The taste of miến lươn

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Mi ế n remain a Vietnamese staple. The clear chewy noodles are traditionally made out of pounded arrowroot and cassava (tapioca) flour. In fancier varietals, mung bean flour is incorporated into the mix.

Miến appears in a wide range of popular dishes: from miến xào (miến stir fried with pork or chicken tripe), to miến trá»™n (stir fried miến beef, pawpaw, vinegar, sugar, salt and chili).

The noodles remain a prominent component of myriad soups. Miến gà (chicken noodle soup), miến bò (beef cassava vermicelli), and miến lươn (eel cassava vermicelli) have all been heralded as national delicacies - for both special occasions and daily meals.

Miến gà is traditionally eaten on special holidays (e.g. the lunar new year and ancestral death anniversaries); whereas, miến lươn remains a wildly popular street dish, served up in market stalls throughout the country for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The combination of its sweet broth and rich eel meat, the chewy vermicelli and fragrant herbs seem to appeal to everyone, particularly during summertime.

Eel meat is said to have a cooling effect on the human body and is widely believed to help fortify one for big jobs ahead. So try a bowl before heading out for a big day at work.

In Hanoi, miến lươn is served everywhere, but the most famous outlet for the dish is 87 Hang Dieu Street (opposite Hang Da Market). The restaurant has been serving miến lươn for some twenty years and they continue to churn out bowls in expert fashion. Other good destinations include 42 Thai Ha Street, 112 Nghi Tam Street or 40 Mai Hac De Street. Price ranges from VND20,000-25,000 per bowl.

If you dare to venture to the market and order yourself up an eel, here's how it's prepared:

Ingredients

Eel (500 grams), vermicelli (200 grams), ginger (two slices), spring onion (one stalk), parsley (one stalk), cooking oil (1/2 table spoon), pepper (a pinch), sugar (a pinch), salt (1/2 tea spoon).

Preparation:

Debone eel and scald in hot water to remove slime. Rinse meat and cut into thick shreds.

Simmer the bones in 1.5 liters of water for about an hour; then stir in seasonings until broth is fragrant and clear.

The clear threads are longer and tougher than rice vermicelli. So you have to cut the balls of dried noodles into small pieces and soak them until tender (about 15 minutes).

Heat cooking oil and add spring onion, ginger and then eel shreds. Toss mixture in hot oil. Add seasoning and simmer for eight minutes until cooked.

Add miến into a bowl. Top with fried eel, parsley, pepper and a ladle of broth. Serve hot.

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