Sunday morning wouldn’t be the same without a dash around to Nam Ngu Street to slosh down a bowl of Pho Ga. Grumpy chicken- portioner- cum- money- handler- boss- lady greets me with the usual gruff, “Want an egg?”
I decline. She portions.
Fresh rice noodles are momentarily dunked, separated with the whisk of a chopstick and drained by number two lady in the Nam Ngu pecking order, otherwise known as dunker and ladler.
Portioner takes over. She calmly rips scalding noodle dangles from my bowl’s edge, slings half a handful of chopped spring onions in, and arranges my portion – oops, too much!
Dunker ladler ladles clear broth and tosses in a couple of par boiled white spring onion ends for good measure. Bloody beauty! It’s coming my way. One of the number threes in the chain of command delivers soup in one hand, wedge of lime in t’other. I salivate.
It’s on! I do my bit. A scoop of newly pickled red chillies is added, followed by pepper out the big hole and lime squeezed to within an inch of its life, bloody pips and all. I don’t believe that crap about fruit trees growing in ya tummy.
I gourmandise myself for a few minutes. The meticulousness with which I observed the procedure is gone. It’s a food seizure; head down, frantic pinching of choppies, piggy slurping of broth – this could be a world record. Of what is going on around me, I know nought! Halfway to the bottom, I remember the quay – lengths of hollow bready, doughnutty things that are a cracker with soup.
The pace slows. I look up. I’m dripping, the fan’s whirring. It's over and I’m out the door.
Money-handler-boss-lady cranks the 11000VND from my hand and tells me to remove my ample foreign frame outta the way of the number four scrubbing the floor.
If noodle soup ain’t your thing, what the hell are you doing in Vietnam? Sorry! If you don’t feel like noodle soup, the only other plate on offer is cleavered chicken pieces, done by the machete wielding mad woman in back. The bird parts are garnished with tediously slithered lime leaves (what a job!) and served with the remarkably simple muoi tieu chanh ot (salt, pepper lime and chilli). My mate Tu likes a couple of chunks of chicken blood in his soup. Others munch on claws. I reckon the soup's the best – get it into you!
Pho Ga, Nam Ngu street (almost opposite Indochine)
Open from sparrow's fart till about 8pm