As the historical home of Vietnamese civilization, northern Vietnam is also the birthplace of the country’s national dish: the noodle soup phở. While the origins of phở are highly debated, the dish is believed to have originated in or around Hanoi, where it brought together the foods of Vietnam’s historic colonizers: rice noodles from the Chinese and beef from the French.
In diasporic Vietnamese communities around the world, it’s more common to find southern-style phở with big, bold broth and ample garnishes and sauces. However, in Hanoi, phở is a simpler and more delicate dish. The broth, made by simmering beef bones for many hours, is more clear and minimally garnished. It’s typically consumed in the morning: a soulful, savory, yet light start to the day.
To find a stellar bowl of classic northern phở, you’ll have to squeeze through a dark, narrow alley and ascend the stairs into the home of Ms. Minh, where the living room is fitted with half a dozen plastic tables along with typical Vietnamese home decor like old photos of relatives and a shrine to ancestors. Ms. Minh started selling phở on the street 20 years ago, but had to move the operation into her home in 2017 when the city started pushing out street vendors.
In true Hanoian fashion, Ms. Minh’s phở is not served with an accompanying platter of fresh herbs. Rather there are jars of homemade chili sauce (use this sparingly!) as well as pickled garlic for seasoning. You’ll also be offered the option of dầu cháo quẩy, or crispy Chinese youtiao doughnuts, which can be dipped in the broth.
Know Before You Go
Upon entering the family home, simply state the number of bowls that you want and grab a seat. Out of respect for Vietnamese customs, be sure to remove your shoes before entering the room. The restaurant operates from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.