Chinatown satay noodle soup: Vietnam's culinary creativity at its best

By Tan Nhan, Thanh Nien News

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There are many Vietnamese dishes in which different flavors from different cultures are combined and blended so well together. 
The hu tieu (kuy teav), a rice noodle soup in pork stock, cooked with satay sauce, is one of them. 
This special dish can be easily found in Cho Lon, Saigon’s Chinatown. 
Kuy teav is generally thought to have been created by ethnic Chinese groups that migrated to Southeast Asian countries.
Satay sauce, on the other hand, is widely used in the traditional cuisines of Indonesians, Malays, Thais and Chinese. 
It is said that, after settling down in Saigon, Chinese cooks came up with some creative changes to the original satay sauce.
By reducing the amount of some basic ingredients while adding a couple new spices, to suit the Vietnamese palate, they have skillfully created what many now call the “Saigon-style satay sauce.” 
One of the most appealing dishes that can be cooked with this Saigon satay sauce is kuy teav.
A steaming hot bowl of kuy teav is irresistible with the fragrant smell of the spicy satay sauce cooked from roasted peanuts, curry powder, saffron, star aniseed, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. 
Foodies in Saigon, present-day Ho Chi Minh City, can find one of the oldest restaurants serving satay kuy teav at 117 Trieu Quang Phuc Street in District 5. 
Tiet Chan Quang, the owner of the Quang Ky Noodle Shop, came to Saigon in the 1960s.
He tried several businesses, but his big break came when he started making satay sauce kuy teav. 
At that time, his satay sauce kuy teav was as famous as hu tieu Nam Vang (Kuy teav Phnom Penh) or kuy teav from Sa Dec and My Tho in the Mekong Delta. 
The key to his success was that he perfected the use of chili in the satay sauce and at the same time experimented with some new ingredients such as dried shrimps, garlic and lemongrass. 
His satay sauce was famous for being sour, spicy, salty, and sweet, all at the same time. 
After so many years, the small shop is still as simple as it used to be. It has just a few tables put on the sidewalks.
But the man is no longer there.
After he died, his son Tiet Quang Huy run the shop. Many say the noodle, magically, tastes just the same. 

Quang Ky opens from 4 p.m. until midnight every day. A bowl of satay sauce kuy teav costs VND60,000 (US$2.8).

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