Have you ever had eels? I used to know of unagi, or Japanese eels before, but Vietnamese eels are also just as delicious. One of the many dishes they have here is eel noodles (mien luon), which I can only describe as a hearty, delicious novelty.
We saw this place last month right around Tet. A group of us were wondering around on the last day of Tet, looking for something that is open. Then we turn around the corner and saw a street side packed with people slurping noodles.
One of our friends explained that these street side pop up restaurants are not the “real” thing. The street has two very famous noodle places right next to each other, one selling bun bo (beef noodles), and the other selling eel noodles. During Tet, these two noodle places close down for a break. So some people just swooped in and try to take their business for a couple of days.
Of course, if some noodle place is so famous that people try to copy them when they close for just a few days, we need to try it too! So after Tet, we came back for the eel noodles!
This time, the restaurant is actually indoor. Well, some tables are set outside, but it’s just because there is no more room inside! Just like many popular eating spots in Hanoi, the space is limited. You sit where they squeeze you, rubbing elbows with strangers. The good news? The food more than makes up for it.
We ordered two different types of noodles that they have there. In one bowl, the noodles were covered in a subtle, aromatic broth (mien nuoc), and in the other, the noodles are mixed with a less, but stronger sauce (mien tron).
In both types, they used mien – a types of Rice vermicelli. It’s thinner than regular pho or bun, transparent in color, and seems a bit chewy? In the mixed noodles, it’s definitely soak up the sauce better than a regular bowl of bun.
Since the place is packed, the staff works extremely efficiently. We got our order within minutes of sitting down.
My hot bowl of noodle soup came out first, still steaming and all. The noodles shrank to the bottom of the bowl, so you don’t see it much in this photo, but trust me, it is a filling meal!
On top of the noodles are crunchy pieces of fried eels, fried shallots, and a general amount of herbs. The eels did not taste fishy at all, to my surprise. It has just a wonderfully crunchy texture and a very mild taste.
The broth, for me, is the star of the show. It’s subtly sweet and aromatic. The herbs are also unique, you won’t find it in any regular bowl of pho. Perhaps it’s something that is only paired with the eels?
Then the mixed noodles came out. At first, I took a mere look and turned back to my steaming soup. Only when I saw Mr. Frugal inhaled half of his bowl within seconds that I poke my chopsticks in for a taste. I was so sure that my noodle soup is the better choice. Then after the taste? No idea which one I’d prefer!
We have bun bo or bun thit nuong before, which is also the mix type. For me though, they taste more like salad, very fresh and the sauce is often at room temperature. Often the toppings are what seal the deal.
In this case of the eel noodles, the sauce definitely stands out! Because of the type of noodles, the sauce is carried very well in each bite. It is made with soy sauce instead of fish sauce, and has a sweet-savory taste. The best part? The sauce is warm.
The noodles are then topped with a generous amount of eels and peanuts. The crunchy toppings are nice against the warm, soft noodles.
The final verdict? We came back just a week later and made it our only-eat-out meal of the week, two weeks in a row!
Eel Noodles – Mien Luon
Place: Nha Hang Mien Luon – 87 Hang Dieu (Google Map)
Price: VND 40,000/bowl (~USD 2)- same for both types.
Like this post? Check out more yummy goodness in Hanoi:
Did you know 24vs100 is now on Facebook? Give us a like for moral support and to get the latest posts 🙂