Mì Xào in America – 121 of 365

Mì Xào

Conspicuously absent, in Atlanta at least, are the great street food classics such as pork stuffed squid, pork stuffed tofu with tomato sauce, crispy fish filets, snails, eel, and the list goes on.  Basically we have three tiers to the  American interpretation of the Vietnamese food pyramid… well known phởs, basic grilled meats on top of vermicelli and the same cast of grilled meats on top of rice.   It’s a shame really that the average person will never experience the full variety and taste overloads bursting forth from a true Vietnamese kitchen.

A large Vietnamese community in the Gwinnett County part of Atlanta percolates around Jimmy Carter Boulevard and one would assume this neighborhood to be as good a place as any to possibly uncover a hidden jewel.  As with the venture into Cobb County for the good pork chop and nuoc cham, I hoped a treasure hunt in Gwinnett would unearth something, anything, beyond the usual supsects such as phở. Yany in the Hong Supermarket Shopping Center at 5495 JCB receives some positive online reviews for its “authenticity.”  But trust me, after a week of dining here, I am beginning to realize authentic is relative and usually just means food other than a hamburger not served in an IHOP or Burger King.

Much to my surprise, Yany’s menu advertises a mì xào, albeit with everything in it from chicken to squid rather than just beef.  Proteins are expensive in Vietnam so we don’t just throw a random mish mash of various barnyard animals into a food and call it a day.  No, we carefully select one cluck, oink, or moo that pairs well with the spices and vegetables on hand.  Food preparation is a time honored protocol that must be followed.   Yany’s mì xào is like ordering the special chow mein combination plate at a Chinese takeaway joint where everything but the pig’s feet is thrown in to create a blend most suitable to finicky American palates so accustomed to abundance.  When I asked the waiter if they could attempt a more Hanoian version, he disappeared for five minutes to ask the chef only to return with a “No.  So sorry.  We make menu version for you.”  So instead we have this Jimmy Carter Boulevard masterpiece as our baseline for comparison.

Picture it…Cooked spaghetti like noodles are shoved into a baking pan by a cook who has probably never tasted mì xào in its natural habitat.  Now add some oil and light a fire under the cooking vessel to send this baby off on a one journey to becoming one solid highly crunchy mess, I mean mass.  The entire mess, excuse me…mass, is then cut up into little pizza pasta wedges and the stir fry smorgasbord with starch thickened sauce is ladled on top.  Actually these fried pasta triangles could make one calorical bomb of an appetizer at TGI Friday’s were it to be paired with some marinara sauce.

Had I never stepped foot in Vietnam, this would likely check off the box that I had consumed something that tasted ok and filled me up.  I’d get online and write a glowing review about how, gasp, an actual real live Vietnamese person served us, and rather than the stereotypical rice, we ate noodles somewhere other than the Olive Garden where they normally spawn.  Maybe Vietnam has just spoiled me too much with its amazing and inexpensive food.  But if I am paying $8.95 for a bunch of cheap noodles in America, shouldn’t it at least come sort of close to a real Vietnamese mì xào?

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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