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Chinese-Cambodian noodles simmer in Ho Chi Minh City


Hu tieu Nam Vang served at Ty Lum Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City's District 5

Rice noodles are everywhere in Vietnam.

Noodle soups are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Northerners pride themselves on their internationally acclaimed pho - rice noodles served in a subtle, savory beef-broth. Diners in the central region relish the spicy, pig-knuckle punch of the Imperial city's bun bo Hue - a pork broth spiced with lemongrass chilies and shrimp paste.

Southerners are loyal to the lesser-known hu tieu Nam Vang - a delicacy that's said to have originated in China and made its way to Vietnam via Cambodia.

Hu tieu Nam Vang does not traditionally include fish sauce. Beyond that, the dish can present any combination of pig (name a part and you'll find it in your bowl), shrimp, squid and a whole host of fried garlic and onion-related accoutrement. Even within southern Vietnam, hu tieu recipes vary wildly and have their own regional nuances.

Tien Giang Province's capital of My Tho has become world famous for hu tieu My Tho - the city's own version of dish. The Mekong Delta town's take on the Khmer noodle soup is typically served with lemon, chilli and soy sauce. Hu tieu My Tho can be found on a variety of Ho Chi Minh City street corners, but it has drawn many a curious eater into the delta for a taste of the real thing.

Hu tieu Nam Vang is believed to have been in Vietnam for close to a century and has continued to be brought into Saigon, nowadays HCMC, by Cambodian immigrants.

A noodle by any other name"¦

You can enjoy hu tieu Nam Vang at the following restaurants in HCMC:

TY LUM
- 93 Huynh Man Dat Street, Ward 7, District 5. Tel: (08) 3 923 5904
- 60 Thanh Thai Street, District 10 - 315 Le Van Sy Street, Tan Binh District

HONG PHAT
389-391 Vo Van Tan Street, Ward 5, District 3
Tel: (08) 3 839 0187

LIEN HUA
321 An Duong Vuong Street, Ward 3, District 5
Tel: (08) 3 830 9331

At first glance, hu tieu Nam Vang appears to have hailed from the capital city of our neighbor to the west. Nam Vang is an old Vietnamese name for Phnom Penh. Today the popular dish (known as ka tieu in Khmer) can be found everywhere in the Cambodian capital.

Ultimately, the dish is said to have been brought to the Khmer by Chinese settlers.

Ty Lum, the Vietnamese-Cambodian owner of Ty Lum Noodle Soup, has lived in Saigon since the 1970s. Every morning, at 8 a.m., his restaurant begins serving hu tieu Nam Vang, currently priced at VND30,000-35,000 a bowl.

At home, he says, the dish traditionally features lean pork meat and chopped pork meat with a typical assortment of greens and bean sprouts. The dish can also be served dry with hoisin sauce.

Ty Lum's recipe has gradually evolved to suit Vietnamese tastes.

Over time, the Vietnamese have come to expect a decent bowl of hu tieu Nam Vang to include fried shrimp, steamed shrimp, quail eggs, pork liver, pork heart and pork tongue. Some cooks have taken to adding pork tripe to the mix.

Ty Lum says the essence of the dish is its broth.

To make a decent broth, he advised, a chef must get together a lot of thick marrow-rich pork bones. The bones must be scalded and simmered for hours to produce an appropriate flavor.

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