The Spot: Pho Cuong, 23 Hang Muoi, last noodle stop in the old quarter before the dyke road west, practically under the overpass to the Chuong Duong Bridge. Green tea by the kilo from Thai Nguyen province available next door, auto repairs all around. Good coffee within spitting distance.
Shopfront Style: Stripey blue tarp, busted up signage, vaguely soup-kitchen-esque.
Space and Atmosphere: Two separate caves, one the neighbour's. Industrial fans, ceiling fans, standing fans and wall fans make it a windy meal. It's Grottsville with a huge fruit and flower still life poster hanging on the left wall, a tiny ceramic landscape of the Old Quarter on the right. Half a dozen happy-go-lucky teenboys operate this show, attired in numbered and branded uniforms.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Chunky bamboo sticks, not sure which is the whittled end. At 9.15am, the condiments are tired, in need of a top up, a fresh wedge and a wipe of the vessels. Made-in-China pink floral bowls are pretty standard in pho caves city-wide.
Serving Station: Minimalist. The boys have instituted a two-handed right to left system, with pho dunking followed by portioning of meat, herbs and spring onions and the ladle of stock from the pot at right. A poached egg yolk is an option, discarded shells flung on the floor.
Meat Generosity: It's strictly beef here, not a feather in sight. Beef all ways, tai (rare), chin (like corned beef), nam, gau. They're far from stingy but from my pathetic western perspective, the chin is chewy, fatty and if I think too hard I might be forced to spit it into a serviette. Let it be known, though, that fatty chin is be no means a sign of a bad pho to the locals.
Order to Delivery Gap: A whizz bang half a minute, delivered by no.2
Stock Factor: A beefy punch, slightly salty. Well tended, scum being skimmed vigilantly, the pot's on a perfect simmer.
Cost: 10,000VND (USD62c, AUD83c)
Two of two Three of threeFour of fourFive of fiveSix of sixSeven of sevenEight of eightNine of nineTen of ten
Any Hanoi pho recommendations highly appreciated.