Mi La Cay - Westminster
I think I'm predestined to love any kind of noodle soup. If you looked at it, you'd find noodles making up my DNA strands. The Mi Dac Biet La Cay ($4.95) at Mi La Cay in Westminster is exactly the dish to play into my genetic predisposition. Doubly so when it's rainy out, like this week's going to be.
Dac Biet (translates to "house special") is the first thing on their menu, a list which is mostly dedicated to two types of noodle. There's mi, which is a wheat-based, egg noodle; and there's hu tieu, which is crystal clear, jelly-like, rice vermicelli noodle popular in South Vietnam. There is, however, no pho. So don't ask. This is a Chinese Vietnamese noodle house; and as such, specializes in broths more nourishing than amniotic fluid, made from pork, sweetened with rock sugar, and smacking of umami (probably from MSG).
Atop the bowl, you'll find torn lettuce leaves, pieces of tender boiled hog, crispy fried cracklings, and a cut of chicken hacked off from a whole fried bird, still on the bone. The latter, I think, speaks of the Chinese-ness of the dish. The Chinese believe (and rightly so) that meat on the bone is better, more succulent.
As for the fried, breaded shrimp that also floats in the soup? It tastes like cast-offs from Long John Silver's; but still, they're a welcome add-on, especially when dolloped with Sriracha.
When I ordered a bowl, the waitress asked me, "Large or small bowl?"
Small, I said.
"Soup inside or outside?"
The latter question threw me in for a loop. Do I dare order the soup separated? No, I told her. Not today. I needed the noodles swimming in the warmth.
But as I ate those noodles, I understood. They're the stars. Sturdy enough to use as lashing, spun and stretched to strengthen, each thin yellow strand chewed like it was just a few minutes shy of al dente. Excellent. The differences between this and other mis that I've had is the same as the vast divide that separates a proper French baguette from Wonder Bread.
It makes sense then, that it is offered on its own, sans soup. Only when a restaurant is proud of their noodles would they serve it that way. And that's how I will have it next...with the soup as chaser.
Mi La Cay*
14092 Magnolia Street, #116
Westminster, CA 92683
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Ohshima - Orange
*Special Thanks to Bill and Hungry Huy for this tip!