Every region in Vietnam features unique culinary specialties. Pho hails from Hanoi. Bun bo comes from the central city of Hue.
Story of the famous Quang noodle
And the wide, yellow noodles of mi Quang can be traced back to the central province of Quang Nam.
Mi Quang has been served in Quang Nam since the 14th century. The noodle dish is a harmonious combination of fresh ingredients.
It is eaten with toasted Vietnamese sesame rice crackers, fried shallots and herbs, such as rau ram (fragrant knotweed), coriander, perilla and lettuce. The Mi Quang dish is delicious and features a distinctive aftertaste.
Culinary expert Nguyen Thi Kim Chi, of the Quan An Ngon chain of restaurants, says mi Quang’s simple roots stem from a dish originally meant for labourers.
Ancient settlers in the region used locally sourced fresh ingredients – including whatever seasonal plants, meats and fish they had on hand – to create their culinary traditions.
“Over time, mi Quang became the pride of locals. We cherish its original, aromatic flavour and the way it represents the solid cultural values of our native village,” says Chi.
Mi Quang chefs often customise the style, flavor and ingredients of the dish to individual taste, using whatever ingredients they have on hand.
The art of the sauce and dumplings also varies with each chef. Some use chicken or pig bones. Either way, the sauce should have a sweet flavour quite different from pho broth cooked with oxen bone.
The late poet Bui Giang dreamed of enjoying a bowl of mi Quang before passing away. Similarly, the late writer Nguyen Van Xuan was obsessed with eating the dish under bamboo shade in his native village.
Huynh Van Toi, from Quang Nam, says Phu Chiem is the Quang noodle’s native village.
Part of Phu Chiem’s fame stems from a broth of simmering shrimp and salty side pork. The resulting broth is a very thick, bright and cheerful red, which is considered part of the dish’s allure. Phu Chiem’s Quang noodles should be eaten with green or red chili to accentuate their peppery, warm salty flavour in the broth and dumpling.
“This expresses the real culinary style of the central people,” Toi says.
Toi’s grandfather Huynh Huy, 90, tells this story of the dish’s origins:
“After the sudden death of King Che Man, or Jaya Simhavarman III — the 34th king of the Cham-Pa kingdom (1288-1307) — Queen Huyen Tran ought to have been burned with the king’s other imperial maids, in accordance with the kingdom’s law. But her brother, the King of Dai Viet sent his men to bring the queen back to her native country. Here in Quang Nam’s Danh Village she was granted 32 mau (each mau is about 3,600sq.m) of good land. She taught locals weaving and then granted them 28 mau of land to grow rice and produce Quang noodles. Now Quang noodles are essential at every party and gathering of Quang Nam people.”
These days Quang noodles are available everywhere in the country’s major metropolitan areas, including Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang. Each location cooks the dish in its own style – be it chicken, beef or pork noodle – says culinary expert Chi.