Monday, 23 December 2013

Pho Gia Truyen, Hanoi, Vietnam (Alissa and Don Eat Asia Day 29, Part 1)

Having had to ‘unfortunately’ take a free upgrade of our room from Elegance Ruby to their more upmarket Elegance Diamond, we now had a bit further to walk to get to Pho Gia Truyen – the Old Quarter pho shop that is so good that they sell out of their noodle soup by not long after midday.  Alissa had wanted to do the touristy trishaw ride at least once. We decided that now was as good a time as any, so we took the trishaw to the restaurant's location on Bat Dan St. When we got there, the trishaw driver commented that ‘this is a very good shop’ before asking we wanted a ride back later. I thanked him but declined, pointing at my stomach and saying that we needed the exercise. He laughed, and we went on our way into the restaurant.

At first Alissa and I were a bit confused as to how to order the pho, as the shop seemed to have an entirely local clientele with no English signage at all to cater for tourists. Thankfully, a nice local was able to explain to us that you can order either raw or cooked beef, and then passed on our order to the staff.  After a short wait, two steaming hot bowls of pho were given to us.

This was phenomenal pho – there was a very marine umami richness to the broth that was altogether gutsier and more delicious than the pho at Pho 10, and the noodles themselves were of a better texture. I’m guessing it was a generous quantity of fish sauce and a lengthy boiling of beef bones that made this great, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some other secret ingredients were involved to get the broth to be so flavoursome. This was easily the best pho either of us have ever eaten, truly excellent.

There is one caveat though – this place was absolutely filthy, with discarded tissues and napkins of previous customers unashamedly littering the floor. While I took the cut chilli, I dared not add the chilli sauce that was on the table given that there was no way of knowing how long it was sitting there. As with the questionable hygiene of Bun Cha Dac Kim, I’d contend that if you want to eat the most delicious versions of a dish in Vietnam you’ve just bite the bullet when it comes to the local eateries, take precautions by not adding things like communal shared sauces and pickles and just pray that traveller’s diarrhoea does not set in.

The Verdict: Excellent
As someone who loves a good bowl of noodles, I was very satisfied with the meal – definitely a step up from the more sanitized fare available at Pho 10. Of course, the messiness of the restaurant might be a bit off-putting, but if you really want to try an excellent bowl of pho, Pho Gia Truyen cannot come more recommended. 

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