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The Global Diner: Hu Tieu
A noodle dish so good you can enjoy it with or without the broth
There’s no dearth of delectable noodles in Asian cuisine—the options are vast and varied. Consider hu tieu.
It’s Chinese. It’s Vietnamese. It’s Cambodian. You can eat it with broth. Or without. And, to add to the confusion, there are several styles of preparation and toppings. When served with broth, it’s usually pork-based and slightly sweet, with clear and chewy tapioca noodles that are decidedly more fun to eat than the ubiquitous rice noodle soups.
Twenty-year-old Phuong’s Restaurant in Westminster specializes in hu tieu my tho kho, from the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. Order the banh dai (pronounced yai), or chewy noodles, with thinly sliced roasted pork, fried fish cake, shrimp, quail egg, fresh onions, cilantro, fried garlic, and shallots. Pour in the ramekin of minced pork and tomato sauce, mix in some peppery chrysanthemum leaves, blanched bean sprouts, chili oil, pickled jalapenos, and a big squeeze of lime. It’s a blissful flavor bomb.
For the more intrepid palate, there’s Mi La Cay, where you can try hu tieu mi thap cam with battered fried shrimp and fish cake balls, sliced liver, and roasted pork. The key here is ordering both the hu tieu noodles and the egg noodles. The contrast of silky, chubby noodles with thin, crunchy ones is pure delight. Don’t forget the youtiao, or fried Chinese crullers, to dunk in your soup.
If you want the taste of homemade hu tieu, Hu Tieu Thanh Xuan has it. You’ll find some of Little Saigon’s most pleasant service here, along with bowls of supple noodles. The house specialty, the hu tieu thanh xuan dac biet, comes with a pork-and-tomato sauce to pour over the noodles—it’s like slurping a soulful bowl of Asian-style bolognese. There’s also hu tieu bo kho, essentially a Vietnamese beef stew that’s a thick, glorious gravy for the noodles.
10722 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove 714-534-3339
Mi La Cay
10078 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove 714-530-4535
Hu Tieu Thanh Xuan
9191 Bolsa Ave., Westminster 714-890-0223
Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi
This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue.