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I was craving a comforting bowl of rice noodle soup but didn’t want to drive all the way to the SGV, which was how I ended up at Mien Nghia in Chinatown.  The place has been around for a long time and is known for their noodle soups, but surprisingly, I’d never gone until this time.

When I walked in, I was greeted with a sticky table and surly service, both signs that this place may be legit.  After grabbing a dirty menu from the counter myself, I decided on what amounts to the house special noodle soup. Thick, flat rice noodles in a chicken broth were topped with kidney, fish balls, slices of what I call Vietnamese spam (thin slices of some sort of meat paste), juicy, plump shrimp, and some fried shallots.  It hit the spot.

Mein Nghia

The soup was piping out, the broth chickeny and mild, and the noodles were perfect. What’s that? The health board wants us to refrigerate rice noodles for sanitary reasons? F-that! Why ruin the delicate texture of these slippery noodles with refrigeration? My mom who’s been making pho for years leaves the noodles out for whole days and no one in my family has gotten sick from it yet.

Although the broth was fine as is, I spied a jar of satay sauce on the table and put a tentative amount in my soup.  It gave it a completely different flavor — a flavor that I really liked, so I threw in a larger scoop.  It gave the broth a nutty, slightly spicy taste.

When I was there for lunch, there were signs posted on the walls about a free dessert drink with each entree order.  It’s the ubiquitous drink with coconut milk and sweet beans over shaved ice.  I was disappointed to see that the waiter didn’t even mention my free drink until I asked about it and by that time, I was too full. If you see the signs and want to get your free dessert, make sure to speak up because they sure as hell won’t volunteer any information.

Charmingly surly service and a satisfying bowl of noodles. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes and only about $7 dollars lighter. What else could I ask for in a weekday lunch? I guess I could have asked for my free dessert, but other than that, it was a pleasing experience.

Mien Nghia
304 Ord St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 680-2411

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