Eat This Now: Glass Noodle At Ha Long
This food-to-go shop in the middle of Irvine's land of sameness is a reprieve from Subway and the ubiquitous Flame Broiler, both of which are next door. It comes from the owners of Pho Ba Co, already the preeminent purveyor of pho in the city, and the ones you can trust to know the terrain of the Bren Belt and what its denizens want from the cuisine of Vietnam.
You can get a lot of what you can order at Pho Ba Co here, including a drink called the Black Sea, a fragrant pandan and grass jelly concoction that's just as wonderful here as it is at the original restaurant down the block.
Ha Long is, however, different than its parent restaurant--it specializes in banh mi sandwiches for the lunch crowd, large party trays for those who are hosting get-togethers, and an inexplicable section of raw, marinated BBQ Korean style for, well, I guess Irvine's burgeoning Korean community.
But what you should order is the glass noodle. A stir-fry dish lighter than the pad thai, but more substantial than the cold noodle salad called bun, this is as fine a takeout food as you'll ever have. The stretchy as bungee tangles of noodle, poached pieces of chicken, shrimp, strips of onion and just wilted cabbage, are kind of tossed around in a not-so-even a manner...yet it works since the wok is slicked with just enough oil to make it flavorful, but not greasy.
In the corner, they'll deposit some dried chili flakes, like the kind you'll shake on top of your spaghetti to give it jolt. Also on top, they add a few hits of black pepper before they close up the clamshell and send you home with its fish sauce aromas filling up the car. This is isn't quite mien xao cua, which requires crab as protein, but it does everything that that dish does in a portion size able to feed two normal-sized appetites.
You should probably take them up on their offer of making it a combo for $10, which will add two long fingers of a very well made egg rolls, and a fat, translucent cylinder of a spring roll with one of the tangiest dipping sauces you'll encounter in Stepford, I mean, Irvine.
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