Noodles fit for a fighter

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Bánh hi is considered the staple of Binh Dinh Province - the land of Vietnamese warriors

Binh Dinh has long been known as a home to fierce fighters and rebel uprisings.

The hilly central province served as the base for the Tay Son brothers to launch a peasant revolt in the late 18th century.

Today, it maintains a reputation as a land of fierce martial artists and strong women.

And the food is pretty good, too.

Binh Dinh's signature dish, bánh hi consists of super-fine rice vermicelli woven into intricate bundles and topped with chopped scallions or garlic chives sautéed in oil. The noodles are wrapped in herbs and served with rich meats.

It looks like typical Vietnamese breakfast fare, but the locals eat bánh hi all day long. If you're lucky enough to be invited into a Binh Dinh home, you can expect a fun communal barbeque.

Bánh hi can also be found on tables at ceremonial parties such as weddings and ancestral memorial days.

Making bánh hi involves a labor-intensive, multi-step process that takes days.

Locals soak and grind rice into a paste and then press it through a sieve.

The resulting noodles are slimmer, even, than angel hair pasta. They are folded into sheets and served, cold with garlic and chive oil.

What truly sets the meal apart (from, say, bún ch) is prominence of savory garlic and chive oil. Once the noodles are tossed with the oil, they become a meal in and of themselves.

There's no standard sauce, for this dish.

In some places, it's served with anchovy fish sauce or nưá»›c chm (fish sauce with garlic, sugar, chili and lemon juice). Occasionally, locals dip the meat into a simple mix of soy sauce, chilies and lemon juice.

Bánh hi can be served with everything from giant river prawns, to roast pork or duck. Most often, little handmade dumplings are filled with slices of grilled beef, pork or chicken. On occasion, Binh Dinh locals grill lollipops made from ground pig offal and shrimp paste on sugar cane sticks. The meat is then broken up and eaten with the noodles.

Consider the following Ho Chi Minh City restaurants for a taste of the popular central delicacy:

Song Trang
1035 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street,
Binh Thanh District
Tel: (08) 3 556 2516

Hoi quan Binh Dinh
139 Truong Vinh Ky Street,
Tan Phu District

Nau
156 Nguyen Van Troi Street,
Phu Nhuan District
Tel: (08) 3 844 1883

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