Every time I go to dinner with my dad I discover a new restaurant, and my last dinner with him was no exception. I told him I was craving noodles, particularly egg noodles, and he directed us to Kim Phat Hu Tieu Nam Vang on Bellaire and Wilcrest. If there's one thing to know about Vietnamese restaurants, it's that if it's named after a particular dish, it's a wise decision to order said dish. Hu Tieu Nam Vang, or Phnom Penh Noodle Soup, is actually a Cambodian-Chinese soup that the Vietnamese adapted and made their own.
The Vietnamese version of hu tieu has many variations, but in the most traditional one, the broth is one made from simmering pork bone, dried shrimp and squid for hours.The toppings can be any combination of pork, pork offal and seafood. The noodles can even vary from yellow egg noodles called mi to hu tieu dai or chewy tapioca noodles. A bowl of hu tieu can be customized any way you like it.
Although I had been craving egg noodles, I went with a combination of mi and hu tieu dai and asked for it kho or dry, where the broth comes on the side. I also opted for all the meats -- which come with lean slices of pork, pork liver, fish balls and shrimp. The bowl is topped with peanuts and crispy fried onions and Chinese chives. The broth included a quail egg and more bits of pork offal. We added a side of dau chao quy, crispy fried dough that normally accompanies steaming bowls of congee. Like pho, hu tieu comes with greens on the side to add to your soup as desired -- here the greens are romaine lettuce and thick stalks of Chinese celery, or can tau. The Chinese celery adds a very distinct, slightly bitter flavor.
My favorite part of hu tieu are the condiments. At Kim Phat you can dress up your soup with pickled jalapenos, pickled garlic and crispy fried garlic.
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I like to pour a bit of the broth into the dry noodles and mix it up with all the condiments, the greens, and pieces of dau chao quy. I then alternate between bites of noodles and slurps of soup. Hu tieu is very savory, and the pork flavors are very intense when done well.
If you love pho, then you should definitely give hu tieu a try. With so many variations it'll be easy to find a combination that you'll crave again and again.