Mi Vit Tiem – Heaven in a Bowl
Never judge a restaurant until you’ve tried their best
I discovered Hai Ky about 10 years ago in Little Saigon on the corner of Larkin and Ellis Streets. It was a cold winter day and I wanted something more than the traditional Bowl of Pho. I strolled into Hai Ky and the place was packed. Communal tables abound with little condiment set ups of Pickled Jalapenos, Sriracha Chili Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, Fish Sauce and Sate Sauce. The traditional soup spoons and chop sticks with mini sauce dishes stacked in their holder like the jams at Denny’s. Hai Ky is famous for Chinese Vietnamese specialties.
Now for those who know me, I have an intimate knowledge of Vietnamese food. I was introduced to the food by a native and learned to cook some of the most complex dishes including Nuoc Duong Thang (Caramel Sauce) which involves the unlikely combination of Nuoc Mam (Fish Sauce) and Sugar with Shallots and Black Pepper into the deepest most satisfying sauce in pork and fish dishes where the meat or fish is braised in this sweet and savory caramel.
The first time I had Braised Duck Noodle Soup was at an old Vietnamese restaurant in Oakland’s Chinatown on Webster Street called Vi’s. The charming owner closed up shop during the last economic downturn because his clients weren’t willing to pay the $7.50 for great atmosphere and the best Duck Noodle Soup in the Bay Area. Braised Duck Noodle Soup is rumored to originate in Lau Cay in the north near the Chinese border between Yunan and Guangxo province.
I was so thrilled when I tried Hai Ky’s Braised Duck Noodle Soup because I had missed it so. The soup is composed of a very deep and matured broth, a lean braised duck leg and egg noodles (your choice, thick or thin) and you can add won ton noodles filled with dense pork. This is absolute comfort food, especially on a cold day. I like mine with a spoonful of Sriracha Chili Sauce mixed in and a few pickled jalapenos.
Don’t go to Hai Ky expecting atmosphere. This is a clean no nonsense noodle soup shop where slurping is de rigeur. Share a communal table and compare notes with your new neighbor. Feel free to ask for a fork if you’re not comfortable with chop sticks and don’t leave a drop of that dreamy broth that has been simmering for days and building layer upon layer of complexity.
Hai Ky Mi Gia is open everyday except Wednesday 8AM to 6PM, so feel free to saunter by for a traditional breakfast. Take out is available.
Hai Ky Mi Gia
707 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA 94109