Mien Luon Tron
Lunch in Hanoi has been getting boring for me recently. You’re probably looking at your soggy sambo with wilted lettuce, or oily foodcourt noodles and thinking I’m a spoilt cow, but when you get used to the exotic, it no longer is. So lunchtime for me lately has either been bun cha or rice from a range of com binh dan joints I’m testing out, but my bun cha habit is getting bad. So one recent morning, a Hanoi lunch starts just past 11am, I took a chance and sat at the only busy market stall around and ordered what the other customers were greedily digging in to: miến lươn trộn.
Mien noodles are quick-cooking, chewy and translucent. Made from mung bean, sweet potato or cassava, they are the basis for dishes from Korean japchae to spicy Thai salads, are eaten everywhere in between and have just as many different names. The word is that these Vietnam produced noodles differ from the rest as they’re made from the starch of the canna lily.
The luon (eel) here is sliced into long fingers that curl and tangle together when they’re deep fried crunchy. Off-putting perhaps, but these spiny lengths taste mild and are well and truly inanimate. But, if it’s all too much this dish can sometimes be ordered with stir fried beef instead.
Tron means dry, but this dish is anything but. It’s just served with the soup on the side.
The still-hot mien noodles are joined in the bowl by blanched bean sprouts, the crisp twists of eel, roasted peanuts and deep-fried shallots with a handful of herbs freshly scissor snipped in. Glugs of this and ladle-fuls of that are added to loosen and flavour it sour and salty. Pickles, sometimes the regular pickled carrot and kohlrabi (củ su hào), other times an almost salad of marinated cucumber, can also be added. A big bowl of chilli sauce, furious red and topped with a layer of oil the same colour tempts, for extra flavour that’s not especially required, but I add it anyway. Mixing this dish turns it into a sparky noodle salad, bright and full of interest, with a portion size perfect to start an afternoon of grazing.
And it just happens to be lunch time now.
Miến lươn trộn.
Available around town.
This version which comes from my local market, Cho Yen Phu, is available from breakfast until early afternoon, and costs 25,000 dong (~$1.15 AU).