“On a visit last month to the town of My Tho, the capital of the Tien Giang province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, I found a riverside restaurant that served the local specialty, a dish called hu tieu. It’s a delicious soup, dense with stretchy rice noodles and topped with succulent locally farmed shrimp.
These two ingredients of hu tieu have set the delta on a remarkable path to prosperity. In provinces like Tien Giang and neighboring Ben Tre, as one drives east toward the South China Sea, the landscape is stitched together with fertile rice paddies and brackish ponds teeming with shrimp. This transformation has taken place in just one generation.
As late as 1990, 15 years after the Vietnam war ended, the country faced the threat of famine, and rice was strictly rationed. Now, thanks to the government’s “rice first” policy, many farmers get three crops a year, including one in the dry season, from November to April. Earnings from this year’s harvests have broken all previous records. Last year, Vietnam overtook Thailand as the world’s leading rice exporter, with 90% of the export crop grown in the Mekong Delta.”