Friday, October 19, 2012

Hu Tieu - Vietnamese Noodle Soup

While most of the world seems to consider Pho the flagship Vietnamese dish, I actually love this one more.  It's made of a clear pork broth with chewy bean thread noodles and shrimp.  Just like with any recipe, there are many different variations.  I decided to make mine with country style ribs. 

I was looking over a book by chef Jose Garces, where he was talking about his parents being from Ecuador, and I could relate to his story, because I was also a Vietnamese immigrant in the small town of Nashville, Arkansas, just trying to be like the Americans.  While other households were making hearty American chicken noodle soup, my mom was making this extraordinary Vietnamese dish with layers of delicious flavor.  I think I'm starting to appreciate that more now, because home is two hours from here!  And Mom's not here to cook for me.  So last week I was craving the stuff so much, I had to figure out how to make it on my own! 

I found a recipe here that I liked.  Then I went to Sam's Oriental, and the dried squid cost about $17
 or so.  I'm on a budget, so I searched the freezer section and decided on the less expensive cuttlefish instead.  Here's where it may get a little gritty for some of you.  There's also the use of pork neck bones and dried shrimp.  In my readings, I see chefs use things like this all the time to achieve ultimate flavor.  John Besh uses shrimp shells in his New Orleans barbecue shrimp sauce.  Alex Guarnaschell, chef of NYC's Butter, said she loved to suck the shrimp heads because that's where all the juice is. When I hear other people talk like this, I consider them a foodie.

  • 1 lb. pork neck or soup bones
  • 3 oz. dried cuttlefish, soaked in water about 30 minutes
  • About a dozen dried shrimp, also soaked in water 30 minutes
  • 2 lbs. country style ribs, cut into small bite - sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 package broad bean thread noodles
  • 1 lb. 16 - 20 count wild American shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • Herbs:  chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, and thinly sliced white onion
  • Optional:  squeeze of fresh lime & chili garlic sauce
  1. Place the bones, country style ribs, dried shrimp, and cuttlefish in a medium or large stockpot.  Cover with water or up to about 2/3 of the way.  Set on the stove, bring up to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 2 hours.  Skim the impurities along the way.
  2. Make the noodles in a separate medium saucepan.  Fill it about 2/3 of the way with water, bring up to a boil, add the noodles, then cook about 3 - 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse to keep from sticking.
  3. When the stock is ready, scoop out the bones, dried shrip, and cuttlefish.
  4. Add the peeled shrimp with the fish sauce.  Use more if needed.  When the shrimp is cooked, about 3 - 5 minutes, turn off the stockpot.
  5. Serve each person with a little bit of noodles, some shrimp and pork meat, some stock, and herbs.
I love pork and shrimp together.  It's pretty common in Vietnamese cooking.  This is the first time that I've ever made my own pork stock before.  Good flavor can sometimes involve a lot of steps and ingredients!  It was so worth it, and a bit nostalgic, kind of like hearing an old Nirvana song to remind me of my old college days! 
You can get these noodles at Sam's Oriental or K Oriental.
I love their chewy texture.


  1. Traveling in the Pacific Rim, I spent allot of time in Indonesia. I ate everything every meal! I love all kinds of Pho. The only time time I tried, it was a disaster. This one will be a challenge but I'll looks so good!

  2. Thanks Jummy! The unusual ingredients are so worth the flavor of the broth! I hope you do try it, and enjoy it! I forgot to add the fried garlic usually accompanies this dish too.