Monday, January 4, 2010

Eating on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam Part 2 - Our Love Affair with Phở (Vietnamese Rice Noodles)

Phở (pronounced as 'fur' in English) is a popular Vietnamese dish that is cooked and enjoyed by all in Vietnam. It is the equivalent for Pasta in Italy. Phở is actually rice noodles in clear beef or chicken based soup served in a bowl. The dish is commonly accompanied with basil leaves, mint leaves, bean sprouts and lime to enhance the flavors. Defining the soup for Phở as merely based out of beef or chicken is an understatement as many herbs and spices are added to create this tasty soup. The clear soup that was served with the white, sometimes translucent, rice noodles does make one think that concocting the tasty soup is like taking a walk in the park. To substantiate my point, here's a link to a Chicken Phở recipe in Viet World Kitchen that is suppose to be simple but it has already 11 ingredients to create the broth/soup, excluding the rest of the other ingredients.

So, how can we miss eating Phở, one of the national food in Vietnam? No way! Out of respect for the delicious pho, we will dedicate this one whole diary page just for our love affair with the Vietnamese Rice Noodle in Hanoi. How do we know the following Phở recommendations are good? My simplest rules of engagement to spot a good food place, even if there is a language barrier, is to ask myself the following questions. "Is there a queue?". "Is the restaurant at least 70% filled with customers?" Then follow your guts.

Phở Vuông is more like Phở chain than street food. However, for the sake of categorizing Phở, I'm including this experience here. Phở Vuông was, so far, the cleanest Phở eatery that we visited. There was proper air conditioning and they provided us with a menu in English too. That was how I'm able to order beef brisket phở rather than the typical lean beef phở.

The meat in the medium cooked beef brisket noodles that I ordered was very tender than as this part of the beef has some interlaced fats, making it juicier than lean beef. The rice noodles were thin and smooth. It would help minimize your effort if you are a slurp-up-your-noodle kind of person.

Phở Vuông shop front at
44 Ngo Thi Nham, Hoan Kiem
Tel : 3945 4740

My bowl of medium
cooked beef brisket phở

Lean Beef Phở that HY enjoyed.

We were along Le Van Huu searching for Cafe Mai that serves coffee and sell freshly ground coffee powder. While we were at it, we came across Mai Anh phở shop that many locals walked in. Mai Anh serves chicken phở.

Mai Anh's Shop Front at
32 Le Van Huu, Hoan Kiem
Tel : 39438492

My bowl of chicken phở from Mai Anh.
Again the typical clear soup. This time
with chicken shreds and chicken meatballs.

The dough sticks tasted great
when dunked into the soup.

Folks at Mai Anh preparing the phở for us.
Look like there's plenty of herb and
spices in the pot of phở soup.

Bún Bò Nam Bộ is one of the street food recommendation from the Hanoi Luxe guide. This is my favourite among the rice noodles that I had tried in Hanoi. Strictly speaking, Phở Bò and Bún Bò are different, even though both uses rice noodles. Phở Bò uses banh pho, the flat fat noodle (shape like fettucine) and Bún Bò uses the bún, thin circular type of rice noodle (shape like spaghetti). So, at Bún Bò Nam Bộ, the bún bò is a semi dried version of phở bò except that bún is being used instead of banh pho. Crispy fried shallots and peanuts were sprinkled all over. I was trying to stop myself from drooling as I was penning this down.

Bún Bò Nam Bộ Shop Front at
67 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem
Tel : 9230701

The bún bò served here were given a generous
sprinkle of fried shallots and peanuts.

Only mixing up the Bún Bò will reveal
the bún under the fried shallots and peanuts

While we were searching for Bún Bò Nam Bộ, a bún bò shop, along Hang Dieu street, we passed by Bat Dan Street and saw many locals crowded at one corner shop at the street junction. I did not catch the shop name but we had to track back to this phở stall after having just gotten through a bowl of bun bo. Gluttony struck today!

Street side Phở stall at
32 Bat Dan, Hoan Kiem

The highlight at this phở stall was the
stir fried beef phở. It tasted like beef 'hor
fun' back home in Singapore.

The soup in this bowl of phở was tasty but Phở Vuông's
rice noodle was smoother than the one here.

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