Digging the Duck By Tristan Ngo
Continuing our journey to dine where the locals dine, I decided to invite a few foodie friends to join me for a classic mi vit tiem along ever-busy Nguyen Trai Street in District 5.
This is a busy street pretty much every day of the year.It is teeming with clothes shops, streetside stalls, eateries of every kind, and a few mi vit tiem places. Mi vit tiem is a Vietnamese favourite — a duck noodle soup dish of Chinese origin.
Thiem Huy Mi Gia is my absolute favourite spot for mi vit tiem in Saigon. It’s a small, family-owned place that has been open since 1980.The owner likes to show off the restaurant’s expansion: from humble beginnings in the alley to the purchase of the adjacent house. The specialties here are mi vit tiem chien gion (deep-fried duck leg and thigh soup) and mi vit tiem mem (slow-roasted or braised duck leg and thigh soup).
The duck broth is normally made from duck bones and innards, five spices, dark soy sauce, honey, ginger, and mushrooms, creating a dark, rich, hearty, and very healthy base. The heady and fragrantly sweet aroma from the broth is a wonderful prelude for what’s to come. Mr Huy (the cook and owner) told me that his restaurant’s soup is a secret family recipe passed down from his father. So I took the hint and didn’t pry for further details.
The mi vit tiem chien gion (deep-fried duck soup) is served with the fried duck on the side. Take your chopsticks and peel off chunks of steaming-hot duck meat and crispy duck skin and place it in the bowl of soup. Now take your spoon, ladle up a bit of broth, noodles, and duck and tuck in. Personally, I would just eat the deep-fried duck as is. My friend, however, prefers the slow-roasted duck soup (mi vit tiem mem), a noodle soup served with the braised quarter duck in the bowl. The duck is so tender that the meat falls from the bone when held up. Next to pho, I would say this is a must-try dish for anyone living in or visiting Vietnam.