This is serious soup. Streamlined. But still serious. Hu tieu. My way.
This is not a traditional version. It’s not true to anyone’s roots. This is all the things I like about hu tieu. And none of things I don’t like.
I love pork. So that works. And this is pork two ways even. I’m pretty happy about that. Asian broth soups? That always works for me. Noodles? Very much so. Quail eggs? Definitely.
Pork liver? I can take it or leave it. So I’m leaving it. Pork heart? Not my favourite. I’m just not big on offal. So it’s out. The really nasty bits? Sorry. Another time maybe. But probably not.
I’m unrepentant. I’m bad that way. But as far as I can tell there’s no right or wrong way to make hu tieu. Everybody does it differently. So I feel good calling this hu tieu.
This is a richly flavoured pork broth soup with chewy noodles. Wonderful, wonderful chewy noodles. Sliced pork. And fried pork. Quail eggs. Shrimp. And fish sauce. Noodle soup. My way.
Might not be your way. Or your mom’s way. Or the way you had it in Vietnam. I know that. No need to leave comments telling me I suck. You do you. I’ll do me.
Hu tieu all about the broth
This is not lightly flavoured pork broth. Not vaguely pork flavoured water. This is big pork broth. Really big. Sledgehammer big. Because that’s the way I like it.
There are recipes out there that say you should simmer the pork bones for two hours. I don’t understand that at all. Wishful thinking maybe.
You can’t rush gold. Twelve hours is about right. To extract maximum flavour. You paid for those bones. Get your money’s worth.
That’s stage one. Maximum flavour extraction from bones. But there’s stage two. And you know you want stage two.
Poach pork shoulder in stage one. Double stock. It’s almost too much. Crazy intense.
It’s all about the noodles too
You can make hu tieu with rice noodles. That’s allowed. You might even get away with wheat noodles. Maybe. Maybe not. But the real deal? Hu tieu noodles.
Hu tieu noodles are made with tapioca. Yes. You read that right.
I know. That doesn’t sound great. But it is. Amazing in fact. They’re a bit chewier than rice noodles. In a really good way.
A bit more flavour too. And they pick up the flavour of the broth better. Key takeaway? You need to try hu tieu noodles. Everybody needs to try hu tieu noodles.
You won’t find them in a grocery store. Takes a trip to an Asian grocer. Totally worth it. You should find them in the same spot as the rice noodles.
They actually say hu tieu on the package. It’s not always easy to find things in an Asian market if you don’t read the language. So thank you for making it easy.
For the record I won’t ever make this dish with anything else. Tapioca noodles rule. That’s three words I never thought I’d write. But I am converted.
Hu tieu is actually pork broth with chicken
Hu tieu isn’t just pork broth. There’s chicken in there too. And I have a short cut. Start with some chicken stock.
Chicken stock. Not cubes. Not pots. Nothing powdered. Nothing radioactive yellow. No iridescent green flakes.
Real chicken stock. Made from chickens. You can buy chicken stock. Or you can make it. For this soup I buy it.
It comes in one litre tetra packs where I am. Not as good as homemade. No doubt about that. But it is good enough. Because the pork flavour is dominant.
I always choose the no sodium version. Because I like to control the salt. This recipe is no exception.
Double boil your bones for clear broth
Counter-intuitive. And yet culinary genius. Want clear broth? Double boil your bones. I use that trick for all my Asian broths.
It’s easy. Add enough cold water to a pot to cover the pork bones. Bring to a boil. Let it go for five minutes.
You’ll almost immediately see a bunch of gunk come to the surface of the water. Coagulated proteins if you want to get technical.
Doesn’t really matter what you call it. Nobody wants gunk in their broth.
There’s gunk on the bones too. And it has to go. Dump the water and bones into the sink. Run the cold water. Scrub. Get your hands dirty.
Return those freshly cleansed bones to the pot. Cover them with water and chicken broth. And simmer gently. Gunk free broth rules. Seriously.
