And it has been doing so for the better part of seven decades.
Hu tieu is a kind of noodle soup served in the southern part of the country, and there is a profusion of stalls serving it in Saigon. The soup is served in such variety that newcomers might be confused.
However, there is no confusion about one noodle soup stall on Calmette Street in District 1 of Saigon.
“We have been serving customers for over 70 years,” said Phat, who currently runs the eatery.
The stall, opened originally by Phat’s parents, serves savory fish noodles as its specialty.
Each serving includes a bowl of noodles and a bowl of fish sauce with chillies in it. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy
“Earlier, the shop was located at the crossroads of Calmette and Nguyen Thai Binh Street, then we moved to a new place, four to five houses away. 2019 will be our 75th year in operation,” said Phat.
All the activities take place in a house with a width of less than one meter. The kitchen is neatly arranged so that the chef can move around easily, and the customers’ seats are placed in the front of the house.
The diner adopts a Chinese cooking style, serving the noodles, with fish, pork or pork liver. Of these, the fish noodle stands out.
The hu tieu noodle strands served here are almost double the size of regular ones and often softer. Big snakehead fish are chosen and filleted, sliced and marinated with spices. When customers place an order, the chef only needs to poach the fillet, put in a bowl and serve.
The most impressive component of this dish is its broth, which is either fish stock or pork bone stock. The broth is very clear and emits an appetizing aroma.
The fish noodles soup is served with bean sprouts, garlic chives, and some chopped green onion. Fish sauce is served separately in a small bowl.
At first glance, many customers think the fish sauce is not seasoned, but when a piece of meat is dipped in it, the sweet and salty flavor that the owner has put effort into creating is a pleasant surprise. Some chopped chilli or pepper can be added to the sauce.
Even early in the morning, Phat’s noodle soup shop is crowded with regular patrons from all walks of life: a taxi driver, parents taking their children to school and elderly, retired residents. These customers are familiar with the taste of the fish noodles soup here, and have not tired of it after decades.
Most customers prefer fish over other noodle soup varieties at this restaurant. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy
Minh, a 60 plus-year-old local resident, waited patiently for his serving. He put some chilli slices, one by one, into his fish sauce bowl. When the dish came, Minh put two crunchy breadsticks in his bowl and mixed everything up.
“Every few days, I walk here to eat. Nowadays, many people sell this dish, but I still choose this restaurant because of the kindness and talent that this family has passed down through generations.”
The shop opens from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day. The price is in the VND35,000 ($1.5) range, decent for its location.
Phat called out as a customer walked out of the restaurant: “If you think it’s delicious, remember to come back!”