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OUT TO EAT / Great dishes, drinks and people

A family tradition

Martin Tu, who runs Red Pepper (3910 Maple Road, Amherst, 831-3878) with his family, is of Chinese heritage, but was born in Vietnam.

Years ago, before opening their Amherst restaurant, his mother-in-law would start their day with a bowl of mi vit, roast duck noodle soup, as a hearty breakfast. Tu told her it would have a place on his menu one day. "I say wow, it's the best," said Tu. "We're going to sell a lot."

Today's diners can burrow into a bowl of family tradition, at $6.95, on the six days a week the place is open. (It's closed Mondays.)

The chicken broth that it's based on is made every day by his wife, said Tu. The egg noodles are fresh, brought up from New York City, and simmered to order before going into the bowl, retaining a firm texture. "You cannot overcook them, because it's too soft, and it won't taste the same," he said.

A quarter of a roast duck is chopped up, bones, skin and all, for each bowl. Then it's topped with dried shallots, scallions and a healthy dose of cilantro. The bone-in duck can be a bit of a mess to eat, but that's where the flavor is, said Tu. "For us, when we eat with the bone it's tastier."

-- Andrew Z. Galarneau

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