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"Savoring Hanoi’s heritage"

lanhnguyen
Submitted by: lanhnguyen Length of trip: Seven to 10 days
Trip taken: January 2008 No. of people on trip: 1 person

Locations visited:

Far East and Asia: Vietnam

Trip Features:
Culture: Cityscapes

lanhnguyen took this trip with her Parents/Elderly relatives and also recommends this trip for those traveling with their:
> Guy Friends
> Girlfriends
> Group of friends

The cost category of this trip was:

TRIP DESCRIPTION

If you only eat one in Hanoi, make sure that it’s the city’s famed noodle soup. Yen Ba takes us on a tour of the capital’s favorite Pho stalls.

Hanoi, Vietnam’s ancient capital is known for its quiet lakes, its long-established arts scene and its beloved noodle soup, Pho. Young and old, rich and poor, artists, office workers and laborers – everyone eats pho. This tasty soup is part of the city’s heritage.

The late Hanoi writer Thach Lam claimed the best pho was sold by a man white shirt and black vest, which carried his pot soup on a bamboo shoulder pole. Nguyen Tuan, another writer in Thach Lam’s circle, joked that one day, if private business ceased, the only Pho available would be sold in packets. Today, people do eat packets of “instant pho”. Traditionalists shudder at the thought!

The late writer Vu Bang wrote if his sweet longings for Pho when he was far from home. He described the dish with great tenderness:”A pinch of the noodles, a dash of thinly sliced onions and some green pickles, some slices of chili as red as a cock’s comb”.

Writer To Hoai, now in his eighties, wrote of the changes associated with this dish and the disappearance of traditions.

But Hanoi’s favorite soup has not disappeared. While old street vendors have been replaced by new venues, the soup remains as popular as ever. Today, Hanoians flock to a number of shops that all bear the mane “Pho Thin”. There is one on Lo Duc Street, one on Le Van Truc Street. Pho Nguyen Du is popular too as are Pho Hang Dong and Pho Quan Thanh. Those who prefer pho made with well-done beef frequent shops on Ton Duc Thang Street or Cau Go Street.

Writer Nguyen Tuan claimed that the most authentic Phi in Hanoi was served at a shop a Hang Dong Street. The surroundings are suitably old-fashioned. The shop is long, narrow and cramped with people bent over bowls of hot soup. Purists focus on their soup, not on the eatery’s décor. To eat Pho served by waiters on colorful outfits in a fancy restaurant is considered a travesty by traditionalists.

After the Lunar New Year festivities, when everyone has spent days gorging themselves on meat, fish and traditional cakes, the Pho stall on Hang Dong Street is one of the first in the city to reopen. On a cool winter’s morning it is lovely to sit here over a bowl of hot Pho. Nguyen Tuan once described eating Pho as “swallowing a blanket onto your stomach”. The pungent chili, the taste cardamom, the sweet broth, the soft noodles and flavorful beef – it is all wonderful.

One holdover from the old days is Pho Thin. Set in an alley off Dien Thien Hoang Street, this shop features two rows of tables on either side of a narrow alley.

No one knows whether the other Pho Thin that dot Hanoi belong to Mr. Thin’s relatives or not. After visiting these shops I feel that Pho thin by Hoan Kiem Lake is the best. The beef is of good quality, the broth is pure but flavorful, and the noodles are white. The servings are not big as in some other places, but this seems to leave customers wanting to come back for more.

Hereditary Pho on Bat Dan Street serves colorful Pho with a fatty broth. Pho Tu Do on Cau Go Street serves various dishes. In the morning Pho Tu Do is so crowded that it is hard to find a seat, A Pho Shop on Hang Buom Street Stays open late. While it is expensive, Pho – Lover say it’s worth the price for a tasty midnight snack.

If, unlike Nguyen Tuan, you appreciate chicken Pho, try the shop on Quan Thanh Street, opposite the Hang Dau flower garden. It is very difficult to find a seat in the early mornings. Here, the bowl of Pho. While many Pho stores use kumquats instead of lemons, this shop sometimes (but not always) presents diners with a dish of lemons. The sour taste of lemon juice complements the sweet broth.

Hanoi has map unlike that found anywhere else in the world: “The Pho Map of Hanoi”. I discovered this map at a workshop entitled “Pho – Vietnam’s Heritage” held by a European delegation to Hanoi on late 2002. Together with cooks from the Sofitel Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, participants in this workshop chose 80 Pho shops in Hanoi that they felt represented this dish’s true spirit. These 80 shops were marked on a map.

According to Nguyen Dinh Rao, the head of UNESCO Eating and Drinking Club in Hanoi, Pho originated in Vietnam’s northern Nam Dinh province in the 20th century when workers, officers and French soldiers craved a dish that was more refined than the simple rare eaten by peasants in the delta.

The broth was made from shrimps and pork bones, soft noodles were a local specialty. At the time, ordinary people ate beef just once e year, at the Lunar New Year festivities. European tastes – and customers with more money – called for the addition of beef to the broth “Pho is a cross – cultural communication of local ingredients, traditional flavors and European tastes, all of which make a global dish,” says Mr. Rao.

Whatever the true origins of this soup, there’s no doubt that Pho is now part of Hanoi’s culinary heritage. Today, people talk about “material and immaterial heritage”. Pho, T believes, represents both. Seek out this famous soup and you are experiencing Hanoi’s heritage.

This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage Travel

For original article, please visit:

http://vietnamheritagetravel.com/news/latest-news/75-latest-news/1172-savoring-hanois-heritage.html

http://hotel-in-hanoi-vietnam.com


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