Like com hen (rice with baby clams), the baby clam noodle soup is also an iconic dish in the former imperial capital of Hue. Yellow of noodles, red of chilies, green of herbs, sour taste of star fruit and sweet taste of baby clam flesh will bring diners an interesting colorful culinary experience.
Baby clam is a popular ingredient of Hue’s specialties. Hen (Clam or Mussel) is also a name of small islet in the city. The water of the Huong (Perfume) River flowing to the islet is said to be clearer than other sections of the river. Particularly, the river bed there is covered by a thick layer of silt which is an ideal habitat for baby clams. That is the reason why baby clams caught from the islet are best and used to be among ingredients for kings’ dishes.
Baby clam noodle soup is created using instant noodles and baby clams. The noodle soup is the combination of sour, spicy, salty and sweet tastes.
Aside from baby clams and noodles, the dish also requires herbs, crispy pork rinds, peanuts, and special chili sauce from the central region. The preparation of the dish is quite complex and has to meet standards set by Hue connoisseurs. First, baby clams are soaked in water to make them clean. Next, they are boiled so that their flesh can be removed easily. The thick soup made by boiling baby clams will be used as the main element for the broth. Then, baby clam flesh is stir fried with some spices at low heat to keep them juicy.
Noodles are blanched before the hot baby clam broth is added. While enjoying the noodle soup, diners can feel the sweetness of the clam flesh.
Baby clam noodle soup must be served with local herbs, such as banana flower, star fruit, and doc mung (Colocasia gigantea).
To get a bowl of baby clam noodle soup ready, the cook will add broth to noodles after mixing them with stir-fried baby clam flesh, herbs, chili sauce and a slice of lemon. Then, pieces of crispy pork rind and peanuts will be added. All ingredients offer diners an unforgettable culinary experience.
Hue-style baby clam noodle soup can be found in some eateries in Saigon.
By Lam Nhu