Bánh đa Cua Haiphong Noodle Soup – 64 of 365

Pho - Bottom Right of Pyramid

I remember reading a quote that phở is the liquid fueling Vietnam.   Indeed, a random wall mural in an alley off Hanoi’s Son Tay Street seems to confirm this hypothesis as phở is clearly represented at the base of the food pyramid.   Did you have any idea noodle soup is a food group?  Don’t worry, somehow this fact has escaped me, too  my entire life until today.  Given how ubiquitous phở is in Hanoi, I’d have to say this would be the equivalent of our own USDA putting pizza and hot dogs in the foundation of ours.

Since msg laden broth and noodles are obviously such an important part of a well balanced diet, finding a proper bowl away from the tourists became high priority for me.  Besides, a piping hot portion of the food pyramid’s cornerstone seemed a perfect way to brighten a typically cold and dreary Hanoi winter morning.  What better place to put the food pyramid’s teachings to the test than a gritty storefront at 59A Phung Hung at the Old Quarter’s edge .   Cauldrons of various colored broths simmered out on the sidewalk and some brown noodles rather than the typical white rice variety piqued my interest.

bánh đa cua

Fried tofu, lemony morning glory, beef, white pork sausage and some sort of fried fish cake rounded out a bowl of brown broth.  Spicy chili sauce and fresh limes on the table definitely added some much needed kick to an otherwise bland liquid tasting faintly of crab.  I do like this one a lot.  It’s got enough flavors going on to deserve its own rung on that pyramid.

With my stomach sufficiently sated for the next few hours, I headed back out into the chill and walked towards some market stalls.   Piles of roasted dog sat atop wooden tables surprised me within sight of the soup joint.  Oh hell no, do you think…   No, don’t worry, that was legit soup with beef of another sort.  What kind I don’t know, but definitely not dog.  But with the phở now churning a bit in my stomach, an old lady yelled out, “chó, chó, chó” with a laugh while poking my arm.   Chó means dog and she evidently knows eating golden brown woof woof is not part of a westerner’s normal food pyramid.

Typical Local Food Joint

Later in the day showing my cabin crew a picture of the soup kicked their excitement up a few notches.   A chorus of “very delicious,” “I like,” “Now I want,” and “I know where in Saigon to buy” led me to believe I had unwittingly stumbled upon the good stuff.   Ms. Hang wrote down “bánh đa cua” on a piece of paper and explained this crab broth with noodles is a specialty of coastal Haiphong.  I will look for this one again.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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