Around Hanoi in 30 dishes #4: Phở cuốn (beef rolls)

Continuing the Truc Bach theme, the area is a bit of a foodie paradise. A stroll past the seafood and lau (hotpot) places takes you to the area known as Phở cuốn street. This is how eateries are distributed here, you normally have one street dedicated to selling the same food. And its not as if these places have extensive menus or anything, EVERY single place serves the same three dishes.

These are pretty much guaranteed not to give you lung cancer.

Coming from the capitalist west, I initially wondered why speciality food joints weren’t spread out more evenly over the city. Surely the competition at Phở cuốn street would be too much for some businesses to bear. I mean, can you imagine ten large supermarket chains having outlets next to each other? But as often with financial and economic matters, I was wrong. Every single one of these places is packed. Why? because the Hanoian mindset is the completely opposite way to how we think in the West. They decide what they want to eat before they’ve looked at the menu, before they’ve even left the house. It therefore makes sense for retailers to concentrate into areas known to serve these dishes in order to attract the most business.

I spend most of my idle time making mundane connections in languages. Like the other day when this guy on a motorbike looked at my rolled tobacco cigarette (rare in Hanoi) and called it a ‘thuốc lá cuốn’. My brain started to hurt as I formed a connection:

thuốc lá cuốn… Phở cuốn… so ‘cuốn’ must mean rolled!’

But I had no-one to hi-five.

Phở cuốn is medium-thick rice sheets rolled with minced beef and lettuce, coriander and a few other fresh herbs that I really learn the names of. Served alongside Nuoc Cham, it’s a really simple dish that seems to encapsulate the food here in Hanoi really well. Light, zingy and fresh tasting. Found throughout the city, Hanoians are justifiably proud of this dish.

After the meal, I couldn’t help but take the picture below. A common sight in a city where it is nearly always impossible to find the real thing.

Genuine Calven Klains

What: Phở cuốn

Where: 27 Truc Bach, Ba Dinh

How much: 30,000 VND

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6 responses to “Around Hanoi in 30 dishes #4: Phở cuốn (beef rolls)

  1. Viet guy in the US

    Calven Klains. Ha Ha Ha
    Pho cuon is a delicious invention tho.

  2. Hey! Your blog is great. My girlfriend and I are leaving Barnsley for HCMC and then on to Buon Ma Thuot at 3AM tonight. I’ve added you to our blogroll. We’re blogging at http://www.cigrainger.com. Can’t wait to get there!

  3. I’ve now discovered several Hanoi blogs, and I have to say that Familiar Strangers has become one of my top finds (probably the food theme). So far, I’ve only discovered Foodshop up on Truc Bach, but since I love seafood, it looks like I’ll be there often on my next trip in Nov.

    John in Oregon

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