Phở Cuốn Rolling Noodle – 89 of 365

"Noodle Rolling"

My friend Phuc introduced me to Phở Cuốn Huong Mai at 25 Ngu Xa Street in Hanoi for the grilled duck, and never in a million years would I have found this street food joint on my own.  Guidebook pages generally stop short of anything so local and far removed from the main tourist areas.  On the one hand I wish travelers could experience such delicious offerings in full on local surroundings.  On the other hand, let’s keep these places an insider’s secret so we locals can savor a taste of Vietnam far removed from the tourist masses.

To understand our latest food find, we must first backtrack just a slight bit and revisit Vietnam’s ubiquitous noodle soup.  The masses may believe this phở to be the culinary face of Vietnam, and a giant portion of this national treasure sure does cut through Hanoi’s wintertime chill ever so nicely.  But just when we think we have its ingredients figured out, along comes the unexpected to turn a bowl of it upside down.  We would safely assume the spongy white rice noodles only grace our piping hot bowls of broth, right?  Why of course not…This is Vietnam after all where nothing should be taken for granted.

Making the Rolls

Phuc explained these white rice phở noodles are produced in large uncut sheets before being reduced to soft strips of varying widths.  But now for these ten rolls laying on a plate between us, this same uncut soup noodle is now used a wrapper for what looks like  a fresh spring roll.  I pondered all this just as a delivery man dropped a huge pile of the sheets onto a plastic floor mat just inches from where people tracked in dirty mud from the wet street.

OK, we sampled just a few months ago the more remedial and well known gỏi cuốn rolls with their thin rice paper shells holding in all the meats, noodles and herbs.  With this primer in basic food rolls behind us, we now stand ready to undertake our advanced graduate practicum in phở (noodle) cuốn (rolling).  At $1.75 a serving, the tuition proves just right for this student of Vietnamese cuisine.  These tasty delights are a similar concept to the thin translucent rice paper gỏi cuốn, but with an opaque thick rubbery outer shell encasing the grilled meat and lettuce.  Fish sauce based nuoc cham completes the flavor combination just as with the gỏi cuốn.

Rolled Noodles proved so interesting with their charred meat and minty herbs that I returned the next day for a takeaway order to earn some extra credit.  This is a new favorite of mine.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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