Nov 17 2012
If you love street food but want to try something other than pho and bun cha for lunch in Hanoi, head down to Ngo Trang Tien near the Opera House for an enticing array of goodies.
Ngo Trang Tien is a narrow street running between Nguyen Khac Can and Phan Chu Trinh, to the south of Trang Tien Street. Its western end opens out across the road from the Opera House and the other end faces the back of Hotel de l’Opera. At lunchtime it fills with plastic tables and chairs to cater to the hordes of students and office workers that descend for their fill of rice and noodles.
But to say rice and noodles is to undermine the array of dishes on offer. While some stalls specialise in one dish, as is often the case with street food, I never cease to be amazed by quite how many things can be conjured up out of just a few ingredients. My new favourite spot is number 15, at the eastern end. Not only has the food I’ve tried there — bun ca and mien tron — been delicious but it’s been well priced and the staff (or owners) have been very welcoming: today I was offered an elastic band to tie my hair up as it was being blown around by the fan. It’s the small things that count, right?
Anyway, back to the food and let’s talk about mien tron. Mien is vermicelli or glass noodle and fast becoming my favourite noodle variety, despite seeing them made at Cu Da village and in Bac Kan province (not under the most hygienic conditions…). Mien tron is a dry noodle dish with flavourful mien topped with fried morning glory, fresh beansprouts, deep fried tofu, beef and peanuts. It’s served with a side of simple but tasty broth. Eat with chopsticks and a spoon and wash down with cha da or another beverage from the drink stall next door. Today I paid 25,000 VND for one serving.
Other stalls along the street offer similar dishes, but pho is also available as is very tasty looking fried rice and, at the Opera House end, bun dau phu. If you have a sweet tooth then you must try the che stand next to number 7: for 15,000 VND you’ll get a cup brimming with sticky, chewy, creamy delights.
Even if street food isn’t to your liking, Ngo Trang Tien is worth walking down during the busy lunchtime rush as the atmosphere is quite intoxicating and, you’ll be pleased to hear, has its very own foreigner-orientated restaurant in the shape of the four-storey Exchange Cafe, which serves good quality, reasonably priced, Vietnamese and Western food. The staff are great and the roof terrace is a fantastic place to sit out on a warm afternoon or before a show at the Opera House.Exchange Cafe
2B Alley Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
T: (04) 3936 4073
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