A plate of noodles with chili salt is served with a bowl of savoury broth and meaty treats. – VNS Photo Việt Dũng
HCM CITY — In recent years, the local dish called "noodles with chili salt" has been getting a lot of love from street-food fanatics, thanks to its spicy and savoury taste.
It's by no means a complicated dish. It typically contains store-bought instant noodles that have been boiled lightly, and then mixed with chili salt.
Restaurants have different ways of making it. Some mix salt with chili powder, while others would use chili sauce with a pinch of salt and other sauces.
Nguyễn Thị Bích Liễu, who has been a street vendor in District 6 for four years, stirs her noodles with chili salt and oil. She uses her gloved hand to tightly squeeze and stir the noodles around, giving her cooking station a pleasant savour, as the appealing red colour spreads throughout the bowl.
“I stir the noodles strongly and evenly so that the chili salt is absorbed into the noodles. It also makes the noodle strands more firm. I add a special homemade sauce to stir the noodles with, which adds a really nice flavour to the dish,” she told Việt Nam News.
A plate of spicy noodles is typically enjoyed with a bowl of broth, filled with various kinds of meat toppings.
Liễu, for example, serves her broth bowl (cooked with beef bone every morning) with beef balls, meat-stuffed tofu, beef, maw, crab sticks, squid and shrimp, as well as soft-boiled eggs.
Despite its simple recipe, the dish is beloved by young diners. The spicy and tangy taste of each noodle strand stimulates the tongue and makes the dish impossible to put down.
Customers can also break an egg yolk into the bowl, which lends the dish a creamier taste.
Occasional sips of the savoury broth are also a highlight, and each meat topping offers a different texture and flavour.
Liễu believes the broth is the best part of the dish.
Hồ Trần Bảo Ngân, a frequent customer of Liễu’s, said that her dish's balance of spiciness and saltiness is just right.
Chili salt is typically mixed very thoroughly with noodles so that the noodles absorb the spicy flavour. — VNS Photo Việt Dũng
Popular with young diners
Although the dish has been around for a long time, it has gained a great deal of attention in recent years from young people because it is seen as an alternative to the popular Korean 7-level spicy noodle dish.
Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Hoa works for a vendor in Phú Nhuận District, which has been serving different kinds of noodle dishes for about 15 years. Her vendor offers wonton crackers to go with the noodles, as well as a plate of pan-fried chili and salt as a dipping sauce.
“This dish can be eaten at any time of the day. We always have a group of people coming here in the morning after their exercise. We also get a lot of young people who visit us after work.”
Even though it’s not the same as a sizzling plate of Korean spicy noodles, the Vietnamese dish, with its irresistible flavour and reasonable price, is still a great street-side dish worth trying. VNS
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