Quang noodle has been recognised as a "food heritage" of the south of Hai Van Pass and has received high praise from tourists travelling to Quang Nam. But for the natives, even when they come to America, they still argue about this delicacy when someone treats them to a bowl of Quang noodles to remember their hometown.
A stand selling Hoi An’s Quang noodles. Photo: T.D.T
Quang noodles go abroad
My niece-in-law, who followed her husband to the US to settle down, treated me to a bowl of Quang noodles. She said that America has everything from shrimp and meat to pre-cut noodles exported from Quang Nam and grilled rice paper.
She just needs to head to any supermarkets to buy these ingredients and cook according to instructions and experience learned from Viet Nam to have delicious Quang noodles. However, it is hard to find Vietnamese raw herbs and banana blossoms to satisfy fastidious people. Vegetables in America are diverse, fresh and delicious, very hygienic, no pesticides, but they do not have the taste of home.
At the beginning of June, my uncle who is a member of the representative board of the Quang Nam - Da Nang compatriots in Texas took the initiative to organize the "Mi Quang Festival", which he called is "a little something for the homeland, at George Bush Park, Houston, ". A series of "stalls" sell free-of-charge specialities of Phong Thu, Phu Chiem, Cam Ha, Hoi An, Da Nang to compatriots. It was estimated that the festival attracts over a thousand people to attend.
Besides, many families brought banana blossoms to the festival because "raw herbs of Quang noodle dish are nonsense without bananas!". More interesting, some Quang Nam people come to the US but still ... argue about how to make real Quang noodles.
Quang noodles on Facebook
My friend, journalist Hoang Hai Van who usually praised by friends for being sophisticated when writing about food. He often treats friends and guests coming to his farm in Binh Thuan with his homemade Quang noodles. While enjoying the dish, people have to hear him explain clearly about his "Quang noodles" too, especially about the raw herbs served with the dish.
On a scorching day, I made Quang noodles at home and also showed them on Facebook. He immediately said that it is wrong to mix raw herbs with lettuce. Another time, I treated writer Ngo Thao to Quang noodles at a restaurant whose owner is a Duy Chau resident. After posting the photo of my bowl of Quang noodles on Facebook, I received a comment saying that Quang noodles must be accompanied by local herbs because lettuce is not appropriate.
I relayed the message to the restaurant’s owner, who immediately replied: "I'm from Duy Chau, I know all the theories about Quang noodles but most of my customers are around 40 years old so they like to have lettuce with Quang noodles". It is understandable because it bears the meaning of the market economy, so let's just let the market adjust itself!
Cam Ha’s Quang noodles at "Mi Quang Festival" in Houston (Texas, USA). Photo: T.D.T
Quang noodles in life and in books
Twenty years ago, I wrote the memoir "Quang noodles, a democratic dish". In addition to giving evidence to prove that it is the dish of immigrants moving to the South, I also quote the late writer Nguyen Van Xuan saying that it is a democratic dish because we can cook a pot of Quang noodles whenever we have chickens, ducks, frogs, snakes, cows or pigs.
I used to eat Quang noodles at some small restaurants on Hoang Dieu, Ba Dinh streets in Da Nang or at Ky Ly junction in Tam Ky. These restaurants serve different raw herbs such as 'rau dang' (Glinus herniarioides), baby lettuce, and even perilla, but if you arrive late, there will be no room for you.
There is a Quang noodle restaurant in a small alley on Hoang Hoa Tham Street. From 4 am, in addition to noodles, diners also can choose wings, neck, and chicken intestines, or rice wine to enjoy with. I also miss Mrs Thiep's noodle shop in Go Noi. As soon as I got to the entrance, the fragrant smell of peanut oil comes to my nose. When I ordered rice paper, I heard: "Please bake yourself, no one is free here!". It turned out that Mrs Thiep, now deceased, had just made the noodles, cooked the broth, and sold them to customers, so she didn't have her hands free.
The theory of "democratic noodles" of the late writer Nguyen Van Xuan is deeper and broader than we think. It turns out that Mr Xuan's concept of democracy is that we must respect other people's opinions and stop arguing.
Quang noodles, as well as the Quang people, when settling in the south of Hai Van pass, accepted that there were many other cultures besides Confucianism, namely the Champa and Japanese civilizations. Absorbing the quintessence of strange cultures has helped the Quang people to innovate.
All in all, in the time when the pandemic has existed, if a bowl of Quang noodles lacks basil or banana blossoms, we can use lettuce temporarily. " Other times, other manner." Viva Mi Quang (Quang noodles)!
Reporting by Truong Dien Thang - Translating by T.Vy