On the matter of dried shrimp
I’ve tried making hu tieu a few ways. The local Vietnamese restaurants won’t tell me their secrets. They are zero fun that way.
But it isn’t really that hard to figure out. It’s a mostly porky broth. With a hint of seafood.
I’ve tried doing this with dried shrimp. And charred squid. Too intense for me. Completely overpowers the pork flavour.
So I’m careful about it. Cautious even. Timid? Maybe.
I want a hint of seafood. Killer pork broth is real work. And that’s the flavour I want in my bowl.
So I ditch the dried shrimp. Or I add only the daintiest amount. And I don’t leave it in for long. Depends on my mood.
And I don’t bother with the charred squid. I have other things I’d rather use squid for. Told you this wasn’t your mother’s recipe…
Pork done two ways
How much pork can you get into one bowl of soup? Turns out a lot. That makes me smile.
Hu tieu with pork two ways. Plus the broth. Pork three ways. That makes me smile more.
There’s pork shoulder. Poached in pork broth. For deeper flavour. Sliced thin. Like pho. That’s just tasty stuff.
And there’s browned ground pork. Seasoned with garlic, black pepper and fish sauce. Yes. Fish sauce.
Never fear the fish sauce. Embrace it. Totally makes this dish. Totally makes a lot of Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
Pork. Pork. And more pork. My kind of soup.
Hu tieu my way
I’m making no claims this is an authentic hu tieu recipe. This is not the definitive edition. Not even close.
What it is is really tasty noodle soup. I might not win at the Saigon master chef awards. But I am going to enjoy my dinner. And I hope you do too.
Hu tieu. Vietnamese pork noodle soup. Amazing stuff. Worth it to try the noodles alone. But so much better than that.
- 1 seriously big pot 10 litres big if you have it.
The pork broth (a double batch – makes around 14-16 cups of broth)
- 4 lbs pork bones meaty pork bones – neck is good if you can get it
- 1 onion cut in half
- 1 oz ginger
- 4 cups no sodium chicken stock the stuff from a tetra pack will do. A bouillon cube will not. See note.
- 10-12 cups water enough to cover everything solid in the pot by around an inch
The pork shoulder
- 1 lb pork shoulder
- 8 cups pork broth from above
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp Ajinomoto aka monosodium glutamate. This is optional but it is really good.
The minced pork
- 1 lb minced pork aka ground pork depending where you live
- 2 tbsp neutral oil canola, vegetable, safflower etc
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 tsp fish sauce
The hu tieu broth
- 8 cups pork broth the stuff you cooked the pork shoulder in
- 1 tsp dried shrimp (very optional). If you want the seafood version do it. If you tasted the pork broth and think it's the best thing ever just leave it out.
- 2 tbsp fish sauce Do not fear the fish sauce!
- salt to taste It won't need much. May not need any at all. Your call. That's why they call it to taste…
The hu tieu
- 12 oz hu tieu noodles – or rice noodles but you really need to try hu tieu noodles!
- the hu tieu broth – the 8 cups you added the fish sauce to
- 6 quail eggs
- 8 shrimp 31-40 count (31 to 40 per pound)
- the sliced pork
- the ground pork
- garnishes (green onion, sliced shallots, a little fresh chili – whatever you like)
Make the broth
- Clean your sink. Seriously. That's part of the recipe.
- Grab a really big pot. Put the pork (and chicken if using) bones in the pot and add water until everything is submerged. This is not the water/chicken stock in the recipe ingredients. You will be chucking this water.
- Bring to a boil. Not a raging boil but not a simmer either. Cook somewhere around 5-7 minutes. You will see a bunch of pretty grim looking goop (that's the scientific term) form on the surface. Getting rid of that is why you are doing this. OK – it's actually coagulated protein. Not goop. I like goop better.
