Eat This Now: Banh Cuon Cha Lua at Quang, Minneapolis
Some friends and I spent a weekend in Minneapolis earlier this month to surprise a friend for her birthday, and among the many, many meals we took in, the impromptu lunch we had at Quang during a rainstorm might have been my favorite.
Ducking in for bowls of steamy pho during the bad weather felt particularly satisfying, and each version we tried was excellent: lightweight but richly fragrant broth with thick nests of noodles at the bottom and thin shavings of beef floating like lily pads on the surface. (The options with wontons were also top-notch.) But even better were the weekend-only specials—harder-to-find dishes that I hadn't had since I was in Hanoi last year.
After waffling between the Banh Cuon Cha Lua (steamed rice rolls with pork and mushrooms; $7.50), the Chao Long (rice porridge with pork; $7.95), and the locally famous Bun Ca Kieng Giang (sea bass and shrimp noodle soup; $12.95), I went with the banh cuon; I'm a sucker for those wide noodle-like swaths (and my friend ordered the soup, which lived up to the hype). They were as good as I remembered: delicate, tender wrappers filled with savory bits of minced pork and chewy black mushrooms. Over the top were the requisite half-moon slabs of springy sweet pork sausage (cha lua), crispy fried shallots, and, on the other side of the plate, basil-bean sprout-carrot salad. With the fish sauce dressing poured over top, it's a great lightweight (and cheap!) lunch, rain or shine.
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Senior Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.