When a baby turns one, there is a fun tradition in Vietnamese culture where the one-year-old picks an item from a box of 12 assorted things. Each item represents a characteristic the child will possess in the future. There are no rules. We simply throw things together and assign them a trait. For example, a pen represents intelligence. A piece of jewelry represents vanity. A musical instrument represents creativity. When my son turned 1, he picked up a pen. He's now 7 and he loves chess and constantly corrects my math. My daughter chose lipstick and smeared it on herself. I fear for her.
Vietnamese Combination Dry Egg Noodles, or Mi Kho Thap Cam, is similar to the more well known Hu Tieu Kho but except instead of Hu Tieu noodles, a chewy and clear noodle made from tapioca flour, it is made with Mi noodles, a noodle made from eggs and wheat flour. The toppings are the same as in Hu Tieu Kho, which is pretty much a smorgasbord of proteins (pork, ground pork, quail eggs, squid, shrimp, liver, pretty much whatever your heart desires). It is served dry, meaning no broth on the noodles. However, it comes with a small bowl of Hu Tieu broth on the side for slurping. The dish also comes with a soy sauce dressing that you pour over the noodles. You mix everything together, thoroughly incorporating the bean sprouts and Chinese chives on the bottom of the noodles. You take a bite of the noodles then a slurp of the soup. Bite of noodles then slurp of soup. Repeat until the tummy is content and bowl is cleared. This is a fun deconstructive noodle dish with fresh vegetables and savory meats that is sure to please.
My favorite part of this dish is the underrated fried shallots. Fried shallots are available in many Asian grocery stores but nothing beats frying fresh shallots up yourself. Yes, it's more work and you will cry slicing up the shallots, but you will shed tears of joy. That savory and sweet taste of fried shallots is what makes this dish pop. I always double up on a recipe of fried shallots so I have extra to munch on while cooking. I pop them in my mouth like potato chips. I'm gangsta like that.
Vietnamese Combination Dry Egg Noodle Recipe (Mi Kho Thap Cam)
- 2 lb Vietnamese/Chinese BBQ Pork (Thit Xa Xiu/Char Siu). Homemade recipe below.
- 1 lb egg noodles
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 bag bean sprouts
- 1 bunch Chinese chives (remove ends and cut into 1-inch segments)
- 1 lb raw shrimp (peel and devein)
- 1 lb raw calamari (cleaned calamari are readily available in the frozen section of an Asian grocery store)
- 3 large shallots (slice thin)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 shallot (mince)
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
- 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce
- 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup water mix with 1 teaspoon tapioca starch
Side Soup (Optional)
- 1.5 lb pork chicken bones
- 1.5 lb chicken bones
- 5 liters water
- 1/2 cup dried shrimp (soak in hot water for 5 minutes, drain, then rinse)
- 1 small dried squid (soak in hot water for 5 minutes, drain, then rinse)
- 1 large white or yellow onion (roast whole for 15 minutes then peel)
- 5 shallots (roast whole for 10-15 minutes; leave unpeeled)
- 2 golf-ball size rock sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons MSG
- 1 bunch green onions or cilantro (mince or slice thin for garnish)
- Clean the pork and chicken bones thoroughly by boiling the bones in water for 5 minutes. Remove the bones then rinse under cold running water.
- In a stock pot, add water (5 liters) and bones. Bring pot to a boil.
- Add dried shrimp, squid, onion and shallots.
- Add rock sugar, salt and MSG
- Cook for 2 hours on medium low heat.
- Frequently skim the surface of the stock with a spoon to remove the foam and impurities that float to the top.
- Remove all bones. When ready to serve, ladle soup into individual small bowls and garnish with green onions or cilantro.
- Prepare the meat toppings:
Slice the BBQ pork thinly and set aside.
Boil the shrimps until they turn from transparent to white/pink. Drain the boiled shrimp then set aside.
For a beautiful presentation on the calamari, score them with a knife: Lay them down with the sides pointing up (concave up). Then score the squid gently with straight lines. Turn the squid 90 degrees and score again. Boil the squid in water for 5 minutes and then drain. Cut the squid into bite size pieces then set aside.
- Fry the shallots. In a small sauce pan, add the vegetable oil (1/3 cup) and heat on medium high. Add the sliced shallots and fry until it's light brown on the edges and still white/yellow at the center. You want to take the shallots out of the oil at this point because residual heat will finish the cooking to give it the perfect golden brown color. Any later it will be burnt. Lay the fried shallots on some paper towels to drain the excess oil and let cool.
- To make the sauce, heat a small sauce pan on medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil (use the oil from the fried shallots). Add minced shallots and fry until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add remaining sauce ingredients. Bring sauce pan to a boil then turn off the heat. Set aside.
- Cook the egg noodles per package instructions. Rinse under cold water and let dry. Drizzle on sesame oil and gently tossed.
- To serve, add half a handful of bean sprouts and Chinese chives to the bottom of a bowl. Add about a cup of egg noodles on top. Then top the egg noodles with Chinese BBQ pork, squid, shrimp and a generous sprinkle of crispy fried shallots.
- Drizzle the soy sauce mixture on top or serve in a small plate on the side. Accompany the bowl of egg noodles with a small bowl of soup for slurping.
Vietnamese/Chinese BBQ Pork Recipe (Thit Xa Xiu/Char Siu)
- 2 lb pork shoulder/butt; cut into long strips
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fermented red bean curd
- 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice powder
- 1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
- 1 garlic clove; minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
- Combine salt, sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, bean curd, Five Spice powder, Hoisin sauce, garlic, and red food coloring in a bowl.
- Slather mixture evenly on the pork and marinate for at least 30 minutes. Overnight in fridge for best results.
- On a wired rack, bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
- Flip the pork over and bake for another 30 minutes.
- Let the pork cool completely then slice thinly.