Sunday, July 05, 2015

Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec)

Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec) 1

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.

Chao Ca (Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Fish)

Chao Ca (Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Fish) 1

There's something so comforting about a bowl of rice porridge. I've blogged it plain, with chicken, with ground pork, with preserved duck eggs, with leftover turkey, and with clams. The only meats left are with beef, duck, and fish. Although, thankfully, not together.

I prefer to make a good chicken broth stock for my Chao Ca (Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Fish) so that it's not quite so fishy. While you can use any fish on hand, I prefer white fish fillets for the milder flavor, but chose to use some leftover baked salmon so you can see it more easily in pictures. There's not much to it; once you've got your stock done, add flaked or chunks of fish and simmer until done. Add some thinly sliced ginger, sprigs of cilantro, or chopped scallions if you have any on hand.

Bun Ca Ngu (Vietnamese Tuna Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup)

Bun Ca Ngu (Vietnamese Tuna Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup) 1

My mom used to make a simple soup of just boiled tuna fillets and rice vermicelli noodles. Best enjoyed when we've visited the Oregon Coast and can buy fresh tuna right off the fishing boats. I had nearly forgotten about this fish noodle soup until I saw it on the menu at Quan Mien Trung Vietnamese Cuisine - Rosemead. You can add fish patties and fish balls like the restaurant version if you'd like.

I kept my version of Bun Ca Ngu (Vietnamese Tuna Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup) fairly basic with a focus on the tuna. Made a broth with chicken bones and added the tuna steaks near the end so they didn't overcook. If you can't find any fresh tuna, I think king mackerel would also work well. You want a meaty and firm fish, something that will remain intact while simmering. The pineapples help to offset the fishiness. Some tomatoes would work too if you have any on hand. Top with a sprinkle of cilantro, green onions, or Vietnamese coriander.