There has been talk of a document known as the 'Hanoi Pho Map', an elusive, whispered-about scrap of paper which almost has urban legend status, is rumoured to contain comprehensive data about the best exponents of noodle soup in the capital and conjures up images of a 'Da Vinci Code-like' plot. Questions have been asked. The map is mentioned. Somebody's brother-in-law has a copy. Even Pieman in Saigon commented on the map's reputed existence a while back.
So, just where is the map and who wants to play the Tom Hanks part in this mystery?
But I will facilitate. I volunteer this blog to be the conduit through which rumour and, maybe, fact can be exchanged. Together, we will get to the bottom of this. Give forth with thy knowledge in the comments, dear reader. And I shall contribute by attempting an abbreviated pho map of my own. Weekly, I will swoop on a soup shack and report my findings.
The soup above constitutes pho installment number one.
The Spot: Pho Bo Ga, 21 Nguyen Du Street. Opposite a Buu Dien. Get your nails done next door. Wedding gown meringues available up on the corner. Xoi on offer, pavement right.
Shopfront Style: Facades covered in soft drink ad wallpaper, faded dusty canopy, slurped on napkin and twisted lime wedge decor for the floor.
Space and Atmosphere: Four tables in the ground floor living room with overflow on the footpath, dishwashing and coal brick preparation around the tree trunk. Noodle Ma portions, Pa orchestrates seating arrangements and motorbike parking, half a dozen teenage relatives shout at each other and deliver the product.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: Re-usable sticks of bamboo, the usual suspects for doctoring to taste: lime wedges, fresh chili, red chili sauce, chili and garlic infused vinegar (one drop of this potion is plenty!) Bat Trang is 15 km away but the crockery is plastic.
Serving Station: Noodle Ma has adapted well to her tiny table of hacked up bird flesh, bones, piles of prepared beef, trays of sliced chin, bamboo basket of herbs and bowl of MSG (mi chinh). Her oily cotton-pickers pinch, portion and scatter very efficiently. They handle money with ease, too.
Meat Generosity: No complaints here. There's half a cow on board this bowl, enormous wads of chin (similar to corned beef) and slices of rare beef (tai) to match, the latter cooked under the pour of the ladle. Stingy with the herbs, though!
Order to Delivery Gap: A fairly standard two minutes. Good going!
Stock Factor: They do chicken and beef here but my beef noodle soup was distinctly chicken flavour, slightly oily on the surface.
Cost: 10,000VND (USD62c, AUD83c)
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