Hey everybody, hope you all had a great New Year’s celebration welcoming 2017 in your own memorable style, despite not having any fireworks this year.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone – friends, family, near and far, a great amount of peace, joy and good health in this Year of the Red Fire Rooster.
Glass noodles, otherwise known as cellophane noodles, are well known in Vietnam, but locals know them simply as mien. Mien is translucent in appearance when cooked, normally round in shape, and originated in China. It is a starch-based noodle, usually made from mung beans, yams, potatoes or cassava. By the way, mien should not be confused with vermicelli, which are made from rice and are white in color, rather than clear, after cooking in water.
Mien is normally served for breakfast in a chicken-based broth with shredded free range chicken gizzards, hearts, congealed blood, bamboo shoots, mushrooms and bean sprouts. As delicious as it is, mien still has a long way to go in comparison to the king and queen of noodles dishes: pho and hu tieu. Mien is very unique because of the clear glass noodles, and especially so when the dish is mien xao cua (stir-fried version with crab). For me, this is a very interesting dish without the traditional broth, and well worth a try if you have not done so.
So, what makes mien xao cua unique?
The taste of mien xao is slightly al dente and a bit of char. It’s not easy to achieve this, because glass noodles are quite delicate, and if not fried perfectly they tend to clump up, and then the dish is pretty much ruined. There are many key ingredients, so everything has to be just right. The noodles are stir fried with lots of chopped garlic, onions, sliced wood ear mushrooms, shredded carrots, fish sauce, chunks of fresh crab meat and claws. Some versions include julienned egg omelets and shredded Chinese celery. The dish is garnished with scallions, fried onions and served hot out of the pan.
A normal portion of mien xao is not big, so I would recommend ordering an extra bowl of mien. As mentioned earlier, in Vietnam ordering mien alone will generally get you a bowl of glass noodles in broth. In some places you should order a bowl of mien together with cha (if available), which is a delicious fish paste that usually comes packaged in a rectangular shape, wrapped in banana leaves. Add a bit of this to the broth with the glass noodles for an extra level of flavour.
Quan Mien Cua 94
94 Dinh Tien Hoang Street,Dakao Ward, District 1
Open 10am to 11pm
Known for their deep-fried soft shell crab, crab egg rolls, and is one of the older mien xao cua locations in the city.
Quan An Thanh Binh
146 Le Thanh Ton Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1
Known for mien cua tom (crab and shrimps), mien cang cua (crab claws), cua cang rang me (crab fried in tamarind sauce) and mien xao cua.