We have reached a milestone with meal number 100! Most have been winners so far and this begs the question…Will 365 meals be enough to sample everything Vietnam grills, stir fries, dunks in oil, steams or otherwise dishes up? This food journey still remains in its infancy though with so many new foods just awaiting their arrival on my plate.
Previously unknown to me are so many of Hanoi’s traditional street foods only now crossing my path on my weekly trips to the capital city. How in the world did I not even know this entire bounty of street food beyond the basic phos and bun chas existed? And more importantly, why am I only now discovering phở xào, or fried noodles, 100 meals into this adventure? This is some Hanoi home cooking at its finest.
The home of a pretty decent plate of these noodles is an open air store front on Xuan Dieu Road in the upscale Tay Ho neighborhood. This no name shack looks so out of place with its well kept neighbors such as the French bakery, Canadian sports bar and Italian food joint. What we have is the food equivalent of rolling a 1978 Caprice Classic pimped out with 26 inch rims into a parking lot full of late model BMWs. But I can tell you this, three worn out concrete slab walls and a tin roof of questionable repair sure do pump out some pretty decent meals for about a buck fifty a piece.
Of course randomly picking from a wall menu in a Vietnamese dive joint is a risky crapshoot teetering on imminent disaster should a pile of pig guts with a side of fish sauce arrive via bad luck. Good fortune prevailed this time though with a plate of simplicity proving sometimes less really is more with food.
How best do we describe a splenid plate of phở xào? Let’s see…Take a bowl of beef phở, dump out all that msg laden broth and wok fry what remains. Yes, it’s a “soup” without the unnecessary liquid. Do the Vietnamese have an equivalent to our expression of something being the best invention since sliced bread since fried noodles really are such a thing.
The soft rice noodles absorb all that wonderful nuttiness (and presumable carcinogens) from all the recycled wok grease but then again, what doesn’t taste good after a lard dip? Even better is the tableside hot sauce providing mouth numbing heat. I’ve only seen this hot sauce in Hanoi and more specifically in this Tay Ho area. It’s worth going out to eat just to taste this light red goodness, and evidently $2.50 lets anyone take home two recycled water bottles full of this gut searing gold.
100 meals down, 265 to go. Let the eating begin!