It is freezing in Hanoi right now, all thing being relative. My coworkers shudder in furry coats, doors keep closing everywhere to keep the draft at bay, and let me tell you – SOUP is on the menu, as if it ever stops being in Southeast Asia but you know.
One of the downsides of the cold weather is a tendency to lay back and order takeout, thus avoiding any (however slight) reminder that this place isn’t tropical 24/7. Sometimes, though, it’s worth it and then some to put on floppy sneakers and a light jacket and brave that 10 celsius weather. (ha ha). To remember that the enticing smells up and down so many streets don’t go away in January, they just get more rewarding to find.
Take bánh đa noodles. If you live or even visit here for any length of time, your phở and bun intake is going to spike through the charts – which is no terrible thing, but it happens. Rice noodles are king, and they usually come in only two kinds – flat and sproingy or round like spaghettis. Bánh đa is another beast entirely.
It’s a rice noodle variant, admittedly. But it’s made of red rice. And green tea. And it’s thick, and wheaty tasting, and exciting to look at. Like a cousin of fettucine, maybe, if it was topped with electric jazz and not cream sauce.
It was invented in Hai Phong, a region east of and very close to Hanoi – lucky proximity. The soup features chunks of sweet crab meat, shrimps, pork slices or fatty pork, dark bitter greens, spring onions, tomato, nuts, otherworldly broth, and more things too, if you’re lucky… but the star is always the fried crab cakes. They float, glistening on the surface begging you to snap them up with chopsticks and explode their flavours all over your mouth. And if you eat them too fast, you might get sad, but then more tiny shrimps pop up from the magical murk and the fun starts all over again. It’s just warming, you know?
It’s popular here, obviously, and I haven’t explored any other stalls besides the one at the end of my street, but it’s busy every morning and I know why.
Bánh đa Cua Hai Phong
the corner of Tong Duy Tan and Tran Phu
open from morning until early afternoon