To Han Van, the eatery’s owner, is originally from Chaozhou in China. As a young man he helped his father, waiting on tables, and learned to cook this dish.
His father, who opened this restaurant in Go Cong Street more than 60 years ago, had himself invented the recipe for this hu tieu sa te nai (satay venison noodle soup) dish.
Van is now too old to cook and has handed down the job to Dung, the manager’s daughter, and her husband.
Dung is the cook of the dish.
Dung said when cooking it everything must be done carefully. Everyday, she would go to the market very early to select the freshest ingredients. “Our restaurant opens from morning till night, so the ingredients must be fresh all day long.”
The eatery serves the noodle soup with cucumbers instead of usual bean sprouts or chives. There is neither pork nor chicken, only venison and a special bowl that has some beef spleen.
The broth is not made from bone but from a secret recipe that makes it brown. According to the owner, the recipe is a combination of 20 different spices, more than 10 of them traditional medicinal herbs.
“The satay must be refined to reduce its pungency, and then other ingredients such as peanuts and Chinese sauce is added,” Dung said.
Before the dish is served, the noodles and venison are soaked quickly in hot water. Like at most Chinese eateries in the city, the noodles here are large, thin and soft. The venison is washed thoroughly and left to dry without seasoning. Before pouring the broth into the bowl, a little coconut milk is added, which gives it a fatty and sweet taste.
The price of a bowl of satay venison noodle soup is VND65,000 ($2.8).
The dish has a strong fragrance. You will be attracted by the colors of the greasy sauce, the chopped chives and spring onion on top and the pink venison slices. Mixing them all together and slowly savoring the soft noodles, crispy cucumbers and venison, you can feel a unique spicy, fatty, salty, sweet taste.
There is a cup of vinegar to dip the meat in. You can add some chilli or lemon according to your liking. If you don’t like to use the vinegar as a dipping sauce, you can pour it into the noodle soup and mix them together. Be careful not to get scalded because the broth is served super hot.
Vinegar could make the dish more tasty.
The restaurant, situated right behind Cho lon Chinatown market, is popular not only with the local ethnic Chinese populace but also tourists who want to try a familiar dish with an unusual twist.
Though the restaurant is not fancy, it is clean and airy. The tables and chairs are arranged in orderly fashion, and can seat up to 20 guests.
Besides the signature dish, the restaurant also serves some appertizers and various beverages, many of them homemade, like nuoc sam (herbal tea), nuoc rau ma (pennywort juice), sua dau nanh (soy milk), and sua bap (corn milk).
It opens from early morning to 11 p.m. every day.