Sunday, January 17, 2010

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

Ohshima - Orange

*Special Thanks to Bill and Hungry Huy for this tip!


At 11:40 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Oh dang! Yeah I completely agree with you, soup on the side is a must and don't forget the condiments on the table. Oh that looks good!

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

That soup looks just about perfect! Except for the fact that the noodles are wheat. Baby wants me to live gluten free. It's a whole new food adventure for me! Because of this, I will likely be reviving my long neglected food blog this week.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - During the summer I usually get mine "dry", soup on the side.... but during the winter.....
that;s a great looking bowl!

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

I am with you Elmo, I love just about any kind of noodle soup. You know I am a huge fan of Pho, but this looks awesome. I sooooo appreciate when you give me great ideas to try and get me out of my "ruts".

I wanted to report on a couple of places you have talked about. England Fish & Chips in Long Beach. Phenomenal. Crispy, meaty, tender, and juicy pieces of fish perfectly cooked. And they cost like $1.49!!! The prices are incredible. They charge 59 cents for a small soda. Who does that?!!! They could double their prices and I would still consider it a great deal. The BEST fish I have had and the price just sends it into over drive! Although I like their "chips" they are like hamburger fries. I really like them, bu they seem odd with Fish like that. I don't understand why they don't just switch to a thicker french fry. Then it would be perfect. Actually if they did that AND moved to Orange County!

The location is a bit sketchy. Felt like I was in a scene from "Boyz in the Hood" for a while. Crazy Man (literally had mental issues) outside the door a few feet from me while I dined talking to himself making wild hand gestures the whole time I was there. The a crazy OLD man pressing his face up against the glass for about 10 minutes as I ate. Snoop Dog Jr. and posse rollin' in with his Homeys.

Went to "The Old Ship" in Santa Ana. I liked how big and meaty the pieces were. It tasted good. Perfect Chips, great cole slaw. The batter doesnt stay on the fish though. Perhaps a dip in flour before the batter would help? Also it was something like $14.00 and an extra piece of fish (you wont need it though) is $6.95. Can not compare to the $1.49 charge for an extra piece at "Fish In Da' Hood" (England Fish & Chips) in Long Beach.

At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Handy said...

totally agree with u good post

At 7:56 AM, Blogger DanGarion said...

And here I thought the inside or outside question was if you wanted to eat inside or outside...

At 8:15 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

awesome! Been meaning to get over there & try them, have heard lots of positive recs on that place.
VN soup & cold rainy days go hand in hand in my book.

Not to thread drift (ahem), but if you ever get a hankerin' for killer bun bo Hue, head over to Gia Hoi Food to Go in the Bolsa Mini Mall (Bushard & Bolsa) I hit this place yesterday in the rain, & it blew my socks off. THE best!

At 6:42 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Oh yes. Those pickled peppers! Goodness in a jar!


The soup is pretty darned close to perfect...even if it's a little sweeter than I'm used to. There's nothing wrong with sweet! And yaaaay about your food blog! I'll be checking for it.


Ah, it's seasonal! I still want to try it dry this week, as it seems the proper way (as Bill alluded to), regardless of this rain. I've had a similar dish like this, served dry, at Kim Loan in Fullertong, but it had a nice pink sauce on top...MMMMM.


Thanks for the feedback on England. You're about the third person I heard from who went and tried it because of that review. And the third to be completely satisfied with them. They are soooo worth the trip!




You know what? I guess I've been acclimated to Viet-glish that I didn't even think of that! HAH!


Awesome! Thanks for the Bun Bo Hue tip off...I've had so-so Bun Bo Hue's time to get the real beef on. The place you mention sounds like my bag.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - Not really seasonal, I just prefer it that way when it's hot. It sounds like you're describing something like Hu Tieu My Tho Kho.....

At 2:13 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Soup on the side? Ooh, looks like it will probably be just as good as my experience in Macau on noodles.

The breaded shrimp is confusing to me though. Wasn't expecting that to be in soup!

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Rocky Halim said...

now i know what dac biet means. this is also perfect for the stormy season. yuumm..

At 9:13 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Went here to try it tonight. They close at 8 PM on a Friday night. I got there at 8! Who the F closes at 8 on Friday?!!!! So pissssseeeed

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Finally ate it today! It was really really good. noodles are so chewy and a nice broth.

I am wondering why it looks so different than the one on Hungry Huy's blog? I couldnt find a combination that had all the "stuff" plus won tons.

Do they change the combination daily of the special combination

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Hey DD I think their duck is the best. If I'm not mistaken they roast their own ducks in house.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Similar to Hi Tieu My Tho Kho, but it's somewhat wetter, with a ground meat sauce, I believe. I guess I may have to go back and eat it again. Because now I'm craving it.


Tell me about it! I was quite surprised to see that in there. It was my least favorite part of the dish, but it was nothing Sriracha couldn't make great.


Yes! You'll see "dac biet" everywhere. Most of the time when I see it, it'll be what I order, be it at a banh mi shop or a pho joint. Because if they're proud to call it their house special, it must be good.

Diamond Dog,

You're a persistent man! And I'm glad it was worth your persistence. I'm not sure why my bowl differed from Hungry Huy. I was wondering that myself. He might have ordered another kind.


Roast duck looked good too! But I think I'll be trying the dry nam vang noodle next...or is that one better with the broth?

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Bill said...

I wish I can recall more regarding this place but nam vang does ring a bell regarding this place.
My wife likes it with the broth me depending on my mood I have the soup on the side.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Beach said...

You will like it better at the original Mi La Cay on Golden west and Westminster. They are family but some are better cook than others. Kirk and you are discussing different version of Hu tieu My Tho I think. We can clear this up with a meeting in OC when Kirk come up this way.

At 2:40 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Agreed. The way you need to take this in depends on the mood you're in.


Yes! I'd love to find this dish in Little Saigon with you two. Kim Loan's version is awesome, but it's in Fullerton and that's just way too far to get my noodle fix.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Beach said...

This place recently closed. It is now Ngu Binh (Hue's specialty).


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