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70 years of food porn at lowly noodle stall

With its first generation of customers now in their 90s and many having departed this world, a ‘hu tiu’ stall has managed to stand the tests of time, delivering the essence of southern street gastronomy for the last seven decades.

Standing small on Ton That Thiep Street at the heart of District 1, Saigon, a food stall named Thanh Xuan doesn’t seem to have been affected by the billboard and neon era, refusing to use gaudy methods to attract passers-by. The only marketing trick is the aroma of My Tho styled ‘hu tiu’ that the “restaurant” has been serving its customers for the last 70 years.

‘Hu tiu’, a southern noodle that has earned its place on Vietnam's street food alongside the better-known ‘pho’, ‘mi Quang’ and ‘cao lau’, is the treat that many turn to every time they want a taste of the south. The story of ‘hu tiu’ Thanh Xuan brings us back to the year 1946, when a man from My Tho Province decided to leave his hometown to find his fortune in the prosperous Saigon by setting up his own ‘hu tiu’ cart in the heart of the city. Now in its fourth generation, Thanh Xuan continues to uphold the tradition that helped the whole family survive the harshness of Saigon’s urban life.

 

But how can a small food cart, now a stall, offering a dish that is found almost everywhere in the south, survive over the course of 70 years? The secret, according to many gourmet mouths, is the way it sets itself apart from other ‘hu tiu’. Unlike Saigon’s ‘hu tiu’, which boast only pork and stock, My Tho styled ‘hu tiu’ is similar to Nam Vang styled ‘hu tiu’, with broth made from simmered pig bones and secret fruits that lend it the light yellow color and natural and sweet scent.

‘Hu tiu’ at Thanh Xuan is also based on a cloudier and more fragile style of noodle that traps all the sweetness of the starch, unlike its Chinese counterpart.

Parboiled noodles are the first to fill the bowl, and they are topped up with ‘xa xiu’, prawns, pig organs and crab meat. The vendor will drown the whole bowl with broth and minced pork sauce if you so wish. If you choose to have it dry, the broth will come in a separate, leaving only the sauce to help it find its way into your stomach.

Without airconditioning or a decent indoor space, it’s a surprise to many that the stall is still there, offering the same menu that their parents or even their granDparents enjoyed in years gone by.

Ngoisao.net

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