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Cracking the Calories: Hu Tieu (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup) - 250 Calories

Cracking the Calories: Hu Tieu
Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup

Noodle soups are a mainstay in Vietnamese cuisine. Pho (pronounced: fuh), both chicken and beef, takes the spotlight in popularity. But there are many, many other noodle soups that range from spicy (Bun Bo Hue) to sweet (Bun Rieu) to seafood based broths (Hu Tieu) that are also quite delicious.

I wanted to cook something light and refreshing for Mr. J's return from a long, hard week at a client site and Hu Tieu jumped out at me as the perfect fit. Also it didn't help that Wandering Chopsticks was taunting me with wonderful Retro Posts all week on her Facebook page and this was one of the dishes.

Traditionally, this dish is made with a light seafood broth, topped with pork (BBQ for Saigon Style or boiled for Nam Vang style), shrimp, sometimes, crab claws, and always with lots of vegetables (lettuce, Chinese celery, chives, etc). The noodles are usually wide and flat made of rice or "dai"/ chewy made of tapioca. I prefer the clear chewy noodles. And a bowl usually tops out at 600 calories for a bowl - not fast day friendly at all!

To cut the calories, I subbed in shirataki noodles, reduced the amount of pork and upped the shrimp and veggies. Also, I refrigerated the broth overnight to make skimming the fat off the top easier. So the broth is incredibly lean but still chock full of gelatin to make it rich and lip smacking good. This recipe is based off of the Hu Tieu recipe from Wandering Chopsticks. It's surprisingly easy and requires few ingredients (all of which can be stored in your pantry for emergency cravings) and comes together quickly (if you aren't going to cool overnight).

Additionally, this dish can be served with the broth for a "wet" style or with the broth on the side for a "dry" style. I prefer to have my noodles dry and then half way through turn them wet by pouring in the broth. One of my favorite Hu Tieu places serves the dry style with a dark sauce on the bottom that I absolutely love. You could of course omit the sauce and cut the calories even more.

In the above picture to the left of the lettuce, I added some boiled rau muong because I had some already to go and wanted to use it up. This is not a traditional ingredient at all but I found it worked well anyway.

The funny thing is that I wasn't even on a Fast Day when I made this dish! But since I am on a lay off from the gym I've been wanting to watch my calories a little bit. Also the shirataki noodles were a GREAT substitute in general. It has the chewiness that the "dai" noodles usually have and they were in my fridge! Trust me this doe snot taste like a "low calorie" meal at all.

Disclaimer: I am not a food scientist and I estimate calories using tools that any average person can find on the internet. I do not count the calories for ingredients that are boiled and then taken out. So there maybe additional calories in the broth that I did not account for.

Recipe: Hu Tieu (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup) - 250 calories

For the broth:  0.021 calories per gram

  • 5 quarts water (0 calories)
  • 1 lb pork soup bones, try to find ones with cartilage like from a joint or ribs (0 calories if you skim off all the fat)
  • Shrimp shells, as many as you have from the amount you want to serve (0 calories)
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut in half (0 calories)
  • 12 pieces dried shrimp, small size is fine (0 calories)
  • 2 oz dried squid (0 calories)
  • 1 T fish sauce (6 calories)
  • 1 tsp salt (0 calories)
 For the shrimp:
  • 5 pieces per bowl (calories counted later)
  • 1 T salt (0 calories)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (0 calories)
  • 0.5 cup water (0 calories)

For the pork:

  • 1 oz per bowl pork leg (calories counted later)

For the "Dry" Sauce: 0.692 cal/ g

  • 1 T soy sauce (8 calories)
  • 1 T oyster sauce (2 calories)
  • 1 T water (0 calories)
  • 1 tsp sugar (16 calories)

For serving:

  • Dry Sauce - I used 27g or about half because I love it (19 calories)
  • 1 package fettuccine style shirataki noodles per bowl (40 calories)
  • 31 g (1 oz) pork leg per serving, thinly sliced (90 calories)
  • 45 g (1.5 oz, 5 pieces) shrimp (48 calories)
  • 110 g boiled Rau Muong (22 calories)
  • 90 g (4.23 oz) Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced (15 calories)
  • 20 g (0.70 oz) lemon juice (5 calories)
  • 1 g hot chili oil (8 calories)
  • Broth - I used 150 g on the side (3 calories)

Additional garnishes at additional calories:

  • 100 g Chinese celery, slice about 2 inches long (16 calories)
  • 100 g chives, slice about 2 inches long (30 calories)
  • 25 g cilantro leaves (6 calories) 
  • 25 g mint leaves, thinly sliced (11 calories)
  1. Peel shrimp, reserving the shells for the stock.
  2. Devein shrimp. You can do this bycutting down the back but if you want to be fancy and keep the shrimp intact, take a toothpick and prick the shrimp at the point where the vein is closest to the surface, about 2/3 the way down from the head. Make sure to prick below the vein and pull it through by tugging gently. Make sure to get both the bottom and top half.
  3. Soak the shrimp in water, salt and baking soda mixture. Set aside.
  4. In a large stock pot, add water, pork bones, shrimp shells, onion, dried shrimp and dried squid. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, add fish sauce and salt. Cover to simmer for 1 hour. Skimming any scum or fat that rises to the surface.
  5. Mix all dry sauce ingredients together and set side.
  6. Remove all the solids from the broth. Refrigerate and skim the fat off, if desired.
  7. Reheat the broth over high heat.
  8. Add pork leg to the stock. Bring to a boil. Once at a boil, cover and turn off heat. Let pork rest in broth for 30 minutes. Cook shrimp in the still warm broth until pink.
  9. Remove shrimp and set aside. 
  10. Remove pork and let rest until cool enough to slice thinly.
  11. Wash, dry and chop vegetables. Set aside.
  12. Drain shirataki noodles. In a separate pot, add noddles and water to cover, put over high heat and bring to a boil. Drain.
  13. To serve, place desired amount of sauce in the bottom of the bowl, top with noodles, sliced pork, shrimp, and vegetables. Serve broth in bowl or on the side.
  14. Drizzle with chili oil, stir and enjoy!


  1. that looks so you got me craving!

  2. alliebeans: it's super easy as the broth comes together with just a few ingredients that you can keep handy! The key ingredient is the dried squid. You could forgo the pork bones and just use pork stock from bullion cubes if you are in a bind.


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