Monday, January 17, 2011

Late Night Soup

By the time we make the drive home through cool, thick air after a big night out we are usually hungry.  In a city with a lack of late night options outside of the Pham Ngu Lao, it was a genuine relief to find a dusty gem of a kitchen in our direct homeward path (a bright light on the south side of a murky section of CMT8 between To Hien Thanh and  Le Thi Rieng Park).  They keep it simple here and serve one kind of noodle soup - Hu Tiu Nam Yang.  This delectable, steaming bowl includes fresh slices of pork, shrimp and liver along with thick rice noodles, bean sprouts, a tasty broth, and assorted field vegetables that you add at your own leisure.  The Vietnamese version of Mexico's menudo and Turkey's kelle paca, if you supplement this soup with enough spice, a ponderous interstitial alchemy leads directly to profuse sweating and instantaneous sobriety.
 Typical to Vietnam, the soup is prepared in a booth in front of the restaurant seating area.  We like to play fussy Americans, so we customize our soups by shouting incoherently at the soup man and pointing strenuously at the pig parts we'd like to avoid.  Gavin tends to take it sans liver, whereas I prefer to go vegetarian. 
 When our soup arrives I fight the automatic feeling to dig in.  Instead, I spend some time doctoring it up.  I used to do puzzles, but now my left brain is satisfied through tedious, repetitive activities like soup decoration instead.  I like to add mounds of fresh lettuce, either a crispy iceberg or a sweet butter variant like the night I took these pictures.  I also add plenty of lime, bean sprouts and fresh hot chili peppers. 

If you have ever been to a Pho restaurant, you may recall the different sauces provided to dress up your soup properly.  The ubiquitous sweet brown hoisin, spicy Sriracha, and an oily, ground-chili paste.  Here in Vietnam, you have these same sauces and many more!  Cloves of garlic, Nuoc Mam (fish sauce), ketchup, neon-orange mass-produced hot paste/gel/sauce, fresh chili peppers,  dried ground peppers, unknown pickled vegetable juices, etc.  I love a challenge, but my face resembles a pomegranate if I go too spicy here, so I usually stick with the milder ground chili peppers.

We have become quite the regulars here!


CAROL said...

Like always, enjoy all your stories. Really like the new page-clear and easy to read! Keep on posting!

Greg said...

Not a fan of spontaneous sobriety :)
The soup looks wonderful as does the new design of your blog.

Medifast Recipes said...

Now I must find soup. We don't have the great options of soup delis in my neck of the woods and makes me miss the lights of a great downtown market. But I have gotten really good at making soups, because I have to. And with this cold day outside I am going to have to go and make some soup.
Great pictures by the way.