I'm starting a new feature for this blog, the recipe of the week. Since I purport this to be a lifestyle blog, I have to address the number one love of my life: food. According to mint.com, I spend about 75% of my money on food. If I had actually gone to a real college, I could have totally majored in all things gastronomique with a minor in fast food studies.
For Vietnamese people living in the Midwest, there aren't that many places that offer some of my favorite dishes...including Mi Quang, which is my favorite Vietnamese noodle dish, although it's more like a noodle salad. Typically, this dish would take a really long time to make, as there are a lot of different components, but I developed a quick and dirty version, with substitutes, that tastes just as good as anything you might find in larger Vietnamese inhabited areas such as Houston or Little Saigon in Orange County, where I'm from originally.
photo courtesy of baobingduong.org until I can upload my own picture
Mi Quang: Amy-erican style
1 package wide pho noodles
1 tsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 white onion, chopped
1/2 lb ground pork
1 8 oz can of crabmeat (Caravelle brand is good) or fresh crab if you have it
5 slices of bacon (the dish is traditionally made with chopped up pork belly)
4 cups of water
1 Mi Quang seasoning cube (can be found in Vietnamese markets, caution contains MSG)
1 15 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 shallot, slivered
1/2 lb jumbo deveined shrimp
1/2 lb fresh bean sprouts
3 cups spinach
1 loaf of cha or gio (Vietnamese ham loaf), cut into thin slices
1 package of banh da, which is a type of sesame cracker
crushed peanuts, cilantro and chopped green onions for garnish
fish sauce, pepper to season
Soak the noodles in a bowl of hot water with turmeric for 20 minutes or until soft. Drain and rinse excess turmeric off noodles with cold water.
In a large pot, heat oil at high heat. Saute onions until they are translucent, add ground pork and brown. Add bacon and crabmeat and continue to saute. When all the meat has been cooked through, add the can of the tomatoes. When everything is simmering, add four cups of water and the seasoning cube. When the soup is boiling, decrease heat to low. Add fish sauce and pepper to season.
In a different pan, heat some canola oil on high. Add the shallot and saute until softened. Add the shrimp and cook until slightly pink. Season with fish sauce and pepper. Take off heat.
In a separate pot, bring water to boil. With a metal strainer, place a handful of bean sprouts and dip into boiling water to soften the sprouts slightly. Place in the bottom of a large bowl. Place a handful of spinach leaves on top of the sprouts. Take a large handful of noodles and place into strainer and dip into boiling water to soften completely. Transfer the cooked noodles to the bowl. Ladle about a cup of the soup mixture over the noodles (the soup should not completely cover the noodles), make sure you get a good mix of the meat component of the soup. Place a few shrimp and some slices of Cha over the noodles. Sprinkle with pepper, and top with the Banh Da, peanuts, cilantro, onions. Don't put the banh da on until you are ready to eat, as they will get soggy. Then enjoy! This soup should make at least four servings.
It sounds a lot more complicated that it is, but it's so delicious when it's done. There are a lot of different ways you can make this, substituting lettuce for the spinach, adding crab claw, stewing pork bones to make a base broth, or adding red cabbage. If you are lucky enough to have a place in your town that serves Mi Quang, I would definitely partake and leave the hassle to the professionals, but I think my recipe is really good for a person who doesn't have hours to stew pork bones.
I'm starting to try and eat healthier, since I tend to overdo it on eating at restaurants. I've started to track myself on daily plate again. Live strong, baby.