Hu tieu Sai Gon: A symbol of Southern Vietnam cuisine
Hu tieu Sai Gon: A symbol of Southern Vietnam cuisine
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For the Southern Vietnamese, hu tieu Sai Gon (or Sai Gon noodles) is a familiar and special dish that reminds them of home. According to some history books, the Chaozhou and Fujian people who arrived in My Tho in the 17th century were the ones bringing Chinese culture into Vietnam. As a result of culture exchange, hu tieu was adapted and adjusted by both Chinese and Vietnamese to become a popular and local delicacy of Southern Vietnam.
Hu tieu Sai Gon: A collection of cultural diversity
There are many different styles and recipes of hu tieu. It can be processed into soup noodles, dried noodles, fried noodles and crispy fried noodles. You can have a bowl of hu tieu in a fancy restaurant, a small one or by the sidewalks with the street vendors.
There is something so special and so “Sai Gon” of hu tieu sold by street vendors. The locals called them “hu tieu go”.
Like other street vendors, people who sell hu tieu go do not own a restaurant. They would go everywhere - big streets or small alleys, hitting the 2 wooden or metal bars into each other to make noise and draw attraction. The sound of hu tieu go is unique and distinctive to this Southern city of Vietnam.
There are different types of hu tieu Sai Gon. Some of the popular ones are hu tieu Nam Vang, hu tieu My Tho, hu tieu Trung Hoa (Chinese noodles). Regardless of their origin, the popular dish of hu tieu has similar features to the locals of Sai Gon.
Both of them are attractively modern and innovative. For example, hu tieu Nam Vang is an interesting adaptation by the Hokkien people during their migration to Southern Vietnam. Instead of using wheat flour, they used rice flour to change the texture of hu tieu.
Read more: What to eat in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam
While the original hu tieu Nam Vang only had chopped and minced pork, the innovative dish now also has pork hearts, livers, entrails, shrimps and quail eggs. The add-on vegetables are also more diverse.
The most important part of the original Chinese hu tieu is the broth. The broth is cooked from steaming bones and squids so that there is a natural sweetness in taste. Similar to that, hu tieu My Tho also uses bones and squids to cook broth.
But they also add shrimps and other seafood as an innovation. Then, there is also the unique hu tieu Ca Can. It is a bowl of dried hu tieu with minced meat, slices of pork, boiled shrimp and char siu with sweet and sour sauce. The dish will be served with a small bowl of broth.
Other hu tieu dishes are hu tieu beef balls, hu tieu steamed beef, hu tieu chilli paste, hu tieu curry, hu tieu fish and even hu tieu goat. Yet, each type of hu tieu retains its unique and original features.
However, the most popular hu tieu Sai Gon is hu tieu Nam Vang.
Origin of hu tieu Nam Vang
In fact, hu tieu Nam Vang originated from Cambodia and later it was adapted by the Chinese cuisine and adjusted to suit the taste of Saigon locals. That is why hu tieu Nam Vang is familiar yet creative, bringing a new flavor to the diverse cuisine of Ho Chi Minh City.
Nam Vang is a different name of the capital of Cambodia - Phnom Penh. As Cambodia is quite close to Southern Vietnam, the cuisine of these 2 lands are actually similar in many ways. The recipe, spice and taste of many dishes are the result of an exchange between the 2 cultures. Hu tieu Nam Vang is a standard example.
What makes hu tieu Nam Vang famous?
What is special about hu tieu Nam Vang is how dedicated and complicated the broth is cooked. To cook the broth, it is required to steam the bone, squids and dried shrimps over a low heat for hours.
The cook needs to constantly get rid of the white foam to make sure that the broth is clear and clean. It is the sweet and light taste of bone, squids and dried shrimps that makes people fall for this dish of hu tieu Nam Vang.
In addition to the broth, other ingredients also help highlight this dish: minced pork, shrimps and quail eggs. These are the 3 must-have ingredients of a bowl of hu tieu Nam Vang. To add up the diversity, other people might prefer to eat it with pork hearts, pork entrails and lean meats. Some locals jokingly commented that hu tieu Nam Vang is “multi-ethnic” food.
This is because hu tieu Nam Vang originated in Cambodia, cooked in a Chinese way and widely enjoyed by the Vietnamese.
Where to eat hu tieu in Sai Gon
1. Hủ tiếu Thành Đạt
This restaurant sells hu tieu Nam Vang only at the price of VND 35.000. It is a big restaurant but it can get really crowded at peak hour. Hu tieu is excellent, tasty with minced pork, lean meat, quail eggs and some inner organs (if you want to). The broth is cooked from pork bones and ribs.
Address: 34 Cô Bắc, Phường Cầu Ông Lãnh, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Opening hours: 0:00 - 24:00
Price: VND 35.000
2. Hủ tiếu gốc Hoa, quận 1
This is a family restaurant owned by Mr. Vien Kiem Toan. This restaurant has been operating for over 60 years in Ho Chi Minh City. It is just a small 10-square-meter house full of little tables and chairs. The broth is cooked from pork bones without any seasonings. They sell a variety types of hu tieu with pork, liver, heart, kidney.
Address: No. 1 Yersin, Phường Cầu Ông Lãnh, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Opening hours: 5:00 - 11:00
Price: ~ VND 35.000
3. Quán Hủ Tiếu Mực Ông Già Cali
This restaurant has been selling for nearly 10 years. The squids are fresh, tasty and crispy. The broth is cooked from dried squids which makes it so sweet and tasty. As the ingredients are mainly seafood, the price will be a little bit higher than hu tieu using meat. You can have a bowl full of squids, meatballs, quail eggs, bean sprouts and other vegetables.
Address: 001 Chung cư A3, Phan Xích Long, Phường 7, Phú Nhuận, Hồ Chí Minh
Opening hours: 6:00 - 13:30 & 16:00 - 23:00
Price: VND 40.000 - 57.000
4. Chú Tư Già - Hủ Tiếu Bò Viên
The restaurant has been open since 1996. In addition to beef meatballs, you can add tendons, hearts and beef tongues to have a stronger taste. However, the real star of this dish is the beef meatballs. They are really crunchy and tasty. Some people even order one more bowl of just beef meatballs.
Address: 40 Trần Quang Khải, Tân Định, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Opening hours: 6:00 - 23:45
Price: ~ VND 45.000
5. Hủ tiếu Dê Way Ký
This is a completely strange and new flavor of hu tieu Sai Gon: Hu tieu is served with goat. A set of hu tieu will include 2 bowls: hu tieu and goat meat. The broth has a distinctively spicy taste.
Address: 585 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường 7, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh
Opening hours: 6:00 - 23:00
Price: ~ VND 40.000