This Phnom Penh noodle soup recipe makes kuy teav Phnom Penh, named after Cambodia’s capital where it’s a popular breakfast soup. One for pork lovers, ‘Phnom Penh noodles’ as it’s also known, is distinguished by its pork broth, minced pork, plump prawns, and garnishes. It also has a cousin in Vietnam called Hủ tiếu Nam Vang.
Our Phnom Penh noodle soup recipe for kuy teav Phnom Penh, named after Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, makes one of Cambodia’s most popular noodle soups, especially for pork lovers. At a minimum, Phnom Penh noodles is made with a pork stock base, dried rice noodles (kuy teav), and is topped with seasoned ground pork, but it can also include any combination of pork loin, pork belly, pork ribs, pork blood cake, pork liver, and other pork offal bits.
This traditional breakfast soup is known for its abundance. The other distinguishing ingredients of this Phnom Penh noodle soup recipe are plump prawns or shrimps, a few lettuce leaves (romaine is favoured here in Cambodia), bean sprouts, fresh coriander, and fried garlic and fried shallots. It’s customary to serve some lime wedges on the side, and chilli flakes, chilli sauce, fish sauce, and salt and pepper on the table.
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Now let me tell you about this Phnom Penh noodle soup recipe for kuy teav Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh Noodle Soup Recipe for Kuy Teav Phnom Penh
If you made our classic Cambodian kuy teav recipe for a chicken rice noodle soup or kuy teav sach moan, in the restrained style that you would typically find at a local market, rustic eatery or neighbourhood restaurant in Cambodia, then you’re going to like this Phnom Penh noodle soup recipe for kuy teav Phnom Penh.
A more luxuriant rendition of the classic Cambodian-Chinese soup, this bowl of Phnom Penh noodles brims with porky goodness, sweet plump prawns, lettuce greens for balance, fresh herbs for fragrance, and bean sprouts and fried shallots and fried garlic for crunch and texture.
Cambodians will squeeze on some juice of the fresh lime quarters that are usually provided, perhaps add a splash of fish sauce, and probably sprinkle on some chilli flakes or a squeeze of chilli sauce, and then use the chop sticks to make sure everything is well combined.
Kuy teav Phnom Penh also has a cousin in neighbouring Vietnam named Hủ tiếu Nam Vang – Nam Vang is the Vietnamese name for Phnom Penh – which is hugely popular in Vietnam’s southern city, Saigon, officially called Ho Chi Minh City.
The main differences between the soups that I’ve spotted on trips to Saigon is that hu tieu Nam Vang often includes salted cabbage in the soup, a couple of boiled quail eggs nestled beside the prawns and pork on top of the noodles, and garnishes typically include Chinese celery and/or chrysanthemum leaves and garlic in vinegar.
While I’ve noted expressions of surprise by culinary travellers to Vietnam discovering this Cambodian soup in Saigon, it should not be surprising at all. Southern Vietnam was long part of Cambodia’s Khmer Empire, and in fact there were Khmer people as far north as the Red River Delta.
Saigon was once a Khmer port city called Prey Nokor – ‘prey’ means forest or jungle and ‘nokor’ means land or city. In fact, Cambodians and the millions of Khmer Krom people still living in Southern Vietnam, particularly the Mekong Delta, continue to call it that.
There are still Khmer communities in Saigon and one of the best places to try Hủ tiếu Nam Vang is the Cambodian market near the Ho Thi Ky flower market, where you’ll recognise many different kinds of Cambodian food if you’ve travelled in Cambodia. I cover all of this in much greater depth and detail in the Cambodia culinary history I’m writing.
Tips to Making this Phnom Penh Noodle Soup Recipe
Here in Cambodia, the best pork stocks for noodle soups such as this kuy teav Phnom Penh are made by cooks who wake around midnight or in the wee hours of the morning to make a colossal soup stock for breakfast service the next day.
This way, the broth gets to simmer for a good 4-5 hours while the cooks readies the other soup ingredients in preparation for a busy breakfast shift. The best noodle soup joints sell out just a few hours after opening when the cook can go home to enjoy a well-earned nap.
Of course, this is how these women make a living. The more delicious their soup is, the more customers they’ll get, the more income they’ll make. Home cooks, on the other hand, don’t always have the luxury of time to linger in the kitchen all day skimming a soup.
That’s why I’m including instructions for how to make pork stock for this Phnom Penh noodle soup recipe here and not in the main soup recipe as I don’t want you to feel like you have to make a 5-hour stock in order to make this soup.
