I don’t remember how I found out about New Phnom Penh, but after I did, I keep coming back. So do my friends, whom I gladly introduced them to Philly’s tastiest hủ tiếu. Hủ tiếu at New Phnom Penh is 98 percent similar to the Vietnamese take on the recipe. I left the two percent out because no food is ever identical isn’t it? Since the restaurant’s name has suggested their originality, I’m assuming that this would be how hủ tiếu is made in Cambodia too.
Hủ tiếu, or ka tieu, or kuai tiao, however you address it in Vietnamese, Khmer, or Thai, is a noodle soup consisting of rice noodles with pork stock and toppings.The broth is clear and rather subtle than spicy. Usually cooked with dried shrimp and dried squid, these essences differentiate the flavor from other soup base such as broth for wonton noodle soup. Toppings for hu tieu usually contains of sliced pieces of pork tenderloin, fish balls, pork organs (mostly liver, heart, and kidney), sauteed minced pork, and broiled shrimp. Fried dough is also an optional topping. Usually in Vietnam we don’t eat hủ tiếu with fried dough. I was introduced to this new concept right here at the restaurant. And it’s actually not that bad.
Vegetables that goes best with hủ tiếu are usually beans spouts, chrysanthemum (or daisy crowns), and Chinese celery. However, most of the restaurants will only serve beans sprouts and replace others with lettuce. So does New Phnom Penh and that’s, unfortunately, their turn-off because lettuce doesn’t add any taste into the bowl. I always leave lettuce because if I wanted it I would just have a salad.
Hủ tiếu can be served wet or dry. My all-time favorite is the dry one. It’s best when you everything up with soy sauce, hoisin sauce, a spoonful of chili oil, and a little bit of sugar to give the bowl an extra kick of sweetness and to round out the flavors. A small bowl of soup is served alongside.
What else is good at New Phnom Penh? Please go and order yourself an order of their spring rolls. They use rice paper sheets, the skinny, opaque ones we use for Vietnamese summer rolls, instead of the conventional egg wrapping. The surface is certainly rougher. Yet, the rougher, the tastier. Fun fact, we never use egg wrapping in Vietnam so this is true authenticity. One downside with using rice paper wrapping for spring rolls is you have to eat them as soon as possible. The longer it sits, the more chewier it gets, unlike egg wrapping, which can remain crispy for a much longer period of time.
I am sure they serve a couple more items but I never really bother to try. Not because I’m too conservative but because every single time I walk in, I immediately crave for hủ tiếu. I’m positive they will do a good job just as well for others. But for now, hủ tiếu is all that matters.
And spring rolls.