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Friday, August 5, 2011

My Canh and the Problem of Sloppy Noodles

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2011 at 1:15 PM

My Canh's bun mang vit (duck soup + salad). - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • My Canh's bun mang vit (duck soup + salad).

Rice Plate Journal

is a yearlong project to canvas Chinatown, block by block, discovering

the good, the bad, and the hopelessly mediocre. Maximum entrée price:

$10.

A pattern with SFoodie's visits to Chinatown restaurants seems to be emerging: Go once, order the wrong thing, and return for something better. Taking a break from Broadway's cluster of Hong Kong restaurants -- don't worry, there will be more next week -- we went to My Canh, whose pho SF Weekly praised a few years ago.

Yelpers are devoted to the restaurant's crab noodle soup, especially after they've gone on North Beach benders. Seeing as how most of the people in the restaurant -- a grimly painted place, with a magenta floor and green marble tabletops -- were fishing noodles out of a soup the color of a stop sign instead, SFoodie figured the restaurant's specialty might be bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup). That was a mistake: We got wan pho broth garnished with a little chile oil, served with Thai basil instead of shredded greens, lime, and rau ram. And where was the pig's ear? We pointed to one of the other customers and asked the waiter what it was. "Beef stew," he replied.

Ah.

SF WEEKLY
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So back to My Canh we went earlier this week, friend in tow, to order the beef soup and another dish we'd spotted on the last visit, a favorite from Seattle: bun mang vit, or duck soup and salad.

Our waiter, a man who communicated with an economy of gesture mastered by Buddhist monks and cowboys, quickly brought over both dishes. Made with a little more care, the duck noodle soup could have been good: The flavor of a subtle chicken-duck broth, flavored with nutty fried shallots and shreds of dried bamboo shoots, was diluted by a Sargasso Sea of overcooked rice noodles. We focused on dipping the tender poached duck leg on the side into a bowl of powerfully gingered-up, sweet-sour fish sauce and eating hunks of the shredded cabbage underneath, which was tossed with rau ram (think cilantro plugged into a 15-volt battery) and chopped peanuts.

As for the beef stew (bo kho), it was indeed better than the bun bo hue SFoodie had eaten the week before. The aroma of star anise -- and was that cinnamon, too? -- shaded the broth, which was reddened by the juice of stewed tomatoes, and the cubes of beef had almost braised to the point where they collapsed at the prodding of a chopstick. Once again, though, overcooked ho fun (wide rice noodles) turned a decent dish sloppy. We would have preferred a toasted length of baguette.

While our friend had the wisdom to tuck a napkin into the neck of her shirt before tackling the stew, we returned to the office to find our white shirt was covered in a mass of pale orange dots. Sloppily cooked noodles might have been My Canh's weakness, but sloppy eating was ours alone.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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