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Hủ Tiếu Mì – Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup

Hu Tieu Mi - Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup

One of my culinary goals this year was to stop being such a wuss about preparing Vietnamese noodle soups at home. Four months and some change into 2012, I’m stoked to have mastered Bò Kho (Vietnamese beef stew), Bún Riêu Cua (Vietnamese crab and tomato soup), and most recently, Hủ Tiếu Mì (Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup).

This most recent accomplishment coincided with my eldest cousin moving into town. Hủ Tiếu Mì is his absolute favorite noodle soup, and he requested that I make a huge vat of it just as soon as he arrived. He also asked for wontons to go with it, but that will be for another time. I need to concentrate on and conquer one dish at a time.

To learn the ins and outs of this Chinese-influenced noodle soup, I sought assistance from my aunt Thao. Something that she mentioned more than once was the importance of having a clear soup. To achieve this, the pork bones used to make the broth needs to boiled and cleaned, and one has to be diligent about skimming off any fat or foam that rises to the surface. Clear broth. Full bellies. Can’t lose.

This recipe makes about a dozen bowls worth, which is just about perfect in my mind. My cousin came over twice for dinner along with his fiancee and took leftovers for breakfast the following morning. Making a tremendous amount of food and having family over to enjoy it made me feel like I was continuing our family’s great tradition of nourishing and over-stuffing. This is what Vietnamese food is all about.

For broth

  • 6 pounds pork bones (neck or spine—Grandma says that spine is tastiest)
  • 1 daikon, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half or thirds
  • 1 cup dried shrimp or 2 dried cuttlefish
  • 7 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon monosodium glutamate (optional)

For toppings and garnish

  • 1.5 pounds ground pork
  • 1.5 pounds pork shoulder/butt
  • 2 bunch scallions, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For noodles

Make broth

Hu Tieu Mi - Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup

Place the pork bones in a large stockpot. Fill the stockpot with enough water to cover the surface of the bones and bring to a boil. The pork bones will have some impurities that need to be washed away, so once the water comes to a boil, discard it and collect the bones in a colander.

Hu Tieu Mi - Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup

One by one, rinse the bones to remove any scum. The cleaner the bones, the clearer the broth will be.

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Ringing in the New Year with Noodles and Roses

After ten days of traveling about and spending time with our families, The Astronomer and I finally returned home to Pasadena late last night. Even though we didn’t get to bed until way past midnight, we dragged ourselves up early this morning to catch the 120th Rose Parade. Now, we’re officially Pasadena residents.

Prior to heading to the festivities, we fueled up on steaming bowls of hu tieu nam vang—a Vietnamese / Cambodian noodle dish that my aunt prepared and packed up for us the night before. One of the best things about visiting family is returning home with enough food to last a week! Mmm, leftovers.

By the time we arrived on Colorado Boulevard, which happens to be a three minute walk from our apartment, there was already a huge crowd gathered. The best seats in the house went to the psycho enthusiastic folks who spent New Year’s Eve sleeping on the cold, hard pavement (and those who spent 80 bucks a pop for grandstand seats). The mountains hovering in the distance are one of my favorite things about Pasadena.

I grew up watching the Rose Parade on TV, so it was a mighty fine treat to see the magic up close.

Here’s a float featuring a giant gardening rabbit. Exquisite!

And here’s a gravity-defying float from the city of Huntington Beach featuring a family surfing on a gnarley wave of flowers.

My favorite float was made by the city of Burbank. The dinosaur popping out of the movie screen had puffs of smoke coming from its nose and his head moved about robotically! The float looked cool at every angle—front, back, side to side.

Happy New Year!

Her noodles brings all the boys to the yard…

 

I’ve been enamored with the Lunch Lady‘s noodles ever since I started my gig at AsiaLIFE. Unless I have commitments beyond my control, this joint near 23 Hoang Sa in District 1 is my go-to place for afternoon refueling.

After frequenting her stall everyday for the past month, The Astronomer and I have figured out that bun bo is always sold on Fridays. Monday through Thursday are still a bit of a mystery, but more often than not it’s delicious. Regardless of what’s on offer, her standard rate is 12,000 VND per bowl.

I usually avoid slurping up broths in noodle dishes because they tend to be too oily. However, I throw caution to the wind when dining here because her broths are chug-worthy.

