Mi Cay Tung is a Vietnamese noodle shop on Bellaire that specializes in mi dac biet, a dish of egg noodles with vegetables, roasted pork, and sliced pork liver. The dish comes with a sweet and spicy sauce and a light soup broth.
You can order it all mixed together as a bowl of soup, or you can order it "dry," with the hot broth and sauce served in separate bowls. Noodle lovers recommend the dry version because the noodles stay firm and chewy. You mix the noodles and other ingredients with the sauce and dip the noodles in the broth as you eat them. The signature garnish at Mi Cay Tung is a housemade shrimp cracker with a whole shrimp in the middle.
Mi Cay Tung
10796 Bellaire Blvd
I first sampled Vietnamese mi after reading an article Frank Bruni wrote about the Ippudo ramen shop in the New York Times in 2009. "Why aren't there any Houston ramen shops?" I asked a Vietnamese-American friend back then. She told me that there wasn't any ramen because there are so few Japanese or Japanese-Americans here and because Vietnamese folks would rather eat mi, which is very similar to ramen.
"Is mi going to be the new pho?" I asked her cluelessly.
"They are totally different," she replied in a slightly irritated tone. I asked her to explain the difference.
A hot bowl of pho was the perfect breakfast on a winter morning, the wonderful aroma of the beefy broth, the cinnamon and anise warmed your soul and the hearty thick rice noodles stuck to your ribs, she said. Mi, on the other hand, was a jazzy bowl of curly noodles and zesty pork and shrimp broth that you ate late at night to sober you up after a night of partying.
The vivid associations that these bowls of noodles conjured up were fascinating.
The conversation made it clear that I had a lot to learn about the culture of noodles. After that, I made a point of going to the Pho Binh trailer on Beamer on a cold winter morning to eat pho from breakfast. And I have eaten quite a few bowls of mi—late at night and at other times of the day.
Vietnamese mi comes in many shapes, colors, and sizes and so does Japanese ramen, so its difficult to compare the two. There are at least 20 different ramen broths, each specific to a region.
But mi has its own charms and the mi dac biet at Mi Cay Tung is a great introduction—and you're going to love the funky shrimp cracker.