Travelers' favorite dishes on road to Hanoi

By Phuong Anh   February 25, 2023 | 05:31 am PT
Bus passengers between Hanoi and north-central Vietnam love to enjoy fish noodle soup and steamed rice rolls with grilled pork at a reststop in Phu Ly.

The food is so popular that cars begin lining up down the road beginning at 5 a.m.

Steamed rice rolls topped with fried shallots and served with grilled pork.  Photo by VnExpress/Van Anh

Steamed rice rolls topped with fried shallots and served with grilled pork. Photo by VnExpress/Van Anh

In Phu Ly, an hour south of Hanoi, banh cuon (steamed rice rolls) are moderately thick and come mostly plain on a plate with none of the usual fillings like ground pork or wood ear mushroom. The only garnish is a generous amount of fragrant golden fried shallots.

The rice rolls are dipped in sweet and sour fish sauce, and taken with a side of pickled carrots and kohlrabi. The tender and flavorful grilled meat is a combination of both lean cuts and fat served in a bowl of broth. The soft and fluffy rice rolls are the perfect vehicle for this savory delicacy.

Many tourists believe the Phu Ly rice roll dish was created by combining Hanoi's Thanh Tri steamed rice rolls and its bun cha (grilled pork with rice noodles).

Fish noodle soup at a rest stop in Phu Ly on the way to Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Van Anh

Fish noodle soup at a rest stop in Phu Ly. Photo by VnExpress/Van Anh

Unlike other places, the noodles used in Phu Ly’s banh da ca ro dong (fish noodle soup) are small and have an opaque white color. They are chewy and do not become soggy or mushy in the broth. The fish, climbing perch, are caught locally, so the food is always fresh. The fish is cleaned, steamed and deboned, and marinated in spices before deep-fried. The flesh is often fried in high heat with lots of oil to avoid getting burned.

Once you place an order, the cook puts the noodles into a bowl, tops it with fried fish and mustard greens, and then pours the hot broth over the mixture. The broth has a sweet – not fishy – flavor, and a ginger aroma.

The province of Ha Nam, home to Phu Ly, is located in a lowland area suitable for wild climbing perch. During the climbing perch’s mating season in Phu Ly, diners can enjoy the fish plus its roe.

Both dishes cost around VND30,000 ($1.27) each. You can visit any restaurant at any rest stop in Phy Ly to enjoy these two specialties, as the quality and prices at most places are quite similar.

If you want to try these dishes in Hanoi, you can find them at restaurants on Nguyen Khuyen Street in Ha Dong District or Dao Duy Tu Street in Hoan Kiem District, with prices starting at VND35,000 ($1.48).

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