Central Vietnam's Must-Eat Noodle Dish: Mi Quang
The other day my family and I tried a relatively new restaurant in Oakland Chinatown that specializes in Da Nang cuisine. Of course, Mi Quang was one of their signature items and it had raving reviews on Yelp. However, when I tried it, I found the broth underwhelming. I told my mother-in-low, Cooking Extraordinaire, about my experience and of course, she set out to prove that the best Mi Quang comes from home. She didn't disappoint.
Mi Quang or Quang-Style Noodles is part soup and part salad. It is a widely popular noodle dish from Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam and the neighboring city of Da Nang to the north. It's a dish for the summer when it's just too hot to enjoy a traditional bowl of noodle soup.
Mi Quang is rice noodles with an assortment of fresh vegetables and Vietnamese herbs, tossed together with a small amount of intensely flavored broth made from pork and/or chicken stock. The small amount of broth sets this noodle dish apart from the others. There is just enough broth in each serving to wet the noodles and bring everything together. There are many variations on what proteins and toppings that go into the dish but the signature items include slices of pork belly, whole shrimp, roasted peanuts and toasted sesame rice crackers.
The noodles used in Mi Quang are flat rice noodles, similar to Chow Fung noodles. They are dyed yellow from either food coloring or turmeric powder. You can also get the noodles already dyed in some Asian grocery store (see picture below). Some people and restaurants will skip the dying altogether and serve regular white rice noodles or use a combination of yellow and white noodles.
Mi Quang is one of the dishes that everyone makes differently and everyone claims that their mother's version is the best. Let the record show, that this is THE BEST recipe from my mother-in-law. Just kidding! However you make it, as long as you're satisfied, is all that matters. Enjoy!
Quang-Style Noodle with Pork & Shrimp Recipe (Mi Quang)
1 lb pork bones (spareribs or neck bones)
1 slab pork belly (about 1 lb)
1/2 lb whole shrimp (peeled and deveined; for a nicer presentation, leave the tails on)
8 cups water (cook the shrimp and peel in this water and reserve this for stock; discard the peels and set the cooked shrimp aside)
1 can (5.6 oz) minced crab or prawns in spices (Gia Vi Nau Bun Rieu)
3 golf-ball-size rock sugar
3 teaspoons salt + 1 tablespoon salt for washing pork and shrimp
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 shallot (peeled and sliced thin)
Vegetables and Toppings
Fried Shallots (1/3 cup)
3 stems green onions (sliced thin)
1 small bunch cilantro (minced)
1 small bag (12 oz) bean sprouts
1 small head of lettuce
Other herbs (mint, perilla, sorrel and sliced banan blossoms)
3 large sesame rice crackers (wet the crackers with water and simply heat in microwave for about 30 seconds. Flip it over and heat for another 30 seconds until it's evenly puffy. Break into small pieces)
2 bags (10.5 oz each) of Quang Nam's Noodles
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Whenever I use meat or bones, I thoroughly wash them with salt before cooking. The salt removes the foul smell, particularly with pork, poultry and fishy seafood. Scrubbing with salt also removes any exterior residue. In a large bowl, add the the pork bones, pork belly and shrimp. Cover with 1 tablespoon of salt and scrub the salt into them. Thoroughly rinse off with cold running water.
Add water to a small pot that will fit the pork belly and bring it to a boil. Blanch the pork belly for about 5 minutes in the boiling water. This is a very helpful step because slicing pork belly can be difficult if left completely uncooked. Remove the pork belly from the water and let it cool slightly. Cut it into long strips and then cut into thin slices. Each slice should include all the layers of pork belly. Set aside.
Add 8 cups water (or shrimp stock) to medium size pot and bring to a boil. Add the pork bones. Turn down the heat to a low simmer and cook for one hour.
Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat up the vegetable oil and add the fresh shallots. Fry until fragrant but not brown. Add the sliced pork belly and cook until the pork belly reduces in size with nice caramelization on the outside (about 20-30 minutes).
Add the can of spiced prawns or crabs and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Season with rock sugar and 3 teaspoons salt.
To the pot with the pork bones, remove and discard the bones. Add the mixture of pork belly and spices to the pot. Stir until combined. Cook on a low simmer to reduce and slightly thicken the liquid (about 20 minutes). Adjust seasoning as need with additional rock sugar and salt.
Cook the noodles per packaged instructions with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in the boiling water to prevent sticking. Rinse in a colander with cold running water.
To assemble the dish, add a bed of greens at the bottom of the bowl.
Top bed of greens with about a cup of cooked Quang-style noodles.
Top noodles with a scant ladle of broth (make sure to include slices of pork belly)
Finish off the bowl with shrimp, toasted sesame rice crackers, peanuts and a garnish of green onions and cilantro.