After 4 hours of travelling on the shuttle bus, we were back in Hanoi city at 3pm. Today would be the last night in Hanoi, hence we need to maximise our time and spare no effort in embarking on our self-planned intensive street food eating tour.
First stop was to try the famous Pho Thin stall, which is the stop that is furthest away from Old Quarters on our “To Eat” list. To avoid making a wasted trip, we double-checked with our hotel reception to confirm that the stall is still opened for business. Pho is said to be a meal eaten by locals for breakfast, lunch & dinner therefore the stall should be operating even in the late afternoon. Although our hotel staff tried calling the stall, nobody picked up the call but fortunately one of the staff said he just had his Pho there a while ago. =)
Having meals at odd timing meant that we could eliminate the hassle of long waiting time for food and there were ample seats available. There was no menu available as they only sell 1 dish, so we walked in and used hand sign to indicate “2” bowls of Pho.
We sat down on the communal table and started observing the condiments placed on the table. A large bowl of cut lime and a jar of chili, then something caught my attention – a small container holding unevenly cut toothpicks. It has been a while since I last saw toothpicks of such form. I do recall in the good old days we used to hold them in B-brand chicken essence bottles in kopitiams too. Toothpicks are now a rarity at hawker centres, my dad keeps a box of them in his car so that he can easily get one whenever he needed them. Nowadays toothpicks can also be seen in Chinese restaurants but they have been “upgraded” to be individually wrapped, made with high quality wood with sharpened ends and can withstand X amount of force to deal with the persistent morsel stuck between the teeth.
Why the long para about toothpick? Cos I somehow observed that it’s an integral part of dining culture in Hanoi. After the lady who was seated at the same table as us finished her meal, she started picking at her teeth openly and was even seen holding the toothpick in her mouth after that. I believe 30 years ago, that would be the common scene in Singapore too. Nowadays we have been taught to cover our mouths while daintily picking our teeth, or as a best practice bring along a toothbrush & mouthwash to wash up after every meal…
Truth be told, the interior of the pho place looked like the old shophouses in Singapore – think Telok Ayer before they were restored for conservation. I used to eat Mee Sua in those slightly dim shophouse unit with mottled walls during my growing up days. Sitting in this shop made me feel nostalgic and I wished we can still find such authentically historical places around in Singapore. *There might still be some surviving ones, but the trend now is to create faux retro eateries*
Soon the server brought us our steaming bowls of Pho along a bowl of what looked like fried dough fritter as a side dish. And boy, the Pho was huge…we had to turn away the fried dough fritter side…cos we have another 2 more street food stalls to visit after this.
After adding a dash of lime into the soup, we took a mouthful of the tasty broth. Contrary to its looks, the light clear broth presented much complexity brought about from hours of simmering of beef bones along with the spices used for seasoning. The garnish toppings of thinly sliced onion, scallions, cilantro etc. completed this iconic Vietnamese cuisine. This had to be the most delectable bowl of Pho I ever had. I am absolutely mesmerised by this version of Pho and can declare (with much certainty) that Pho Bac is my preferred style of Pho! I guessed the Pho I tried in Singapore are mostly Southern Pho served with bean sprouts and stronger flavoured broth that is much sweeter.
The degree of doneness of the rice noodles served at this stall was also commendable, it was perfectly cooked as it didn’t clump together; was soft with a firm body such that it doesn’t break apart easily.
Each bowl of Pho cost 50,000 Dong (S$3) which was very much value-for-money to me. It was really a fruitful trip to make our way specially out from the Old Quarters to pay this stall a visit.
Quán Phở Thìn
13 Lò Đúc
Opening Hours was listed on a food directory website as 5am – 9pm, best to ask hotel reception
Back into the bustling Hanoi city…
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