Bun Bo: According to The Astronomer, the lunch lady’s best dish is bun bo. I’m still up in the air about which one I love most, but her bun bo definitely ranks high. The broth has a deep lemongrass flavor and just a hint of spiciness, and there’s always a generous amount of tender meat. By the way, the lunch lady’s secret to avoiding gristly meat is pineapple. She adds a whole one to the broth, which tenderizes the meat and imparts a bit of sweetness to the broth.

 

Hu Tieu Nam Vang: Andrea Nguyen at Viet World Kitchen says that hu tieu nam vang is a “Cambodian-Chinese concoction that the Vietnamese ‘borrowed’ and then made their own. Nam Vang is the Viet word for Phnom Penh, and the southern part of Vietnam has deep Khmer roots.”

Hu tieu nam vang is The Astronomer’s least favorite because it contains too many odds and ends (i.e. quail eggs, innards, liver). I, on the other hand, really love the sweet porky broth and find offal awfully tasty. I always request mi (egg noodles) rather than hu tieu (opaque rice noodles) with this dish because I like the taste and texture much better.

 

Bun Thai: The broth tastes just like tom yum goong soup and has a spicy kick that hits the back of my throat. Thick rice noodles, squid, fried fish cakes and a single shrimp round out the dish nicely. This little number is my colleague Fiona’s favorite.

 

Bun Rieu Chay: On the first and fifteenth of the Lunar calendar, the lunch lady prepares vegetarian noodles. Her bun rieu chay is so believable that The Astronomer and I didn’t even know it was vegetarian until we asked. Tofu and bean curd make fine substitutions for snails and crab.

 

Banh Canh: Mmm, banh canh. I never fully appreciated these chewy tapioca noodles until recently. When I was a kid, I just thought they were a bitch to eat because they were so gosh darn slippery. The lunch lady makes at least two types of banh canh—a simple one in a pork broth and this one which contains all sorts of fish cakes, fried shallots and a quail egg. I love how she puts quail eggs in everything!

 

Mi Ga Tiem: This dish is traditionally made with duck, but the lunch lady uses chicken because it’s less fatty. However, from looking at the broth, I’d say the chicken isn’t cutting that many calories. The chicken version is pretty darn good, but I always prefer duck over chicken. The pickled green papaya served on the side is really good, but the best part is the sweet star anise broth.

 

Bun Mam: I’m not quite sure what’s exactly in bun mam, but I really really like it. The broth is deeply flavorful and doesn’t really taste like mam (fermented shrimp paste). The soup comes with pineapple, eggplant, barbecued pork (thit heo quay), shrimp, okra, chives and thick rice noodles.

My lunch lady is incredible!

See also: Lunch Lady, Meet the Lunch Lady, and Life After Bourdain: Reuniting with the Lunch Lady.

Hủ Tíu Mì

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July 30, 2007
Cuisine: Vietnamese, Noodles

62 Truong Dinh Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Phone: 8272108
Website: none

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Hu Tieu Mi (16,000 VND)

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Sua Dau Nanh (2,000 VND)

The Astronomer: As The Gastronomer noted earlier, our first few meals in Vietnam took place at pretty chain restaurants and were relatively low on the adventure scale. However, it was only our second full day in the city when hunger forced me to branch out. This is not surprising: hunger is the motivating factor behind a great many of my decisions.

My banh cuon portion at Banh Cuon La had been pitifully meager—a dish scarcely adequate as an appetizer for a growing American boy—so I wandered the streets in search of supplemental nutrients. Having already spent well over a dollar for my first course, I would settle for nothing less than a good deal.

For some reason, The Gastronomer and I were drawn to a plain-looking noodle shop located a block from our hotel. I lowered myself onto an 8-inch high stool, crouched over the foot-high table, and ordered a bowl of hu tieu mi—yellow noodles with slices of pork, ground pork, chives, and green onions in a savory pork broth. The noodles hit the spot; the broth was expertly seasoned and the pork added substance but was unspectacular. There were several ingredients in the soup that I could not identify—an experience that would be repeated often in the coming weeks.

Within 15 minutes or so, I had developed a back ache from bending over the small table. Fortunately, I have since learned to enjoy meals served on miniature furniture without experiencing discomfort. All-in-all, I found the dish quite satisfactory—future noodles would surpass the mi in terms of pure deliciousness, but my first experience was good enough to encourage me to delve further into the world of hole-in-the-wall restaurants and street food in Saigon.

The Gastronomer: As The Astronomer sweated his ahem-off eating a bowl of hot noodles on a balmy night, I sipped a cool glass of sua dau nanh—a sweetened soy milk popular in Vietnam. After soda chanh, sua dau nanh is my second favorite cooling drink.

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