It’s been a while since we’ve gone on a soup rant, so we thought we might take a closer look at another very popular bowl of noodles we serve daily at Ba Bar. If you remember our very first soup rant, we broke down the very time consuming process of making our absurdly expensive Oxtail Phở in glorious detail. Well, compared to Mì Vịt Tiềm, Oxtail Phở is a walk in the park. Let’s take a closer look at how we craft this Chinese-inspired soup.
You can find Mì Vịt Tiềm joints in District 5 (Saigon’s Chinatown) as well as other noodle shops around Vietnam. It is a very herbaceous soup made with simmered duck legs and medicinal Chinese herbs. The classic way to prepare Mì Vịt Tiềm is to cook the duck legs until tender, deeply seasoned, and mahogany brown. Typically, the duck is marinated, flash-fried for color, then simmered in broth for several hours.
When we opened Ba Bar we followed this original approach, but we found that the duck meat would not stay intact and would fall apart over night. So we tinkered with the recipe and decided to confit the duck legs instead. This classic French technique allows the legs to be stored longer and acquire much more flavor due to the duck fat coating.
There are three main steps to making Ba Bar’s Mì Vịt Tiềm:
Step One: Confit
We use premium grade birds from Maple Leaf Farms. The legs are covered with a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar, fresh cloves, and bay leaves. After curing for twelve hours, the mixture is carefully removed. The legs are then placed skin side up in a large metal pan and covered in duck fat. The legs are then covered in parchment and the pan is covered in foil to be placed in a low heat oven for four hours. Once removed they can be stored skin side up in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Step Two: Herbaceous Chicken Stock
You might be asking why we don’t use duck bones to make the stock? Well, duck bones are just a bit too gamey and strong for this soup. Therefore, chicken stock it is! We use fresh, Washington grown chickens to make this broth—a lot of them. This is the key to making a delicious chicken broth: don’t skimp on the chickens! After several hours on the stove, secret Chinese herbs and red dates are added to the stock and simmered for another hour or so. (Okay, the herbs aren’t really secret, we just don’t know what half of them are.)
Step Three: Egg Noodles
This isn’t really a step, but regarding noodles—we went with Sun Noodle. These guys make the best noodles. After tasting over 15 brands, Sun Noodle stood out. They contain no baking soda and no preservatives—the very best. (Momofuku in New York uses Sun Noodle and David Chang knows his noodles!)
All said, there are numerous interpretations of Mì Vịt Tiềm. An excellent bowl should be very fragrant, rich with umami, slightly sweet, and even a bit salty. We serve this soup every day and we’d like you to come down and try it. Ours is served with chives, Chinese dates, Chinese celery, longan fruit, and shiitake mushrooms. It sells for $14.50. If you think you can make it at home for cheaper than that, you go right ahead. If not, see you at Ba Bar soon!
Photography from Geoffrey Smith