Hunting for noodles in Hanoi
“On a hot, steamy July morning outside Hanoi at around 9am, the last place I expected to find myself was alone in a rural town as the only customer at a road-side pho stand.”
All I wanted was a canteen of ice-cold water, and yet, there I was—sweating, and salivating—as the scent of warm clove, cinnamon and star anise wafted my way. While back home in America, one might associate clove and cinnamon with winter time; in Vietnam, they are staple ingredients enjoyed year-round in pho; beef soup with rice noodles and fresh herbs. Also despite the Western notion of soup being enjoyed later in the day, most Vietnamese people actually eat it early in the morning.
So here I was, bright and early, seated by myself in a plastic chair with my bike leaned against the fence. My tour guide had just told me to meet him down the road after he asked the shop owner to prepare me a bowl of her signature dish. I sat there and watched an older woman with a petite frame dig deep into a giant cauldron of steaming, aromatic beefy broth, to ladle me a bowl of her delectable noodle soup. On the table were hot chiles, sliced garlic in vinegar and chile paste. I garnished my soup with glee and began to drink up this deep, spicy broth like it was the bottle of ice water I forgot I wanted.