A family heirloom crab noodle soup shop for more than 50 years in Hanoi


HANOI – Thanh Ha vermicelli soup is a familiar address, attached to the childhood of many Hanoians with a price of 20,000 VND per bowl.

Crab noodle soup is a simple dish associated with the childhood of the 7x and 8x generations. During the subsidy period, it was not difficult to see couples with a pot of vermicelli and a pot of broth hawking crab noodle soup in every corner of Hanoi.

Nowadays, this dish is no longer as popular as before. In Hanoi, there are only a few restaurants that still sell crab noodle soup. One of the addresses known to many diners is the crab noodle soup shop of Ms. To Thi Tam (65 years old).

Mrs. Tam (photo) said her husband’s parents have been selling crab noodle soup since the 1970s. At that time, they only sold street vendors with a pair of baskets and a few small chairs for customers to sit and eat on the roadside.

In 1983, she became a daughter-in-law and was taught the profession by her mother-in-law. In 1990, she succeeded her husband’s parents, selling goods around Hanoi’s Old Quarter. She opened her first store at 6 Thanh Ha in 1995.

Since 2010, to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi, Ms. Tam’s heirloom crab noodle soup restaurant has appeared in many media. Since then, many people have come to enjoy it.

In 2015, the restaurant moved to No. 2 Hang Chieu, formerly No. 1 Thanh Ha. The premises is an old level 4 house about 15 – 20 m2 wide. The stall is located in front of the door, consisting of a stainless steel table with pots of ingredients, a pot of noodles and a pot of broth. Seating is located on the street right in front of the shop, there are about 4 tables for 4 people.

2015 was also the time when the restaurant attracted many young diners. The number of customers coming to the restaurant was so large that Mrs. Tam did not have time to serve them. “There are no tables or chairs to sit on, no parking space, even in small alleys you can’t stand in line,” Ms. Tam shared.

An original bowl of crab vermicelli soup used to only have boiled vegetables, thick vermicelli noodles and broth made from crab bricks.

Vermicelli soup uses seasonal vegetables, creating different flavors. In the summer, there are spinach and spinach, in the winter, we use mustard greens and celery. Vegetables are also ingredients that receive many compliments from diners, especially vegetables that are crispy, sweet, and boiled until soft, not crushed.

The broth is made from meat, crab sticks, tomatoes with areca segments for color, and pure lucky water. Ms. Tam said that each pot of broth requires about 5 – 10 kg of crab. Previously, her husband’s parents had to pound it with their hands in a stone mortar, then filter it finely before cooking. Later, she used a blender to save time and make larger quantities to serve the needs of diners.

The broth is what makes crab vermicelli soup easily confused with crab vermicelli noodles because both contain crab bricks and tomatoes. The difference between these two dishes is that crab vermicelli soup is only filled with broth at the back of the bowl, not full of soup like pho or other vermicelli dishes.

Fried onions and pork rinds are ingredients added to vermicelli soup later, when the economy is more developed. These are also toppings that many people love and order, especially young diners. The crispy, aromatic taste of onions along with the greasy, crunchy taste of pork rinds are indispensable flavors in a bowl of crab noodle soup.

In addition, diners can order other toppings such as pork sausage, pork sausage, beef sausage, and fish cake for 5,000 VND.

The vermicelli noodles used in crab vermicelli soup are 3 times larger than regular vermicelli noodles, almost similar to Hue beef vermicelli noodles. The noodles will be heated. When serving, just put it in a bowl, cover with cut green vegetables, then pour in broth, add fried onions, pork rinds and you’re done. A bowl of crab noodle soup at the restaurant costs 20,000 VND, excluding additional toppings.

At a glance, the bowl of vermicelli soup is quite pale because of the lack of color. Using chopsticks to stir once, new colors gradually appear: the green color of the vegetables, the fatty yellow color of the crab brick broth, fried onions, pork rinds and the white color of the vermicelli noodles. Instead of the usual lemon and chili sauce, the spices served with crab noodle soup are chili garlic vinegar and homemade chili.

The vermicelli noodles are thick so they remain firm, smooth, soft, and do not break when picked up. The broth has a rich, sweet taste of crab mixed with the mild sourness of vinegar and the spicy taste of steamed chili. Pork rinds are crispy when eaten plain, but when dipped in water, they are soft, fleshy, and not crumbly. Boiled vegetables are soft but not mushy, bringing a refreshing feeling, reducing the greasiness of a bowl of crab noodle soup.

Mr. Son (50 years old, photo), living in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, has been a regular customer of the restaurant for nearly 30 years. He said that family members and neighbors around his house all know and have enjoyed Mrs. Tam’s heirloom crab noodle soup.

According to him, crab noodle soup is a dish that can be eaten all year round. But he personally likes to enjoy it in the summer because it is a cold noodle dish with a cool flavor. “A bowl of vermicelli soup from the restaurant has a lot of green vegetables that provide fiber, which is good for heavy people like me because it can be considered a weight loss dish,” Mr. Son shared. On average, he visits the restaurant about 3 or 4 times a week.

In addition to selling at the restaurant, Ms. Tam also accepts delivery through food delivery applications. On an average weekday, in 6 hours, she sells about 250 – 300 bowls of crab noodle soup, consuming about 25 – 30 kg of vermicelli. On weekends, when the number of customers is larger, she can sell 35 – 40 kg of vermicelli.

The restaurant’s customers were initially older people and local people, but later there were more young diners. Occasionally, there are also domestic tourists and foreign tourists staying at hotels in Thanh Ha street who visit the restaurant to enjoy, Ms. Tam said.

Since opening, the establishment in Thanh Ha has had customers waiting to order. During 6 hours, the restaurant almost always has customers, the busiest time is around 12 – 14:00 and 16:00 – 18:00.

Thanh Ha facility has few seats and limited parking area. To avoid having to wait long and comfortably enjoy crab noodle soup, diners can avoid coming during peak hours.

($1=24,000 VND)
Photo,Video: Internet (Vinlove.net)