Most people go to Nha Trang One, a tiny Vietnamese restaurant on Baxter Street in New York City, for the steaming bowls of phở. The delicately flavored noodle soup is, after all, Nha Trang One’s most popular dish; owner Andy Ha estimates they sell over 1,000 bowls weekly.
But instead of lingering over the phở selection, flip to the very end of the six-page menu, where, toward the bottom, you’ll find a soup that’s less lauded, and yet which deserves much of your attention: the mì bò sa tế.
Mì bò sa tế is like phở in structure, but it’s more intense in every way. According to blogger Ginger and Scotch, it’s made by sautéing ground beef, aromatics, and spices with satế—a chili sauce that originated from the Chaozhou region in China—and broth, before adding a tangle of egg noodles.
Ha, who took over the restaurant from his parents a few years ago, says Nha Trang One’s version is a bit lighter than what you’d find offered by street vendors in Saigon City—he attributes this to the high concentration of herbs added to his broth, along with garlic, lemongrass, chile paste, onions, and scallions.
Nha Trang One, which opened its doors in late 1992, is named after the coastal city Ha’s parents were from, but its menu spans many Vietnamese regions. The mì ga cary, another egg noodle soup flavored with chicken curry, and crackling chả giò, fried spring rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves, are other stand-outs. And there is, of course, the phở.
But if there’s a more satisfying winter lunch than the mì bò sa tế, I haven’t found it.
The whole thing gets topped with slices of tender, medium-rare beef, and, like phở, is served with a plate of bean sprouts, mint, and wedges of lime. The noodles are chewy, but surprisingly soft against the heady broth. And if it’s anywhere below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in New York City, you’re best off not agreeing to share your bowl with any dining companions.
Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.