Ramen Noodles??!! – 65 of 365

Mì Xào

My sampling of Vietnam’s delights happens not through any prism of classical chef training or experience as a food critic but rather simply by what tastes good to me.  You and I are probably a lot alike in this way…we just know what makes us say, “Wow.  Seconds please.”  A simple Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger usually excites me more than any elaborate overpriced sit down meal so take from that what you will.  And yes, mom, I know what you always told us about if we don’t have anything nice to say… But I have to let this one out about my latest Hanoian meal at My Van Than, 25 Xuan Dieu Street in the Tay Ho neighborhood.

Now with this being said, even I along with all you other armchair gourmands recognize food neither inspiring to the imagination nor offering excitement to the palate.   Mì xào, or fried noodles, is just that dish to come up short.  Three times I’ve tried it and three salty noodle platters later I still wonder, “Why? Why do they cook this hot mess?”  Better yet, why under the false pretense this time just may be different do I try it anew?  Is mì xào’s made in Vietnam authenticity supposed to guarantee likeability?

What is this noodle dish exactly?  Simply sautee garlic, tomatoes and bok choy in oil.   Add some tough stringy beef likely culled from an aging water buffalo of no further utility in the rice paddy.   Dump this amateur concoction on top of cheap, barely softened curly ramen noodles.  Flushing out this simple recipe requires no Asian cookbooks or even a highly trained palate able to discern the subtle nuances between American and Vietnamese ramen.  Yes, ramen noodles…The same ten cent block of fat and sodium constituting home cooked fine dining for college students all across America.  Let’s just say the gelatinous special sauce on a McDonald’s Big Mac oozes more nuance and depth, and a plate of this mì xào leaves anyone hankering for two factory formed all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – all on a sesame seed bun.

The Dish Washing Area

Life is more about collecting experiences anyhow and at least this restaurant provides a deliciously one of a kind dining encounter.   A highly random, only in Vietnam sideshow took center stage and quickly distracted me from this $1.50 ramen dud on a plate.  Forget the staged flaming onion volcano drama at Benihana, this concrete food shack shocks and awes without even trying.  The executive chef exudes smooth multitasking for just after putting the finishing MSG touches in the mì xào, she donned rain boots, stepped into a tiled off corner of the restaurant and dumped a huge cauldron of boiling water over dirty dishes.  A steam cloud washed over the tables as she began cleaning bowls and disposable chopsticks destined for reuse.  How many burger joints back home claim these sorts of complimentary dinner theatrics that would absolutely crash and burn a health inspector?

Yes, we never know where our food trail may lead.  Even if the simplest of meals proves more dead end than success, at least the surrounding ambience can takes us on a journey far, far from anything on our American menu.  All in all, this was a $1.50 very well spent.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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  1. The Ramen Rater Noodle News #6 | THE RAMEN RATER - February 24, 2012

    […] Down The Street & Back Again – Ramen Noodles??!! […]

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