Bowls of rice noodles are traditionally eaten throughout the day for breakfast to late at night in Vietnam. In the north, the day kicks off with a big bowl of Hanoi Soup Noodles or pho (pronounced like ‘fur’) – fragrant with spices and full of beef, rice sticks, herbs and crunchy bean sprouts. Its southern counterpart, Saigon Soup or hu tieu (also known as Cambodian Soup) is a mix of meat, chicken or seafood in chicken broth, with rice sticks or flat egg noodles, and fresh salad ingredients on the side.
It seems every region has its own speciality, from cold dishes to rich spicy broths. Not every soup has noodles and not every noodle bowl includes soup. Rice vermicelli, bean threads, fine Chinese-style egg noodles, fresh rice ribbons and soft, snow-white noodle sheets are stir-fried, soft fried and crisp-fried.
Hanoi Soup Noodles
One large onion finely sliced
Two tablespoons of hot chilli sauce
1.5 Litres of rich beef stock
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
450g of dried rice-stick noodles, soaked in hot water
400g rump or sirloin steak, very thinly sliced
Half a cup of sliced spring onion greens
Three tablespoons of chopped coriander
250g fresh bean sprouts, blanched and drained
1 large hot red chilli, finely sliced
1 small cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 small bunch mint
1 small bunch basil
2 limes, cut in half
Mix the onion with hot chilli sauce and set aside. Arrange the topping ingredients on a platter and transfer the chilli onions to a small serving dish to take to the table. Heat the stock and boiling season with fish sauce, salt and pepper. Drain rice sticks. Cover with boiling water and let sit for 1 minute. Drain well. Divide the noodles between four large soup bowls and top with raw sliced steak, spring onion greens and coriander. Pour the hot stock into each bowl and serve at once. (The stock cooks the meat to deliciously rare).
At the table, add the toppings as desired and garnish with mint and basil leaves picked from the stems and a squeeze of lime juice to taste.
If preferred, stir-fry sliced beef before adding to the soup.
Saigon Soup Noodles:
The Saigon Soup recipe is here. If you plan on bringing Asian and especially Vietnamese cuisine into your diet is this video by Allrecipes covers it pretty well. Using these ingredients, following the following instructions for great results:
Pour stock into a saucepan and add the chicken and ginger and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes. Remove the chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Soak rice noodles in hot water for 10 minutes, or boil egg noodles in lightly salted water for about 6 minutes until tender.
Season the pork or prawns with salt, pepper and spice powder. Brush with sesame or peanut oil and some of the crushed garlic. Heat a wok and cook the pork for about two and a half minutes on each side. Remove and slice thinly. If using prawns stir-fry for 1 and a half minutes.
Strain the soup and season with fish sauce.
Reheat the wok with a little more oil and stir-fry the preserved greens and spring onions with remaining garlic over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. Add chicken and soy sauce and stir-fry briefly. Pile onto a large plate with the sliced pork and prawns, bean sprouts and coriander. Add the drained noodles and crisp-fried onions.
Serve the soup in four bowls, with the platters of accompaniments.
This soup can be served ‘dry’ with the noodles and accompaniments eaten from one bowl, the soup sipped from another.
Jules – 23 from Arizona – writes for Foodsessed.com and is always updating her blog with useful recipes. Her favourite chef of the moment is Gordon Ramsay.