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Tucking into my van than in Ha Noi

Update: October, 25/2015 - 04:27
Dumpling delight: Customers may have to stand in a long queue before being served, but they may not mind, as they have the opportunity to enjoy watching the owner Tuan Tau make the dish for them. — VNS Photos Doan Tung

Ha Nguyen takes a trip to a famous my van than eatery in Ha Noi with her father, a veritable textbook of knowledge about the soup shop's long history.

Although it originated in China and has been in Viet Nam since the 1930s, my van than (wonton noodles) has become a much acquainted dish of Hanoians.

Located on Dai La Street, near the famous Mo Market, south of central Ha Noi, Tuan Tau's shop is always crowded with people who are addicted to the aromatic flavour of the Chinese but made-in Viet Nam dish.

Once I went to eat the dish with my father, who knew a lot about the shop's history, such as the first owner of the shop was an ethnic Chinese who was believed to be among the first people to bring the quintessence of wonton noodles to Ha Noi.

My father said that every time he went for some business to the capital, he never forgot to enjoy a bowl of wonton noodle there.

"I often felt sorry for myself, and would think that I had missed something if I did not find the time to eat a bowl of wontons," he said.

He said he remembered a Chinese owner who was not tall, but fat. He always greeted everyone who came into his shop with a smile and invited the guest to take a seat.

Soupy success: A tasty wonton noodle bowl should not include MSG.

After that, the owner would himself bring a bowl of hot wonton noodle. It was a bit smaller than the ones available now and had an aroma which made my father's mouth water.

Before Ha Noi's liberation in 1954, the Chinese owner died leaving the shop to his son and now his grandson Tuan Tau, who is trying to keep the food's original flavour alive, my father said.

Recently, I went to the shop again. The interiors of the shop had been refurbished but the food's fragrance seemed unchanged.

Unlike the past when places were reserved for some guests, I had to stand in a long queue that made me very impatient. However, I did not mind, as I was trying to take the opportunity to enjoy the process the owner Tuan Tau was taking to make the dish for us.

When blanching the noodle, he put a handful of mustard greens and fresh chives into the boiling water pot until it was done to a turn and then decorated it over the noodle on the bowl together with other ingredients such as some pieces of boiled eggs, char siu (a Chinese barbecued pork), and boiled wonton dumplings (they contain minced shrimp, pork, mushroom and wood ears).

When my turn came, Tuan poured the broth into my bowl. The broth was so delicious that I really felt the sweet taste of the stewed pig, chicken bones, and dried shrimps.

Tuan said a tasty wonton noodle dish should not include glutamate.

"Times have changed, but we still try to retain the essence of the original recipe left behind by my grandfather," he said.

I brought the bowl to the table and began trying out the dish. Apart from the soft, meaty and delicious noodle which is made from wheat flour mixed with chicken eggs, the dish includes boiled and fried ha cao, several pieces of boiled pork liver and other garnishes.

The taste was unforgettable when I put some garlic vinegar and minced chillies in the bowl. It made me almost delirious with joy and I really enjoyed the dish.

I introduced the shop to my friends who said good wonton noodles can be found all over the city, but the most tasty and delicious one must be at 54 Hang Chieu Street in Ha Noi's Old Quarter.

Last Sunday morning, we headed to the shop which is not very big, forcing many eaters to enjoy the food on the pavement.

My Van Than

Add: - Tuan Tau 22C Dai La

- Lan My 8 Nguyen Bieu

- Binh Tay 54 Hang Chieu

Prices: VND30,000- 45,000

Comments: Tasty, delicious and ever-varying combination of ingredients that you should never forget it.

On seeing the crowd of patrons I thought of leaving, but the smell of the broth was so aromatic that I forced myself to wait.

Compared with Tuan Tau's broth (the main ingredient of the bowl), here it was something sweeter and stronger, while boiled pork livers had a more nutty flavour.

I also saw that there was a bigger crowd of patrons which included foreigners as compared with Tuan Tau's place.

Shop owner Pham Thi Ngoan said all the ingredients had been chosen carefully and were fresh.

"I have ordered fresh and safe pork and shrimp and organic vegetables from suppliers in Nam Dinh and Da Lat," Ngoan said, and added that these were her secrets left behind for her by ancestors nearly 100 years ago.

The food was so tasty that I polished off two bowls one after another. Although each bowl costs VND35,000, or VND5,000 more than at Tuan Tau's, I thought it was worth its weight in gold.

My Pho Co, at 54 Hang Chieu Street will be my favourite eatery from now on. — VNS

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