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, the first child is no. 2. 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 supplemented her income by venturing 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.
Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec)
For about 4 servings, you'll need:
Dozen large shrimp, peeled and deveined, save 4 shrimp for tempura
1/4 lb pork belly
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb package hu tieu (Vietnamese clear tapioca noodles)
1/2 lb ground pork
4 oz tomato sauce
1 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
For the shrimp tempura:
4 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
Few dashes of salt
1 cup ice cold water
Oil for frying
Flat leaf chives
Optional: crab claws if you have any
For about 4 servings, I planned on a dozen shrimp -- two shrimp for each bowl and another shrimp for each tempura. You can add more if you wish. Buy jumbo shrimp if you can afford it.
Hu tieu is often served dry with broth on the side. I prefer mine dry and decided to saute the shrimp and pan-fried the salted pork belly for extra flavor. If you'd like to serve the noodles with broth, then follow my directions for How to Make Canh (Vietnamese Soups) and make a simple broth with the pork belly and shrimp.
Otherwise, peel and devein the shrimp. In a saute pan, drizzle a bit of oil and add 8 shrimp and a few dashes of fish sauce. Saute until pink. Set aside.
Lightly sprinkle about 1/4 tsp salt all over the pork belly. Pan-fry on medium heat until all sides are crispy and a knife inserted into the center becomes clear. Set aside to cool and then thinly slice.
Add a few inches of oil into a frying pan and turn the heat to medium-low.
You can be lazy and fry some potsticker wrappers with a shrimp on top. Or make the shrimp tempura by mixing 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup rice flour, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 cup ice cold water, and 1 egg.
When the oil is ready, spoon about 1/4 cup of the tempura batter into the oil.
Once the batter has spread into a disc, using a pair of wooden chopsticks, place a shrimp into the center of each tempura.
When the shrimp tempura discs are done, allow to drain.
In another pan, add half a pound of ground pork, 4 oz of tomato sauce, and 1 tsp of fish sauce.
Saute until the mixture is cooked.
Meanwhile, boil the hu tieu noodles and prepare the Chinese celery, flat leaf chives, lettuce, bean sprouts, and limes.
To serve, place the noodles on the bottom and layer with the greens. Add a few slices of pork belly. Then spoon the ground pork tomato sauce mixture on top. Add the sauteed shrimp and shrimp tempura. If you have any on hand, be fancy and add a crab claw too.
I've mixed it up a little so you can see the hu tieu noodles better.
Serve with broth on the side of you wish. Or just squeeze a wedge of lime and dig in.
Other Vietnamese noodles:
Bun Cha Hanoi Nem Ran (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork Patties and Egg Rolls)
Bun Nem Nuong Cha Gio (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork Patties and Egg Rolls)
Bun Thit Heo Nuong, Tom, Cha Gio (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork, Shrimp, and Egg Rolls)
Bun Thit Nai Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Noodles with Grilled Lemongrass Venison)
Hu Tieu Saigon (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Barbecued Pork and Shrimp)
1 year ago today, Oc Xao Nam He (Vietnamese Clams Sauteed with Mushrooms and Chives).
2 years ago today, Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park.
3 years ago today, mochi ice cream at Mikawaya - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo).