You'll experience a noodle paradigm shift the first time you try hu tieu, especially if you cherish spaghetti. Chewy, translucent and glutinous in texture, hu tieu, a tapioca-based noodle, is synonymous with Vietnamese food. Although rice- and wheat-flour shortages during World War II made hu tieu a regional necessity, you never find it in Chinese or Japanese cuisine. The best cooking methods take advantage of hu tieu's texture. Added to stir-fries in the last few minutes of cooking, hu tieu absorbs sauce like rice-based noodles, and when fried alone, hu tieu crisps up without absorbing much oil.
Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Rinse the hu tieu under cool running water while the water heats. Drain the noodles in a colander.
Drop the hu tieu in the boiling water. Stir the noodles once or twice so they don't stick together.
Cook the hu tieu for 5 to 6 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Taste a couple noodles to check for an al-dente bite before you remove the pot from the heat.
Drain the noodles in the colander. Cool the hu tieu under cold running water for a few minutes to stop their cooking.
Place the noodles in a bowl of cold water to prevent their sticking together until you're ready to use them.
Cook the stir-fry until it has about 3 minutes left. Drain the noodles in a colander and add to the wok. Stir the noodles to coat and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.
If you want to fry the noodles, drain the noodles in a colander until nearly dry but not sticking together. Heat a few tablespoons of frying oil in a wok or pan to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or over medium-heat for about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the noodles and fry until crispy, stirring frequently, about 2 or 3 minutes.
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A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.