Tra Vinh-style noodle soup draws patrons to Saigon eatery

By Huynh Nhi   December 2, 2020 | 05:09 pm GMT+7
A stall in Saigon serving bun suong, a type of shrimp noodle soup originating in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh, attracts scores of discerning patrons.
Pham Thi Luong, 52, is the third generation of a street vendor that sells shrimp vermicelli in Ben Van Don Street, District 4. She wakes up at 2 a.m. every day to make the broth and prepare the ingredients. At 4 a.m., she pushes the cart from District 2 to District 4 to set up the vendor so that everything will be ready at 6.

Pham Thi Luong, 52, is the third-generation member of her family to serve bun suong at 183/41 Ben Van Don Street, District 4.
She typically wakes up at 2 a.m. every day to cook the broth and prepare ingredients. At 4 a.m., she pushes her cart from District 2 to District 4 where she has her 'shop' set up by 6.

A major ingredient in the soup, suong (R) is the Vietnamese term for a fried mixture of ground shrimp and flour shaped like the larva of the red palm weevil, a well-known Mekong Delta staple.

A major ingredient in the soup, suong (R) is the Vietnamese term for a fried mixture of ground shrimp and flour shaped like the larva of the red palm weevil, a Mekong Delta staple.

At first, she found it quite easy to cook this dish but difficult to sell it.  On the first days, I did everything really slow and didn’t think that I should sell this dish. People thought I was selling crab noodle soup so they kept asking me that. When I hang up a sign that I sell shrimp vermicelli, they were curious to try and then I got more customers. On weekends, it sells so fast every time, Luong said.

Luong said the business is actually associated with her husband’s family. When Luong turned 19, she followed her husband from Dong Nai Province to Saigon and later took charge of his family noodle business, passed down from her grandmother-in-law.
At first, she found it quite easy to cook this dish but difficult to sell.
"During my first days, I did everything really slow and doubted whether I should continue selling this dish. People often thought I was selling crab noodle soup so they kept asking for that. When I hung up a sign clarifying I serve bun suong, more customers started turning up. On weekends, it sells quite fast," Luong said.

In a bowl of shrimp vermicelli soup that Luong made has shrimp, pork, pork blood and shrimp sausages.

A typical bowl of Luong's bun suong includes shrimp, pork, pork blood, and suong. The broth consists of pig bones, white radish, fermented soy bean, and tamarind.

On the side is a small bowl of sauce that consists of sweet chili sauce, fish sauce and tamarind for the shrimp sausages.

On the side is a small bowl of sweet chili and fish sauce with tamarind for the suong.

A bowl of shrimp vermicelli soup here costs VND40,000. In three hours, she can sell 20 kg of fresh vermicelli. This is also a familiar spot for breakfast with people in District 4.

A breakfast bowl of the shrimp noodle soup costs VND40,000 ($1.74). In three hours, Luong can sell up to 20 kg of fresh noodles.

Bun suong was created in Tra Vinh, but Luong has never been to the Mekong Delta province and her husband’s family is not from there neither. Despite this, she said her customers love her shrimp noodle soup, and that she has never had even one complaint.

Bun suong was created in Tra Vinh, but Luong has never been to the Mekong Delta province and her husband’s family is not from there neither. Despite this, she said her customers love her shrimp noodle soup, and that she has never had even one complaint.

 
 
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