- While the bones are coming to a boil char the ginger and onion. People say use a gas burner on your stove. That is messy. Or they say use the oven. That takes way too long. I use my barbecue. You just toss it on and let fire do its thing. If I'm really jammed for time I've been known to use a blowtorch. Not saying that's a good idea though. But I run with scissors so…
- Dump the bones into the sink. Clean the pot. Put the pot next to the sink. And start cleaning the bones under running water. One by one. Any bits of additional goop stuck to the bones need to go. As you clean them drop them into the pot.
- Toss the charred onion and ginger to the pot.
- Add the chicken stock and enough water to cover everything by about an inch. Bring to a gentle simmer. At this point you want to pay attention. The goal is a nice clear broth. Don't let it boil hard. A nice, gentle simmer.
- Simmer for 12 hours. Or more. For real. You aren't making stew. You are extracting maximum flavour. That takes time. The goal is for any meat on the bones to taste like nothing. All the flavour in the broth. That's the goal.
- After you have convinced yourself you've extracted all the flavour remove the pot from the heat. Remove the bones (tongs and a slotted spoon work well for this. Strain into a clean bowl. I use a fine mesh strainer for broths.
- You should wind up with about 16 cups of broth or enough for 8 bowls of hu tieu. This is a double batch. I like to freeze half for another day. If you want to make 8 cups total just half all the broth ingredients.
Prepare the pork shoulder
- Pick a pot that will hold the pork and the stock and ensures that the pork will remain submerged as it poaches.
- Combine the stock, salt and ajinomoto. Bring to a simmer.
- Add the pork. Poach the pork (you want the surface of the liquid moving but not bubbling) until it reaches an internal temperature of 145F.
- Remove and set aside. You now have 8 cups of pure liquid gold.
Prepare the minced pork
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. You don't want it to brown so be careful.
- Crumble the pork into the pan and raise the heat to medium. Break it up with whatever tool you like for this kind of stuff. I love my wooden spatula.
- Speak the pork out into an even layer. Resist the urge to stir constantly. You want it to brown some. When the pork is cooked through and you have some nice brown bits add the pepper and fish sauce. Stir to combine.
- Cook another 30 seconds or so. Turn off the heat and remove the pork from the pan using a slotted spoon. Leave the fat behind.
- Set the minced pork aside.
Prepare the quail eggs
- Bring a small pot half filled with water to a rolling boil. Have a timer set for 4 minutes.
- Turn the heat down and add the quail eggs. Lowering them into the pot with a slotted spoon works well. Immediately start the timer.
- Adjust heat to maintain a lively simmer.
- While the eggs cook prepare an ice water bath. Combine some ice (around one cube per egg) and enough water to cover the cubes by about 1 inch in a bowl large enough to also hold the quail eggs. Set the ice bath next to the stove.
- When the timer shows 15 seconds remaining grab your slotted spoon and move the eggs from the pot to the ice bath.
- When the eggs are well chilled peel and set aside. There is a membrane between the egg and the shell. Peeling goes much better if you can grab that membrane and lift the shell from the egg.
Prepare the shrimp
- Bring a small pot of well salted water to a boil.
- Add the unpeeled shrimp. Cover. Remove the pot from heat. Let stand for 6 minutes.
- While the shrimp cook prepare an ice bath.
- After 6 minutes transfer the shrimp from the pot to the ice bath.
- When the shrimp are chilled peel and set aside.
Make the hu tieu
- Put a large pot of water on to boil. You need this to cook the noodles.
- Slice the pork shoulder about as thin as you can manage. Think deli meat thin.
- Slice the quail eggs in half.
- Prep your garnishes.
- Bring the hu tieu broth to a gentle simmer.
- Add the noodles to the pot of boiling water. Cook until no longer firm to the bite. For me (and the specific brand of hu tieu noodles) this takes 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Different brands cook differently. If in doubt cook a small quantity to dial in your brand. Asian noodles are really annoying that way. I have to do this all the time. It's totally worth it though. 30 seconds can make the difference between great and glop.
- To serve divide the noodles between 4 bowls. Top with sliced pork. Ladle 2 cups of hu tieu broth over top. Add the eggs, minced pork and shrimp. Garnish as desired and serve.