There is no signage. There's hardly any room to sit down. The woman who runs the show is bleating with gusto into her mobile phone. Is this an establishment that serves food to the public?
In so many eateries in Hanoi, it's as if the residents simply throw open the doors in the morning, have a stretch and a spit, throw a few pots on the pavement, move the beds and the TV out of the way and let strangers into their house to eat noodles.
Here in the Old Quarter on a hot day, a tiny dark cell out of the blinding rays is not a bad option, even if it's a bit of a tight squeeze. Being a taller and wider specimen than 99% of the locals, I'm forced to sit in what is the equivalent of side-saddle in this space that would not actually do for a horse. On the walls, large portraits of the family members are bearing down on me, in ao dais and tuxedos on special occasions. I'm sure they're wondering what I'm doing there.
I have reason to wonder myself, as the boss lady is still roaring into the phone. Something about the husband. The customer is not always king in Vietnam and even though I don't necessarily believe in that adage anyway, I do want to get fed. So I start pointing.
I point at the squares of already fried tofu (dau). I point at the beef. She points at the mystery sausage (gio). I nod no. She knows what I want now but also that to do it properly, she needs the use of both hands. Reluctantly, in the middle of the rant, the phone gets flung onto the white pile of noodles (bun). She's back on the job, all arms and implements, portioning and ladling.
Bun rieu cua is a tomato based broth noodle soup dish with crab paste, which can be customised in many ways with different ingredients. And despite my slightly pesky relationship with the owner, I do like her little house, her bowl of soup and the fact that she does not promote her product at all.
I will be back, again and again.
One bowl bun rieu cua - 18,000VND (USD95c, AUD$1.10)
11 Hang Bac St