Feb 24 2012
I’m trying not to be too repetitive, but I’m pretty much in love with the street food in Saigon. I don’t think I’ve tried many dishes that I wouldn’t want to have on a regular basis; I just can’t get past the mental block for a daily hot vit lon yet. One thing that surprises me about street food in HCMC is the variety of soups. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t live without my daily ration of bun bo hue or pho, it’s just that it is always so hot and humid here that soup isn’t traditionally the first food that would come to mind if I was starting from scratch. Even though it’s hot, there is no shortage of street soups; the version I find most interesting is hu tieu.
Hu tieu, introduced by Chinese-Cambodian immigrants, is interesting because it has so many variations. For a long stretch of time, I was actually eating hu tieu and I didn’t know what it was called because the cart I got it from was unmarked. I just walked up, sat on the small stool, and the lady would bring me a bowl of the standard hu tieu, which is a light pork broth soup with slices of pork, some sausage, thin white rice noodles, bean sprouts, and green onion.
As I continued to return to my spot I saw other patrons ordering different variations. Some would get different noodles, thin yellow egg noodles, thicker yellow egg noodles, or ramen noodles. Some got different ingredients like shrimp, quail eggs, or small wontons. And some ordered their hu tieu dry with the broth served on the side. You prepare your bowl to your liking with condiments and veggies and add the broth yourself. Now I commonly go for a mix of the egg and white noodles, pork, sausage, and a bowl of wontons on the side but I still prefer the soup wet.
Hu tieu is a common dish in the south, as it was introduced in the Mekong region, and carts and streetside restaurants serving it up are common. If a cart is unmarked, like my neighbourhood vendor, a quick way to spot hu tieu is to look for multiple styles of displayed noodles but specifically look for the thin white noodles. Outside of that, go for the normal soup indicators like a large pot for boiling, a stack of bowls, or giant ladles.
Hu tieu is one of the cheaper soups on the street and it is very common to find bowls in the 10,000 to 20,000 VND price range — it’s rare to pay over 20,000 VND.
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