Hu Tieu in Saigon
While you can find a pho stall in practically every nook and cranny of Vietnam, Hu Tieu is strictly a southern affair. If you had to choose one noodle soup to have in Ho Chi Minh City, this is the one. Origins of this soup can be traced back to Chinese-Cambodian who brought this soup to Ho Chi Minh City when it was a fishing village known as Prey Nokor. In fact, you are more likely to find a hu tieu vendor than a pho vendor in the city.
While there are quite a bit of variations to this soup, what unifies it is the broth. Lighter in body and sweeter in taste, a combination of pork along with the bones, dried squid, rock sugar and vegetables such as onion and carrot are placed in a stock and left to simmer for hours.
There are two main variations of hu tieu you find in Ho Chi Minh City: Hu Tieu Nam Vang and Hu Tieu My Tho. Hu Tieu Nam Vang hails from Phnom Penh, Cambodia and is served with sliced pork, pork liver and if that isn’t enough porkiness for you, some congealed pork blood in the form of a cake. The broth for Hu Tieu My Tho tends to be a bit sweeter than normal hu tieu and the protein steers into the range of offal as well as the other proteins.
Most places typically offer hu tieu noodles. The thin round noodles will be cooked in some water just before serving and will have a chewy texture to them. Other noodles can include pho noodles, mi goi (packet egg noodles) or mi (Chinese-style egg noodles). The stall will usually have the noodles displayed in front so you can just point and choose.
The variety of toppings is staggering and can range from pork slices, pork ribs (suon) to wontons (hoanh thanh) and shrimp to quail eggs and Chinese style xa xiu. You can usually tell what the food stall sells by seeing what protein the place after the words hu tieu (ie: hu tieu suon, hu tieu hoanh thanh). The soup is usually finished with a leaf of lettuce, fried garlic or shallots, scallions and some chopped coriander. Garnish usually includes boiled bean sprouts, lime, and chopped chillis.
A nice tip for those carnivores: If you see the word suon at the stall, order a to suon. This translates to bowl ribs which, you guessed it, is a bowl of ribs with some broth. Get a small ramekin of chili sauce or some dieu chanh (a mixture of salt, pepper and lime) to dip your slabs of meat. If you are really lucky, they will have some chinese mustard as well!
Want to try some noodle soup for yourself in Saigon? Join us on our Street Foodies Saigon tour!