Shortly after dining at Vung Tau Restaurant - San Jose, I was in the mood to recreate one of my favorite dishes from there, Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec). Unlike the more popular Hu Tieu Saigon (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Barbecued Pork and Shrimp), the version from Sa Dec, a city in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, also features ground pork in tomato sauce and a disc of shrimp tempura.
So who is Mrs. Five? Vietnamese often refer to people by their birth order. Since parents are always no. 1, ba Nam (Mrs./"auntie" 5) is the fourth-born in her family. Or her husband was fourth-born if she adopted his birth order salutation status after marriage. According to Tin Tuc (Vietnamese news), ba Nam was born in 1907 and her name was Nguyen Kim Chung. She had some fame singing Vietnamese opera, and not to be confused with another singer who was also ba Nam, but from Can Tho, she went by ba Nam Sa Dec.
In 1973, after some financial difficulties, she quit singing and went into the restaurant business, selling her version of hu tieu with the ground pork in tomato sauce and shrimp tempura. As word spread, people would mention hu tieu ba Nam Sa Dec when talking about it. After the Vietnam War ended, ownership of the shop changed. Her adopted child ended up in Sweden, where her photo is displayed at the restaurant that bears her name.
Vung Tau Restaurant is the only place I've eaten that has hu tieu ba Nam Sa Dec on the menu so I've based my recipe off its version. Instead of boiled pork, which is also used to make the broth, I salted and pan-fried mine. The shrimp can be boiled, grilled, or as I did, quickly sauteed. The real key is to add some tomato sauce to the ground pork and to fry up some shrimp tempura. If you don't want to, you could substitute by adding a shrimp to a potsticker wrapper and fry up that. Hu tieu can be served dry or with broth on the side.