Dish: Bun Moa (#141)
Place: Thanh Thao in Columbia City, Seattle
In the Bowl: The menu advertises it as “mashed pork-pie, ham, pig’s feet and vermicelli spicy soup.”
Supporting Cast: A side dish of bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, a few strips of iceberg lettuce, Thai basil, banana blossom, jalapeno, and lemon.
What to do: Add whatever you like from the side dish into the bowl. I personally toss in everything except for some of the sprouts, as I’m not a sprout lover. I squeeze the jalapeno with my chopsticks to extract some heat out of them, but I sometimes don’t eat them. If you want more spice, there’s Sriracha and the ubiquitous chili oil in the table’s “common pantry,” where you’ll also find the chopsticks and soup spoons.
Noodling around: I can probably say this about most any bowl of noodles, but this is truly comfort food. Maybe it’s the softness of the noodles–not my favorite, for sure, but right for a reassuring moment. Or maybe it’s the mellowness of the mostly clear broth, the herbs shining through, in contrast to the more aggressive broth of bun bo hue (which I’ll discuss another time).
As for the meaty contents? The mashed pork-pie has a reconstituted texture like fishcake, and is laced with some cloud ear mushrooms. The ham is more like pate, thick-cut and satisfying. Both are soft and add to the comforting nature of the dish.
A pig’s foot would have changed that soft feeling, but there wasn’t one to be found in my bowl. Nor was there one in my Vietnamese friend’s bun bo hue, proof that this wasn’t simply a slight of the Caucasian in the house. Still, I was hoping for a hock, and hope this was just an oversight on this particular day.
If still hungry: One of my dining companions likes the dau chao quay (Chinese donuts) with many soups–but not this one. Maybe goi cuon (spring rolls, in a serving of two) for yourself at $3.95, or goi du du kho bo (jerky beef papaya salad) for the table at $6.95.
Be aware/beware: While there’s a huge menu of items numbered 1-206, go deeper into the menu and you’ll find even more dishes that are considered drinking accompaniments. Included here are offal and “exotics” like frog, alligator, and more. I’d like to come here some non-noodle night and work my way through some of the animal kingdom.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on January 18, 2011.