“Thương nhau múc bát chè xanh,
Làm tô mì Quảng anh xơi cho cùng.”
We recently discovered this couplet from Wikipedia about mì Quảng. It describes a girl from the city of Quảng Nam, in Vietnam’s south central coast, who invites her lover to a cup of green tea and makes him mì Quảng to show the depths of her affection for him. Honest to goodness, this was actually the first dish I ever made for Hong.
He’s originally from mien bac (north) and I’m from mien nam (southern) of Vietnam but we both LOOOVE the food from mien trung (central) such as mì Quảng. It is one of our favorite soups during the spring and summer months when it’s too hot to enjoy a bowl of pho or bun bo hue.
This noodle dish is a complex mixture of flavors and texture. The vibrant wide yellow tumeric noodles, sesame rice crackers, roasted peanuts, fresh herbs, and flavorful but light broth sets mì Quảng apart from other Vietnamese noodle soups like pho and bun bo hue. Unlike these noodle soups, mì Quảng is served with very little broth and almost like a dry noodle dish or noodle salad with the broth serving to bring all the flavors together.
This dish has multiple steps but is WELL worth it. It’s something that can be done to eat for the weekend (make broth friday, make the rest and eat saturday) andinvite friends over. Recipe serves about 4-6.
Broth (Nuoc Leo)
- 2 lbs of pork neck bones or pork spare ribs (if you use spareribs to make the broth, have the butcher chop them into 2 inch pieces–so that you can also serve these melt off the bone ribs with the soup as well)
- 2-3 medium shallots, peeled
- 4 medium dried shrimp
Start first with the broth. Like most Vietnamese broths, it’s a two step process. First you boil off the gunk in the bones and clean it and then with the cleaned bones you make the broth. In large stockpot place bones and enough water to cover the bones. Bring water to boil then pour over a colander, discarding the water and gunk. Clean the bones under running water and clean the pot (or have another pot with boiling water ready to go). Place bones back into the pot and add shallots and dried shrimp and fill with water to cover and simmer for about 2 hrs. Remove bones and season broth with salt and touch of sugar. If you’re using spareribs, leave them in and serve as well.
Sauteed Pork and Shrimp
- 1 tbs of garlic
- 1 tbs of shallots
- 1/2 lb pork belly or a cut that has some fat and skin on
- 1/2 lb shrimp (shell on or off–your preference)
- 1/8 cup annato seed oil
- 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 1 tbs paprika
Annato seed oil imparts a beautiful red/orange color to the meat and shrimp. To make annato seed oil, heat 1/8 cup of olive or vegetable oil in large wok or saute pan and add about 2 tbs of annato seeds. As the temperature rises, the red color will seep out of the annato seeds. Strain and discard seeds. Using prepared oil, saute garlic, shallots, paprika and pork. Half way through, add shrimp as this takes less time to cook. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside, covered.
Tumeric Flavored Noodles
- 1 package of pre-made Mì Quảng noodles (Pre-packaged wide yellow rice noodles–if unavailable, see below)
- 1 package of wide pho rice noodles
- 2 tbs oil
- 1 tbs tumeric powder
To save time you can buy it already made which uses food coloring. However, it’s really simple to do it yourself. Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil, add wide pho noodles, after about 3-4 minutes, add oil and tumeric powder, and stir. If too pale, add more tumeric to desired color. The tumeric doesn’t add that much flavor to the noodles and is more a visual thing. Noodles are done when you can easily bite a strand without it being too firm or mushy. Drain and set aside.
- bean sprouts
- perilla leaves (tia to)
- mint leaves (rau thom)
- banana blossom (see photo)*
- lime wedges
- cilantro (chopped)
- green scallions (thinly sliced)
- roasted peanuts (coarsely crushed)
- Black sesame rice crackers (Banh Da–break in to small bite size pieces)*
*Banana blossom is a common accompaniment. If not available, it won’t make or break the dish. Cut banana blossom lengthwise, peel purple leaves keep the purple leaves. Discard the small flowers in between the leaves. Stack and roll leaves together and chiffonade. Immediately place in bowl of water with about juice of 1 lemon to prevent from discoloration.
*Sesame crackers can be found pre-cooked in asian markets. Uncooked ones are also available and it can be microwaved for about 2:30-3 minutes (depending on wattage) until it’s crispy.
In bowl, add noodles and the sauteed pork and shrimp. Then add the broth (to keep with tradition use little broth, abut 1/4-1/2 of the bowl).
Add bean sprouts, mint, perilla leaves, banana blossom, cilantro, and green scallions. Top with toasted peanuts and black sesame rice crackers and enjoy.