Decade-old pho stall welcomes nighthawks

By Quang Thai, Thanh Duong   July 24, 2020 | 04:41 am PT
Decade-old pho stall welcomes nighthawks
Tuan, owner of a pho shop in Hanoi's Le Van Linh Street, stands next to his broth pot. Photo by VnExpress.
A noodle stall in Hanoi's Old Quarter sells tasty Vietnamese traditional pho to those enjoying a late night out as its peers draw down the shutters.

At 12 a.m. on a Saturday, Tuan quickly prepares broth and ingredients to make beef pho for four customers who have just arrived at his shop.

In the middle of the night, while this section of Le Van Linh Street, connecting Phung Hung and Ly Nam De streets, is sound asleep, the light in Tuan's shop is the only one for blocks.

Open from late afternoon till dawn, his joint only sells pho, the world-famous rice noodle soup with beef or chicken. Most diners are young people enjoying a late night out or foreign tourists discovering Hanoi's night life.

On the weekend, Tuan usually sells more than on weekdays, which see fewer late night revelers. There are only a dozen tables, but all are occupied, forcing many customers to queue up for a hot meal.

"My family has sold pho for 10 years. In recent years, urbanites eat a lot of pho at night, the restaurant is full of customers, it is hard work but my wife and I are happy," he said.

Tuan's business is not a long-standing tradition, but because the couple is skilled in making the dish and passionate about the craft, it has become a culinary destination after a decade. The shop is also visited by famous singers and artists, and those who do exercise at night.

A bowl of pho with beef next to crunchy bread, a typical side dish at Tuans shop on Le Van Linh Street, Hanoi. Photo acquired by VnExpress

A bowl of pho with beef next to crunchy bread, a typical side dish at Tuan's shop. Photo by VnExpress.

Pho is a familiar staple to Hanoians and a must-have dish for any visitor to the city.

According to Tuan, the broth is the most important factor. The cook must choose bones very carefully, clean them well and simmer for at least 12 hours on a low-intensity fire. Tuan has been sourcing his noodles from the same supplier for the past 10 years, who is also based in the Old Quarter.

"In order to open the restaurant in the early evening, our family has to prepare in the morning. We make sure that each bowl of pho boasts the same quality."

Within a radius of 3 km from the shop lie Hanoi’s famous destinations including Cua Bac Church, Dong Xuan Market, Ba Dinh Square and President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. The favorable location of the shop is one of the reasons explaining its robust business.

Because of its late opening hours, Tuan has to adjust his lifestyle and timetable. The 40-year-old shop owner has gotten used to the quiet nights of Hanoi when there is less traffic noise and more chit-chat.

Nguyen Manh Trung (left) and his friends at the pho stall. Photo by VnExpress.

Nguyen Manh Trung (left) and his friends at the pho stall. Photo by VnExpress.

Nguyen Manh Trung and three of his friends are lucky to find the only available table at Tuan’s shop. Trung identified himself as a regular so whenever he arrives, he is given "preferential treatment".

For many years, Trung has had the habit of eating late at night after finishing work late.

"Hanoi is like that, making people fall in love with it over simple things like a bowl of pho," Trung said.

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