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Soup’s On at Saigon with the Unique ‘Mi Quang’

Digest Foodie Fare

May 8, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

By now you’ve probably gotten your fill of pho, so why not try a taste of something new at Saigon House?

  • Owner Mandy Nguyen can't wait to share with customers a unique Vietnamese rice noodle soup known as Mi Quang.
  • Mi Quang ($8.50)
  • Lemon Grass Chicken and Rice ($8.25)
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Beginning tomorrow, the South King Street restaurant (located near Sherwin Williams across from the Hawaiian Humane Society) is introducing a brand-new soup called Mi Quang ($8.50).

“This type of dish is very unusual and very unique here,” says Saigon House owner Mandy Nguyen. “We’re one of the very few who serve it in Hawaii.”

Mi, meaning “saimin,” and Quang, the region of Vietnam from which the dish originates, is a rice noodle dish served with a hard-boiled quail egg, chunks of baby back ribs and two pieces of sauteed heads-on shrimp.

The rich broth is made with pork bone and vegetables, and the finished dish is garnished with parsley, peanuts and onion.

Bean sprouts, shredded ong choy and shredded banana flower with lemon and jalapeno sauce come on the side.

“You look around and everybody’s serving a lot of pho, and this is one of the things very few people are serving,” Nguyen says. “I discussed it with my cook and we said let’s put this on the menu, let the local people have a taste of the real, authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

“At Saigon House, we try to keep everything authentic,” she adds. “A lot of restaurants localize the dish; our style is to try to keep it as authentic as we can.”

And while there is an ample amount of pho on the menu (more than a dozen different variations to be exact), other popular items at Saigon House include the Spicy Beef Soup ($9.25), Finger Shrimp ($8), Chicken Salad ($7.50) and Lemon Grass Chicken and Rice ($8.25).

“That dish is ono, for sure!” Nguyen exclaims of the chicken and rice plate. “It’s the No. 1 seller right now.”

The chicken is marinated curry-style with a special blend of Vietnamese spices, then sauteed with fresh lemongrass and served with rice and a side salad.

“It’s fresh, and it tastes really nice with the rice,” Nguyen says. “It has a very fresh flavor.”

For those seeking an extra dose of spice, condiments including hot sauce, hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce, fish sauce and shoyu always are present on each table.

On the Side

Restaurant owners are a group of tough, determined individuals who roll with the current and find a way to keep afloat in the ever-changing culinary tide.

So it is no surprise, after learning her personal story, that Mandy Nguyen is the owner of not one, but two very successful eateries: Bale Kahala Mall and Saigon House.

“I’m a survivor,” says Nguyen, who was born in Southern Vietnam during the fighting and bloodshed of the Vietnam War.

By the time she was 7 or 8, the war was over but life was still extremely hard, so her family decided to leave the country in hopes of finding a better life in the United States. However, the only way out was by boat.

“Along the way we experienced the whole boat experience: storms in open sea, pirates,” Nguyen remembers of her terrifying travel across the Pacific. “You’d see the pirates with guns and knives — it’s not the same as the Disney movie, because they can kill you. We got mobbed nine times. There was rape, everything. The journey was a really hard journey. It was either you make it or you die.”

After the family’s failed first attempt out — they landed in Indonesia only to be sent back to Vietnam, but their boat drifted onto an unknown island where they were jailed for several months — Nguyen, her parents and her four siblings eventually made it to Hawaii on their second go-round.

“We had to start all over again, the language, the lifestyle — everything,” says Nguyen. “We worked really hard.”

To make ends meet, her father began cutting hair and opened his own salon, while her mother started a lunch wagon, eventually purchasing the Bale restaurant on Fort Street Mall.

“That’s how I got exposed to food, through working with my mother,” says Nguyen. “Now I have a Saigon House, and since I’m Vietnamese, I try to bring all of the Vietnamese cuisine to the island and keep it authentic.”

Saigon House

  • Where
    • 2743 South King Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96826
  • Call
    • (808) 942-4577
  • Hours
    • 9 a.m. – 9 a.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
  • Notes
    • Free parking available behind the restaurant.