Making a push for Chinese egg noodles

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A pushcart in Ho Chi Minh City offers nearly 10 varieties of noodles, including two that it would be difficult to find elsewhere

 

Mi suon kho (egg noodles with pork rib stew) with hoanh thanh (won ton) is among nearly 10 noodle dishes sold a pushcart in District 3, HCMC / PHOTOS: TAN NHAN

Noodles pushcarts with decorative signboards carrying Chinese characters and paintings of scenes typical of Chinese period dramas (mountains, flowing streams, young women in ancient long dresses, and young men on horses) are an indelible part of Vietnam's culinary culture.

This is perhaps most true in HCMC, home to the country's largest Chinatown, commonly known as Cho Lon (big market). And pushing the pushcarts are Vietnamese Chinese residents.

Most of the pushcarts sell traditional Chinese wheat flour noodles made with eggs, and sometimes lye water (water boiled with ashes). The noodles, known as mi in Vietnamese, are yellow and chewy.

They also sell hu tieu, or rice noodles, a variety which some historical documents say was created by Chinese people who lived in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam between 17th-18th centuries, due to the lack of ingredients necessary for making the traditional one. The improvised variety is white, sometimes transparent.

So, for centuries, Chinese noodle pushcarts here have sold both mi and hu tieu. Customers can order one of them or both with a variety of broths and toppings, and eat them in either of two ways: kho, or dry (the noodles and the soup are placed in two separate bowls), or nuoc, or wet (they are served together).

Tam Ky Noodles, a pushcart that stands on Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, has nearly 10 noodle dishes on its menu.

These include common ones with toppings like xa xiu (barbecued pork known as char siu in Chinese), hoanh thanh (pork dumplings known as won ton in Chinese), sui cao (long dumplings with shrimp fillings), and bo vien (beef balls).

But, there are also two distinct dishes that Tam Ky offers: mi suon kho (egg noodles with pork rib stew), and mi ga roti (egg noodles with fried chicken).

Unlike many other dishes that have almost clear broths, mi suon kho is eaten with a thick and slightly red one. Pork ribs are cut into square pieces, and are also reddish.

Thanks to the stewing process, both the pork and the broth are well flavored, so there is almost no need to add nuoc mam (fish sauce), lime juice or vinegar, as is done with other dishes.

Some customers would like to eat mi suon kho with another topping like hoanh thanh

MÃŒ TÂM KÝ

Address: 280 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, Ward 3, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

 

Open hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

 

Prices: mi suon kho (VND35,000/bowl), mi ga roti (VND35,000/bowl)

A cousin of mi suon kho is mi bo kho (noodles with beef stew) which is also available at Tam Ky. In fact, most of Vietnamese people are more familiar with beef stew than pork rib stew, and the former is one of Vietnamese breakfast staples.

For mi ga roti, a bowl of noodle soup is served with two pieces of fried chicken which are placed in a separate dish.

Once again, customers would also like to order toppings for the noodle bowl.

Other dishes that can be found at Tam Ky are mi vit tiem (noodles with braised duck), and mi thap cam which is similar to hu tieu Nam Vang (Phnom Penh rice noodle soup) with miscellaneous toppings like pork slices, pork offal, and prawns.

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