Amid the bustle and the vibrant chaos of the Hoan Kiem district, amazeballs streetfood can be found on every street. Hanoi is a city that always wakes up hungry and the best way to start the day is with a heartwarming bowl of pho.
Much to the chagrin of the breakfast Nazis at our hotel, we started our first day at the nameless hole-in-the-wall noodle place across the road.
“Pho ga?” The stone faced lady asks (tells) us as we approach. We nod eagerly as we sit ourselves down at the plastic stools outside her home.
The pho comes with tiny bowls of chopped fresh chilli, zesty lime quarters and a couple of mysterious yet delicious hot sauces. We gratefully add them to the fragrant broth and settle in as the street unfurls with an electric buzz of activity around us.
Craving an afternoon fix in the nom department the following afternoon, we slip our way through the maze of scooters to the end of the tiny street for some bun cha.
We pull up our stools at a tiny plastic table while a trio of bored policemen sing to nobody in the background. The owner of the store shouts something to them at some point, probably giving them a dry serve of the tongue as feedback for their performance. She’s getting her nails did while she serves up our bun cha and doesn’t have time for their antics.
Bun Cha is a selection of small serves of grilled seasoned pork, crisp lettuce, aromatic herbs, dry noodles and a tangy soup with nước mắm, carrots and an intriguing green vegetable that neither of us can identify.
Unfortunately, we were late to the lunchtime rush due to a day spent exploring the thousand year old Temple of Literature nearby so the pork didn’t come straight off the charcoal but it did more than hit the spot.
One of the perks of this meal is that you can customise your eating experience however you want it. Throw some mint and coriander into the soup to add exciting depth to the flavours. Capture some of the pork with a mouthfull-size ball of noodles before swishing it through the soup just for the hell of it. Part of the fun is just taking the time to find awesome flavour combinations and mixing and matching to your heart’s desire. There’s a reason Hanoi is renowned as one of the great food cities. Is nice.