A bowl of Go Cong rice noodles with shrimp, squid and pickled daikon. Photo: Giang Vu
When it comes to hu tieu
rice noodle soup in Ho Chi Minh City, it can be confusing, even to natives, because most of the variants look almost similar, despite their distinct flavors.
Here we have many types of noodles introduced by Chinese immigrants hundreds of years ago. And then there is a popular version from Cambodia, locally known as hu tieu Nam Vang, or Phnom Penh rice noodle soup.
Many gourmets give lots of praise to rice noodles invented by Vietnamese, or more precisely, people in the Mekong Delta. Eateries that sell hu tieu with recipes from My Tho Town of Tien Giang Province and Sa Dec Town of Dong Thap Province can easily be found in HCMC and are well-liked.
People however often forget other hu tieu variants which are equally tasty. One of these lesser known versions is invented by locals in Go Cong, a district of Tien Giang.
That's why it comes as a pleasant surprise to find Go Cong's hu tieu in HCMC, at at least two small eateries in District 10 and Binh Thanh District.
But is it worth checking out? Some may ask.
Well, it is, given the fact that Go Cong, which is some 60 kilometers from HCMC, is often considered a cradle for southern cuisine.
Go Cong people have created a perfect noodle for their soup. It is chewy and tender at the same time.
A bowl of pickled white radish cubes that can always be found at Go Cong rice noodle eateries. Photo: Giang Vu
But, what makes the soup so different from other versions is the use of pickled white radish, or daikon, cubes.
“Very few Saigoneses are open to the idea of adding white radish to their noodle; some even prefer pickled garlic,” said Hien, who hailed from the Tien Giang district and runs the District 10 shop.
“I have to convince them to try it so they can know how unique the flavor of my hometown’s noodle is. Once they get used to it, they are addicted to it!”
Now in her late fifties, the lady sells two noodle soups – one with seafood and another with pork ribs. Meanwhile, the eatery in Binh Thanh only has pork.
Asked about the recipes, she said she learned the technique and recipes at the age of 13 from her aunt, who ran a famous hu tieu stall in Go Cong.
She also said she buys noodles from veteran makers in her hometown, and that most of her ingredients come from there as well.
Once again it has been proved that it is always possible to enjoy foods and drinks from different regions around the country in their truest formes right in HCMC.
Hu tieu co Hien Go Cong (Ms.Hien's Go Cong rice noodles)
130 Thanh Thai Street, Ward 14, District 10
Open hours: 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.