Every night at the western end of Hàng Mã, in the midst of paper street, starting at about 5:30pm, sitting on the corner is a middle aged women working her noodles, her pots, and her knife. You can almost picture her as a drummer with her two big base drums for stock, her two smaller toms for re-heating the phở, and as her snare, her worn cutting board for slicing the beef. She is fiery and fierce to her workers, kind and generous to her patrons.
The small street-side restaurant is run with her brother. An older man with a strong smile and a weakening voice. He acts as the maitre d’, busboy, and manger. The two of them are often in a heated ‘discussion’. Not knowing enough Vietnamese to understand, I imagine that it is about the rising price of quality beef, but I know that it is an argument and verbal-beating in response to something the older fellow forgot to tell the staff.
It is a joy to sit and watch the pair at work and the satisfied customers slurping away. It is obvious the sister-brother team have a well-developed customer base. Returning clientele show up every night picking up to-go orders of Phở Tái Chín (phở with rare beef and braised brisket) or Sốt Vang (Southern style beef stew) almost bowing in thanks as they see it slopped into their stainless steel carriers.
And what about the phở? Well, its delicious of course! Fresh ingredients. Great ratio of meat to noodles to garnish. Seasoned to perfection. The stock is clear and flavorful. There is a great selection of condiments for personalization. It’s a delight that I frequently treat myself to (at least once a week). And, every once in a while I am enticed to have a second bowl, half-filled with sốt vang.
Surely, a coveted family recipe.For those who have phở-ed their way through Vietnam, or have staked claim as Hanoi’s street-food gurus; or for those who just don’t believe that the best phở in Hanoi is on Hàng Mã, then I suggest you go, try, and prove me wrong.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, they have tall chairs and regular sized tables!