Cambodian import turns a Saigon staple

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Cambodian rice noodle soup basically unchanged in HCMC, a few changes pander to local tastes

   The dry version of hủ tiếu Nam Vang (Phnom Penh rice noodle soup) at Phu Quy Restaurant in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. The soup is served in a separate bowl / PHOTO: TAN NHAN

Hủ tiếu Nam Vang (Phnom Penh rice noodle soup) is a popular breakfast choice in Ho Chi Minh City, along with the world-acclaimed phở (beef noodle soup), bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches), xôi (sticky rice), and cơm tấm (broken rice).

Many restaurants here have their own versions of hủ tiếu Nam Vang [Nam Vang is Vietnamese for Phnom Penh], which they arrive at by adding or taking out one or two kinds of toppings, as well as garnishes like herbs.

However, the dish's basic ingredients are not generally tampered with. This consists of pork broth, toppings of minced pork, pork slices, pieces of pork offal, prawns, and quail eggs garnished with lettuce leaves, bean sprouts, garlic chives, celery and Chrysanthemum greens.

The dish is served khô (dry) the noodles and the soup are placed in two separate bowls; or nưá»›c (wet) they are served together.

The most famous variants of hủ tiếu Nam Vang in Vietnam are to be found in the Mekong Delta, namely My Tho Town of Tien Giang Province, and Sa Dec Town of Dong Thap Province.

While both of them use noodles that are chewy and glassy, the My Tho variant has more toppings with the addition of squid, and the one from Sa Dec is simpler.

Although it is said that the famous variants are the best at places of origin, they can also be found at many restaurants in Saigon.

Amidst such diversity, chances are that people want to taste the original version of the rice noodle soup that was brought into Saigon by Vietnamese-Cambodians during the 1970s.

So, one thing you can do is make a quick trip to Cambodia, where the dish is known as kuy teav, but I can recommend a quicker way: try the Phu Quy Restaurant on Ho Thi Ky Street in District 10.

Despite a few adjustments the restaurant's owners have made to make the dish suit local taste buds, its hủ tiếu Nam Vang is still close to the original. The restaurant opened nearly 40 years ago and is located on the street where many Vietnamese Cambodians live.

Phu Quy's hủ tiếu Nam Vang does not have quail eggs and prawns, but slices of lean pork, pieces of pig's small intestines and stomach. Its flavor is enhanced by caramelized garlic, chopped salted beets and shredded spring onions.

HỦ TIẾU NAM VANG
PHÚ QUÝ

84 Ho Thi Ky, Ward 14, District 10
Open hours: 5:30 a.m.  12:30 a.m.
Prices: VND30,000/bowl

It is served with a dipping sauce not found in other places. You can add lime, chili and fermented garlic to the sweetened soy sauce before using it with the meat.

The best way to enjoy hủ tiếu Nam Vang at the Phu Quy Restaurant is have the dry version. When you are almost done with the noodles, pour the soup into it. The spices in the bowl of noodles will make the soup tastier.

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