Go Eat This Now: Braised Duck Leg with Wonton Noodle Soup, at Hai Ky Mi Gia

Fowl play at its finest.

I was lucky enough to have a good friend bring me to Hai Ky Mi Gia  — a.k.a. Hai Ky Noodle House — not long after I moved to San Francisco. I quickly fell in love with it, but at the time I didn’t realize how head-over-heels I would soon become. This Chinese/Southern Vietnamese soup joint lives in the heart of San Francisco’s Little Saigon. Hai Ky Mi Gia is a bustling, L-shaped restaurant that smells like well-seasoned pans and rich chili paste. It’s loud, it’s crowded, and three Chinese women at the table next to me are sharing a banana while they wait for their food. In this diner-like atmosphere, everyone seems to know everyone else, except for me.

The menu can be a little overwhelming at first, but with just a speck of effort, you’ll notice that the soups on the list of more than 30 differ only slightly in ingredients and noodle shape.

(Ryan Basso)

Hai Ky Mi Gia’s claim to fame is a $9.22 braised duck leg with wonton noodle soup. The soup’s broth is dark and rustic from the giant ducky drumstick soaking and glistening in the bowl. Around this main attraction are handmade pork dumplings that are in turn snugly nestled in springy yellow egg noodles. That’s about it. No bells or whistles needed, just good old-fashioned fowl play.

Once the duck wonder loses some of its mystique, I’d recommend any of the other options on the menu. Regulars know to mix-and-match different types of proteins and noodles in dry and wet combinations, all of which look as lovely as the next. Every soup runs from about $6 to $10, and each is a hearty meal for someone on a quick lunch break, trying to cure a hangover, or just strolling about the Tenderloin.

I feel like I grew up eating at Hai Ky Mi Gia with my dad after raking leaves or driving to the dump. I didn’t grow up here, so I can’t explain this misplaced nostalgia. But Hai Ky Mi Gia has been open for more than three decades now, so they’re doing something right.

Hai Ky Mi Gia, 707 Ellis St., 415-771-2577 or haikynoodles.com

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