Finally, finally, finally, shoved my nose inside this joint at the corner of Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Pham Ngoc Thach in District 1, Saigon. I’m mad for a bowl of Hu Tieu – noodles, pork, beansprouts, hedgrerow and possibly the loveliest, sweet pork broth in all of southern Vietnam. However… this fair shack doles out Hu Tieu My Tho. My Tho is a hicktown an hour or two south of Saigon in Tien Giang province in the Mekong Delta. This plastic kiddie chair outfit is the only place selling My Tho-tinged Hu Tieu that I’ve yet to stumble into in Saigon. Just how different is it from that other corkin’ Hu Tieu with a sweetnose?
Slapbang in the centre of this bowl is a stonking great knuckle of pork, paddling around in pork stock, surrounded by spring onions and sitting on a foundation of vermicelli noodles and thick cut, fat-still-on pork strips. Along for the trip are a side of bollock burning wee red chillies – easy with these meanies – and a plate of beansprouts, lettuce and chinese celery. For them’s that’s fancy there’s also a bottle of nuoc cham to glug from in the condiments rack.
There’s no sweetness. This pork stock’s as straight as the Fosse Way, but it’s rammed to the gills with meatpower. Throw in a few rip ups from the sideplate and you’re off. Tackling the knuckle is a bit of an art, one I have yet to learn and can’t be arsed with. I tend to chip of the tender morsels with the choppies and gnaw on the rest. It’s not stylish, but it gets the job done. And it is tender, it’s been bubbling away in a vast vat since early morning so it jolly well should be.
This is good stuff, although I have a very strong preference for the sweeter, more snazzy version which I think is known as Hu Tieu Nam Vang, but I could be wrong, it might just simply be Hu Tieu. Whatever. That’s the fella I’ll continue plumping for. Having said that, if I’m passing this place again I could be tempted to pop in for a quick dust with a knuckle or two. This place serves Com binh dan (literally ‘food for workers’) at lunchtime and, if this visit is anything to go by, it is exceedingly popular. A bowl of Hu Tieu will set you back a stiff 12,000 dong with a free Tra da thrown in. More Hu Tieu here and here’s my fave and lastly, more photos from this restaurant.