Quite possibly the cheesiest name of a store I’ve ever seen: Bánh Canh Quê Anh & Quê Em – “bánh canh [from] your hometown and my hometown” (it doesn’t sound cheesy translated into English, but trust me, it’s like Twilight’s Edward Cullen in noodle soup form). Which is actually fitting, since banh canh is commoner’s grub, not a bourgeois lunch. You won’t find a classy madame dressing up just to go out for banh canh. The poor thing will never be elevated to the level of pho. I love it.
I grew up eating it before I was born (literally). Backstory can be told in person, but despite eating so many bowls, I never knew that there was so many types of banh canh. Que Anh & Que Em offered 30 types (see menu at the bottom), 14 of which are no more traditional than the Spider Roll, but the other 16 are attached to geographical regions in Vietnam, and thus, in this case, more meritable.
Banh canh is a thick, chewy, slippery rice noodle (with tapioca starch). It’s similar enough to udon in appearance and texture (as the shop aptly translates it to “Vietnamese udon”), but also entirely different (udon is made from wheat).
Close-up of my order: banh canh Tra Vinh – pork, pig trotter, quail eggs, pig blood in a clear, light broth. The classic when people think of banh canh. I can do without pig blood, which I transferred to Dad’s bowl, and the quail eggs (fresh quail eggs are great, but these taste like the canned version). In fact, the noodle and the broth alone are sufficient.
From left: Dad’s and Mom’s orders: banh canh 3 mien (“banh canh of all three regions”) and banh canh hoang gia (“royal banh canh”). Both names are only meant to illicit interest, the same way “Pho Dac Biet” is really not all that special. The broth of both bowls is thickened, yellow (with turmeric?) and taste richly of seafood, as both are loaded with crab meat and shrimps.
… and che khuc bach – lychee, some chewy tapioca thing, some chewy milky jello thing, and some nuts. A popular che in Vietnam these days. Here’s a video to make che khuc bach, which the author loosely calls “almond panna cotta lychee dessert”.
I miss Vietnamese food. It’s been only three days since I left for the mountain on another observing run. Every time I’m in the mountain I’m reminded of what a privileged life I have. I miss being a stone’s throw away from darling nigiri, banh mi, mordin, etc. There’s no Asian restaurant in Big Pine, the nearest congregation of human from the observatory. Then again, it’s already a huge privilege to stay at CARMA, with a private bedroom and bathroom, eating juicy fresh apples and having nutritious meals hot and ready twice a day…
Address: Banh Canh Que Anh & Que Em
11210 Bellaire Blvd, Ste 133
Houston, TX 77072