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Hai Phong eatery cures a crabby mood

Update: December, 01/2014 - 15:46
Local speciality: The restaurant offers a taste of a traditional Vietnamese dish. — VNSPhotos Truong Vi

Try the port city speciality of banh da cua be, flat noodles with fresh crab meat, at this family-run restaurant. Nguyen Thuy reports.

It was a winter's day when I arrived at the coastal city of Hai Phong to savour a bowl of the well-known banh da cua be (flat brown rice noodles with crab meat) at Ba Cu (Old Woman) Restaurant.

My friend, who was born in Hai Phong, told me the dish was a speciality of the port city, so I went straight to Ba Cu to enjoy it.

A concrete statue of a metre-long crab sits in front of the restaurant under a large billboard of its name.

You have no doubt about the restaurant's focus when you walk around crab claws on your way to your table. Some banana trees are found at the centre of the room, creating a green and fresh environment.

Made to order: The chef prepares a bowl of soup.

Nguyen Huong Tra, restaurateur boasted that her mother had been famous for the dish for more than 20 years.

She noted that customers' tastes had changed along with the development of the port city and the increase in the number of seafood restaurants in the neighbourhood.

Tra wanted to create a special dish by replacing paddy crabs with sea crabs without thinking that it would become so famous and encourage many of her customers to return.

The live and freshly caught crabs must be washed before they are boiled, she said. Removing the meat from the crabs and ensuring that not any fragment of the shell was left in the meat was the most challenging part of the process.

She revealed that cooking the meat required patience because one must continually pour drops of vegetable oil into the pan of meat while stirring.

"My crab meat looks tasty, thanks to my mother's secret ingredient," Tra said. To serve the best bowl, the noodles must be fresh, she added.

Noodling around: Flat brown rice noodles with crab meat.

Ba Cu Restaurant

Address: 179 Cau Dat St, Ngo Quyen Dist, Hai Phong City

Tel: 0904-666-053

Price range: VND40,000 - 50,000

Dishes to try: Brown rice noodles with crab, crab spring rolls

Hours: 6:30am-10pm

Comment: Delicious crab specialities

Villagers in Hai Phong Province's Du Hang Kenh Village have been making brown rice flat noodle for many years, and the restaurant owner observed that the noodles were best served with crab meat.

The dish is brought to customers within a minute after ordering. It is sprinkled with fried onions, fresh aromatic herbs such as coriander and basil and mustard greens or local spinach dipped in boiling water.

The flavours of the broth, to which drops of lime and chilli sauce are added, lingered in my mouth. Customers found the servings in the large bowl fair and sufficient, but a person who often skipped breakfast like me would not hesitate to have one more.

The price is reasonable at VND40,000 per bowl. You can also try a bowl of noodles with less crab meat and more cha la lot (grilled pork wrapped in betel leaves) and tom lot vo (peeled shrimp) for the same price.

The restaurant also offers crispy golden crab spring rolls at VND50,000 each. Each spring roll contains crab meat, grilled pork, peeled shrimp and shredded fragrant mushrooms and woodears.

Customers can enjoy crab meat noodle soups with fried dough sticks, just like when they have them with pho and other noodle soups.

If you want to escape from the noisy street outside, sit behind the banana trees at the centre of the restaurant. It's an ideal place to enjoy a steaming, fragrant bowl of this famous dish.

I am going to Hai Phong for my friend's wedding party soon, and while Ilook forward to the event, I'm also eagerly anticipating my next bowl of soup. — VNS

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