Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where in the world is Pho Chien Phong?

About two weeks ago...

In March last year our friends took us to West Lake, Hanoi, to dine by the waterside. One of the dishes we enjoyed was Pho Chien Phong. Little square pillows of deep fried puffed up rice noodle, topped with meat and water spinach.

Since that time Stray, especially, has had a hankering is determined to try it again. We did try to find it all the way down the coast of Vietnam, but like many dishes, this appeared to be a particularly regional specialty. 

So, he asks the receptionist at our hotel where we might find PCP and she kindly writes down the name in Vietnamese and of an eatery that may have have it on their menu. We walk to the restaurant avoiding the banana mafia (ladies carrying baskets of bananas or fruit on each end of a pole. If you don't buy the fruit, you'll probably end up with that pole slung over your own shoulder for a photo opp. If you do take a happy snap, you maybe hounded and surrounded by her and members of her 'family', to pay an unexpected exorbitant fee) and seat ourselves.
Stray shows the waitress the piece of paper, but alas, she says they don't have it. However, she does charade that they make a similar dish which is just as good. We order a glass of Hanoi beer while we wait and contrary to popular negative reviews...I liked it! It was light and had a hint of jasmine tea, or something or other. Or, could that have been a remnant of dish washing detergent? Just kidding.
IT arrives, but it's far from Pho Chien Phong. In fact it's a plate of humble prawn crackers...on the right.
The morsel on the left was purchased from a passing street vendor. Two circles of thick rice noodle sandwiching a slab of steamed pork sausage or Chả lụa. If nothing else, it leaves you feeling full for hours after.
So, we sit and bide our time 'people watching'. We crunch on our prawn crackers as flower sellers pass by and the playful young wait staff sit close by getting up to shenanigans, and amuse ourselves by reading the menu.
Female employees scurry up a narrowing bamboo ladder in the corner of the room, one by one, and disappear into a small hole above us. The ceiling in the photo is the bottom of an enclosed mezanine type after thought with a height of around one metre. Just enough room to lie down or sit cross legged, if you're really tiny.

They didn't reappear during our stay. The staff lunch room perhaps?

To be continued....

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