about the fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables as it is about the incredible broths, unctuous caramel, and sinful pork belly. And, I can’t think of a more ideal place.
My family fed us so well, it was tough to find the time (or room) to take advantage of all that Little Saigon has to offer. But, I’ve been meaning to try mì quảng, a central Vietnamese noodle dish, for a while now. And, when Z and I found ourselves with a free lunch one day, we I jumped at the chance. I heard Quan Hy, in the T & K Market complex, had the best version in town. I’ve tried this dish only once, but I won’t argue with the title.
Mì quảng floats gracefully somewhere between a salad, a soup, and a dry noodle dish. Glass noodles cooked in turmeric and served warm are dressed with lettuce, fresh herbs, crunchy shrimp, and thinly-sliced melt-in-your-mouth pork. All of this is served over a ladle-full of the richest broth — just enough for flavor and moisture. It’s topped with sesame rice crackers, lime, and chili peppers or hot sauce on the side if you like a little kick. Add your condiments and toss until it looks ready to eat. (Hint: at least some of those fried rice cakes should hit the broth. They absorb all that goodness and sort melt into the salad).
Light yet fundamentally satisfying, this bowl is everything I like about Vietnamese food. Something you walk out the door feeling good having eaten. Its rich and fresh, complex yet just right for a light lunch. I’ll be back for more. And, I bet, so will you.
9727 Bolsa Avenue, Westminster, CA 92683
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