Eaters enjoy train sounds at Hanoi pho joint
Pho Duong Tau (Train Street pho) has been one of Hanoi’s most famous eateries for decades.
Open from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. the next day, the shop is a favorite late night haunt for many of the capital's night owls.
The restaurant's daytime set up of 7-8 tables expands with an additional 10 tables on nearby sidewalks during the busiest hours of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Up to 80 diners can dine at the shop during this time.
Three sellers, 58-year-old Kim Oanh, her sister Kim Cuc, and the sisters' sister-in-law, manage the restaurant at No.3 Tran Phu Street. The business is separated into three distinct shifts, each of which is overseen by one of the trio. On average, the shop sells about 400 to 500 bowls of pho per day. According to Oanh, each shift she and her employees serve customers while simultaneously preparing food for the following day.
The shop was opened by Oanh's grandfather to serve north-south train commuters in the early 1970s. The business was then passed on to her mother. After her mother passed away, Oanh and her sister took over the business in 1998.
Duong Tau is named after its location near the train tracks. When it first opened, there were few stores and no food streets like there are now on Tong Duy Tan Street. One of the first food stands here was the pho business owned by Oanh's grandfather. Back then, customers formed long lines to wait for their noodle soup, according to Oanh. Despite numerous other eateries in the neighborhood that have come and gone, Pho Duong Tau is still around.
Oanh said that after 25 years in business, the shop remains almost unchanged, with the exception of the old wooden tables and chairs having been replaced with plastic sets to make serving more convenient. People of all ages come to eat here. Tourists from other regions, as well as foreigners, also come to enjoy this cuisine.
The restaurant's menu has all different types of meat such eye round steak, well done brisket, flank, tendon and even beef stew in red wine. The average price per bowl is around VND50,000 ($2.12). Diners can order side dishes such as poached eggs and fried dough as well.
The broth, which is thoroughly cooked from beef bones throughout the day, is what attracts customers to this restaurant. As a result, it tastes light, clean, and sweet. Both daytime and nighttime customers are drawn in by the aroma of beef broth combined with scallions.
For simple cuts of meat like eye round steak, well done brisket, and tendon, the beef is thinly sliced. When customers order, the seller just needs to blanch the meat in the hot broth. But for beef stew in red wine, it requires more time and effort to cook. The beef is cut into two-centimeter squares, seasoned with sweet gourd oil and then put in the pot to cook. It is cooked for about 2-3 hours, until each piece of meat absorbs all the flavor and turns orange-red.
Pho is a dish that can be consumed at any time of day. However, the best time to eat at Duong Tau is late evening or early morning. Every day, around 11:30 p.m., a train travels through the tracks to Hanoi station. Many people enjoy eating pho while watching the train pass by and listening to the sound of the locomotive and its wheel sliding down the track. This has become a signature feature of Duong Tau.
28-year-old Vu Thi Quynh Chi from the nearby Hai Phong City has been a regular customer for about 5 years. She was introduced to the joint by a friend living in Hanoi. Chi often comes here with friends when they have to come home late. She likes pho with beef stew in red wine the most, as she described the beef as fragrant and soft, beautiful in color, and the broth as tasty. "The first time I came, the train passed by while I was eating. I was a bit surprised but it was fun," Chi said.
Many Hanoi citizens have strong memories of Pho Duong Tau. Nguyen Van Sang, 58, a native Hanoian who lives close to the train line, revealed that he has been coming to the restaurant for breakfast for many years. He claimed that over time, the taste has hardly changed.
Guests can leave their vehicles in front of the shop, but as there is no security, they must take care of their own belongings. You can choose to sit at the tables set up in front of the restaurant if you visit at night. The disadvantage of sitting at the front is that hygiene cannot be assured because the tables are next to some trash cans.