Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vietnam Noodles

I have always wanted to conduct my friends to the world's capital for noodles. This place is in Ho Chi Minh City, the southern capital of Vietnam. Though a personal preference, I have persuasive reasons for coming to this conclusion.

The people there is generous, easy-going, free-spirited, capitalistic and fun-loving. Anything goes here as long as there is a profit to be made. Noodles shops are everywhere. When there, I could not resist the many varieties of noodles available.

With fertile fields ingredients for noddles like pho, hu tieu, bun, mi, vermicelli and banh are easily available. The most common ingredient would be rice and the most interesting would be tapioca flour. With the rich farmlands, there will be the chicken, pigs and cows. The long coastlines and the delta in the south has plenty to offer in terms of fishes, shellfishes, clams and snails.

The broth is generally made from bones of cows and chickens. The vegetable, herbs and spices used also wide-ranging and reflect what the land has to offer. In some meals in the Mekong Delta like the Hu Tieu My Tho, I have 6 - 8 different types of herbs and vegetables served to me raw. Take what you want and dump it into the bowl of noodles.

The most famous noodles will be Pho. It is rice noodles in clear beef broth. It has a distinctive and strong beefy taste and smell. It is served with any of these meat; chicken, beef and pork. You can have them almost anywhere and it comes out good. The cheaper version but equally tasty are those sold from the roadside with low tables and chairs. You can even stand and eat, buying them from hawkers. I recommend Pho 2000 near Ben Thanh Market.

My favourite has to be Bun Bo Hue. It is from the Central district of Hue. It is spicy beef broth with strong lemon grass aroma and taste. It comes with sliced beef and / or chunky pork trotters. I ate it in one of my trip to a western province about 2 hours from Ho Chi Minh City.

With tonnes of seafood Banh Canh Cua is my next foavourite. It is tapioca noodles with crab claw. The claw comes from the male crab as it is huge. The price of this is also expensive, USD3 per bowl.

Then there is the noodles from hell, Banh Canh Gio Heo or Pork Hock Noodles. 'Gio Heo' is pronounced like 'Your Hell'. Then there is the Phnom Penh noodles (Hu Tieu Nam Vang) with spare parts from pigs. If you don't like pork or the offals, you can ask for shrimps.

With AirAsia now flying to Ho Chi Minh City, I am sure many will be able to savour these wonderful noodles from the various Vietnamese restaurants and shops. Ban appetit!

Banh Canh Cua Gio Heo

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