Because there are as many cooks who make fresh pork soup stock from scratch every night in Cambodia ,as there are Cambodian cooks who use ‘pork powder’, also called pork stock power, pork bouillon or pork cubes, such as Knorr pork stock cubes, which are very popular. If you have a favourite pork stock by all means use that, otherwise, I’ve provided instructions for making a kuy teav Phnom Penh pork stock below.
Use dry rice noodles such as dried rice vermicelli or rice stick noodles for this soup and take care when you cook them. You can just dunk them into your soup in a stainless steel spider or mesh basket with handle, preferably one that hooks onto the pot. This is better than putting the noodles directly into the soup as it enables you to maintain control over the amount of noodles, so you can more evenly distribute them between bowls and ensures you don’t over-cook them. Wear oven mitts if you can’t hang the basket from the pot.
You can use the same mesh basket or a slotted spoon to quickly cook your prawns or shrimps, taking care not to over-cook them.
Have all your garnishes prepped before bringing it all together. While I like to give my pork a little colour and season my pork mince, many Cambodian cooks don’t as they say the flavour is going to come from a combination of the garnishes and condiments.
Do provide plenty of condiments on the table. After garnishing the bowls, I like to set out additional dishes of lime quarters, fragrant herbs, sliced birds-eye chillies, chilli flakes, fish sauce, chilli sauce, and some homemade chilli oil.
How to Make Pork Stock
To make the pork stock, you’ll need a couple of kilos of pork bones, which you should rinse, taking care to remove any splinters. Drop them in a large stockpot, filled with room temperature water, which you should bring to the boil, then boil for at least ten minutes.
Drain, rinse the bones again, clean the stockpot, and return the clean bones. Fill the pot with water again and bring to the boil, removing any scum and impurities that float to the surface, then add a whole dried squid, 50g of dried shrimp, one daikon, and a few cloves of garlic, and turn down the heat and simmer for an absolute minimum of two hours, but up to five hours if possible.
Add a tablespoon each of salt and white pepper, a teaspoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of fish sauce, and taste. Adjust any of those if necessary to suit your taste. Strain into clean stock pot, discarding the bones and other solids, then continue to simmer on low heat and start the recipe at 2) or allow the stock to cool.
Phnom Penh Noodle Soup Recipe
- 2 litres pork stock see section above recipe "How to Make Pork Stock"
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp white pepper or to taste
- 1 tsp fish sauce or to taste
- 1 tsp sugar optional or to taste
- 1 tbsp neutral cooking oil
- 6 pieces pork ribs
- 200 g minced pork
- 6 whole prawns peeled, deveined, tail on
- 200 g dried rice noodles
- Romaine lettuce leaves blanched bean sprouts, sliced scallions/spring onions, fresh coriander (cilantro), fresh basil, bird’s eye chillies, deep-fried shallots, deep-fried garlic, lime quarters.
- Fish sauce chilli sauce, chilli oil, chilli flakes
- Make the pork broth by bringing to boil 2 litres of pork stock (see section above recipe "How to Make Pork Stock"), then turn down to low, season with salt, white pepper and sugar (optional), then simmer.
- While the pork broth is coming to a boil, prep your garnish: roughly chop the romaine lettuce leaves (although Cambodians will often pop whole leaves into a soup), blanche the bean sprouts, sliced the scallions/spring onions, pluck the fresh coriander (cilantro) and fresh basil leaves off the stems, slice the bird’s eye chillies, and quarter and de-seed the limes, and set aside.
- In a small-medium fry pan on high heat, add a splash of neutral cooking oil and quickly fry the pork ribs with a pinch of salt and white pepper until just-cooked and they have colour, then set aside (do not over-cook them), then fry the pork mince with salt and white pepper until just-cooked and set aside.
- Pop the prawns on a slotted spoon and dip them in the pork stock until they turn orange then immediately remove them and set them aside.
- Using a stainless-steel spider, strainer or mesh basket with handle, dip the dried noodles into the pork broth (these should only take a couple of minutes to cook), then distribute the noodles evenly between the soup bowls.
- Ladle the pork broth into the bowls then distribute the pork mince, pork ribs and prawns between the bowls; arrange the fresh garnishes and sprinkle some deep-fried garlic and deep-fried shallots onto the pork mince, and perhaps a splash of chilli oil and sprinkle of chilli flakes, and serve immediately.
- Squeeze lime quarters into the bowl, and add splashes of fish sauce or chilli sauce, and sliced bird’s eye chillies, as you like.
Do let us know if you make this classic Phnom Penh noodle soup recipe for kuy teav Phnom Penh in the comments below or on social media, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.