I can find most of my favorite Northern Vietnam’s foods around my house, but there is one thing (actually, a few things belonging to the same clan) that I have to travel all the way to central Hanoi to get find an authentic version. I’m talking about Phở. Nopeeee, not the bowl of noodles submerged in broth, but its brothless counterparts: Phở cuốn, Phở chiên phồng, and Phở trộn. At the arguably most famous restaurant in Hanoi offering these specialties, the ever-packed Hương Mai, I had the chance to share some most delectable noodle dishes with my friends and the bf >v<
Our first order was Phở cuốn (noodle rolls/40000 VND). It is basically a roll made with stir-fried beef and herbs (usually Vietnamese basil) as the filling, and a relatively thick piece of rice noodle as the wrapper. Extremely simple, yet it tastes surprisingly delicious. The key is the perfect balance between the aromatic, strong, flavor of the basil and the juicy, somewhat peppery, beef slices. Don’t forget to dip each roll in the sweet and sour sauce with thin slices of green papaya for the full experience:
Phở chiên phồng (fried noodles/45000 VND) is well, fried noodles. But don’t let the English name fool you. It is nothing at all like the more famous fried noodles such as Pad thai or Char kway teow. Each piece of square rice noodle is fried to perfect golden goodness, crispy on the outside yet silky inside. These noodle squares (now looking like tofu cubes) are served with stir-fried beef & vegetables (I don’t know the English name of this thing, all that I know is that it is a relative of Kai-lan).
Next came Phở trộn (mixed noodles/35000 VND). It is a plate of thin sliced noodles mixed with sweet and sour sauce, stir-fried beef, a bit of herbs, and lots of ground peanuts for extra crunch. A refreshing, somewhat light, dish; it helped cut the grease from our previous fried noodles, but had a bit too much of the sweet and sour sauce.
At this specific noodle restaurant, as a custom, the high-carb menu always has one, and one only, protein dish: Chả ngan nướng (grilled siam duck/80000 VND). Paired with pungent but oh-so-addictive fermented shrimp paste and Vietnamese basil, each moist, flavorful, morsel of duck was such a delight.
In addition to these kinds of noodles, you should also try Phở chiên trứng (fried noodles with egg) & Phở chua (kinda similar to Phở trộn but much better; this restaurant, sadly, doesn’t offer this stuff of wonder). Anyway, Phở cuốn & its brothless fellows are actually my favorite versions of noodles, and are one of the few things I love about Hanoi =}
Hương Mai phở cuốn – 25 Ngũ Xã, Ba Đình, Hà Nội