Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Seattle and Vancouver: Five Perfect Noodles...

...and a partridge in a pear treeeeee.

Ok, I know that's not how the song goes, but I did have five ah-may-zing noodle dishes during my trip to Seattle/Vancouver/Whistler. That trip seems like a lifetime ago. A lot has happened since and I've spent much of that time recapping my life in 250-word, 1900-character, or 25-line chunks.

Med school secondary apps. Yikes.

When I'm writing, yet again, about what a great doctor I hope to become, I'll start daydreaming and look back at the glorious food I ate on that trip. Five perfect noodle dishes. Let's recap, shall we?

Bún măng vịt at Seattle's Green Leaf. I'd read on Chowhound that the "duck noodle soup" came highly recommended. Not knowing the Vietnamese name, I was glad to see there was only one duck noodle soup on the menu. It did not disappoint, with a rich broth, tender slices of duck, and lovely dried bamboo. The duck is served separately with cabbage, herbs, and fried scallions. I tossed portions of the duck and cabbage into the soup, let it warm up for a few seconds, and slurped it up with some noodles and broth. Great mélange of flavors, textures, and temperatures.

We headed to Vancouver and I had only one goal: eat a fabulous bowl of wonton noodle soup. The gang on Chowhound's British Columbia board mentioned (more like debated... these people know their wonton noodle soup) that Michigan Noodle Shop had a damn fine bowl.

I was so committed to the mission that, upon arriving in Vancouver, I dragged D. out to Richmond to visit Michigan Noodle Shop. In fact, I loved it so much that we had stopped for another bowl on our way out of Vancouver a week later.

The picture is an amazing one given that it was taken on my iPhone. However, it hardly captures the utter awesomeness that was this bowl of wontons and noodles. The wontons were filled only with shrimp and wrapped with a toothsome and eggy wrapper. The noodles were divine. Just the right amount of chew, very slightly north of al dente.

Then, there was the broth.

Rich with what Diana Kuan calls the "seafood umami flavor", it was salty, complex, and completely ruined me for any other bowl of wonton noodle soup. It was even topped with pungent yellow chives. It was just a pinch, about 10-12 little cut pieces, but those chives pack an amazing punch.

That bowl of wonton noodle soup should have been the apex of my Vancouver eats, but no, my friends... it continued to get better. Really.

Zha jiang mian or thick noodles with ground pork stir-fried in a fermented soybean paste. Sounds bad? On the contrary, the dark, smoky umami of the soybeans give the pork great flavor. This lovely dish can be found at The Crystal Mall in the Vancouver suburb Burnaby. Served from the Northern Meixi stand in the food court, I watched as the proprietor (thanks to Chowhound's Fmed for the photo) hand-pulled the noodles. Perfectly chewy noodles with deliciously savory sauce and fresh shredded cucumber. It was a happy meal.

Next came the lone non-Asian representative, a wonderful plate of gnocchi at Refuel, which was one of my favorite stops on the trip. D. wanted me to let the world know that he had one of the best burgers ever, with a dry-aged ground beef patty, cheese, bacon, and mayo on a fresh bun.

D.: I'm glad they don't bother putting crap like lettuce and tomatoes on a perfectly good burger. Hey, did you notice the only condiment on this is mayonnaise?

My gnocchi was served with tender fava beans (the nice Chianti was not part of it), watercress, scallions, Pecorino, and tons of butter. So deliciously unhealthy and so very perfectly made. Gnocchi can be mushy, but this version was neither mushy nor sticky.

And last, but certainly not least, the laksa from Bo Laksa King. It's a small Burmese restaurant that doubles as a tea shop in the Hastings area of Vancouver. The laksa was perfection, with the spicy and tangy soup and fresh noodles/trimmings. Complex flavors mixed with beautifully contrasting textures. Spicy soup with coconut milk mixed with a hard-boiled egg, fish balls, shrimp, and crunchy raw sprouts and herbs. Bo himself is delightful to chat with and his staff was fantastic. D. and I ate ourselves silly and staggered back to our hotel.

I could only wish that, perhaps one day, Bo might want live life by the beach in San Diego and set up shop here.

Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant
418 8th Ave South
Seattle, WA 98104

Michigan Noodle Shop
8530 Alexandra Road
Richmond, BC V6X 4B3

Northern Meixi
The Crystal Mall Food Court
4500 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC V5H 2A9

Refuel Restaurant
1944 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6J 1M5

Bo Laksa King
2546 E. Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V5K 1Z3

4 bites:

Dennis K. said...

I love that the bowl is chipped in the third pic.. Great photo. :)

caninecologne said...

what a great post! loved seeing the diff't soups during your trip. we went to seattle/vancouver 5 years ago for our 10th anniv. we loved the vibe in both cities. if we ever go again, now we know where to go! especially the burmese place you wrote about; pity there aren't any burmese places in s.d.

Liz said...

Good luck with secondaries! I contemplated writing about food in my law school ps haha.

LKPheartsfood said...

I've never had laksa before but that photo makes me want some right. NOW.

4 bites